Civil society organisations support ban on ‘illegal’ charcoal


By Llywellenie Mpasa:

Civil society organisations working in the environment and natural resources management space have backed the implementation of the Forestry Amendment Act of 2020, which has highlighted maximum penalties for a wide variety of forest product-related crimes in Malawi.

The organisations include the Coordination Union for the Rehabilitation of the Environment, Civil Society Network for Climate Change, Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (Cepa) and National Network on Climate Change.


Speaking at a press briefing in Blantyre, Cepa Executive Director Herbert Mwalukomo said the Act was amended to sustain forestry resources amid escalating deforestation and energy crises.

He warned that if the government does not take immediate action to address the charcoal-energy crisis, then the country’s forests will be gone in 10 to 15 years, with devastating impacts on the country and its people.

“We are all aware of the growing dependence on illegal and unsustainably produced charcoal, caused by the historic lack of available, accessible and affordable cooking and heating energy alternatives,” Mwalukomo said.


He added that the increase in charcoal demand and consumption, which have been exacerbated by population growth and urbanisation, were increasing the demand for wood energy, something the current rate of forest loss cannot sustain.

“More work needs to be done to get clean energy to the people of Malawi but we also need everyone to see the positive trends that are beginning to emerge so that we can all build on them,” he said.

National Youth Network on Climate Change Coordinator Dominic Nyasulu said the Forestry Amendment Act (enacted in 2020) is a national response to an unprecedented environmental crisis with irreversible impacts.

“We want to correct the perception that charcoal production and use is banned. The Act allows charcoal production from a sustainably managed forest and with a licence.

“At this point, it’s a suicide mission to open up our forests, as doing so would set off a cascade of crises that would be extremely challenging to manage,” Nyasulu said.

In 2016, the government adopted the National Charcoal Strategy (2017-27) which is being implemented to address challenges that Malawians face regarding energy, access to arable and residential land and access to cleaner cooking technologies.

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