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Extinction of ‘national tree’ blamed on political interference

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Political influence aimed at gaining political mileage has been cited as the main reason behind the depletion of Cedar on Mulanje Mountain.

This was revealed during the launch of Cedar Management Plan which the Department of Forestry, in conjunction with the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT), magistrates, local leaders and politicians came up with after a three-day meeting.

The plan aims at securing Mulanje Cedar before it is completely depleted.

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The tree, which founding president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda in 1984 named ‘The National Tree’, is on the verge of extinction if nothing is done to save it.

Local leaders in Mulanje and MMCT officials attributed the threat to Mulanje Cedar to the influence of certain political figures that empower communities in the district to use resources in the mountain anyhow in order to get votes during elections.

According to MMCT Programmes Manager, David Nangoma, their main challenge is that communities tend to believe what politicians tell them.

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“For 10 years we have been doing our best to secure natural resources on Mulanje Mountain but from 2012, some politicians started to frustrate our efforts by telling the people that if they vote for them, they will have an opportunity to produce wood from Cedar and other trees in the mountain,” lamented Nangoma.

Concurring with Nangoma, Department of Forestry Deputy Director, Thomas Mankhambera, said politicians play a big role in the depletion of ‘Malawi’s wonder tree’ but was quick to point out that communities too have the responsibility to conserve Cedar.

“Our plea is that communities surrounding the mountain should take the responsibility of caring for Cedar and other trees [seriously] because if all is depleted their children will suffer in the future,” Makhambera stated.

Senior Chief Chikumbu, who also took part in the signing ceremony, said not all politicians in the district are implicated in the malpractice.

She said there is one politician whom she refused to name who was confusing people in the area by encouraging them to venture into wanton cutting down of Cedar.

“Indeed there was one noisy politician who incited people to go against MMCT so that we should side with him but now we have opened our eyes. The coming of Cedar Management Plan will encourage us to let our people know the importance of securing this tree,” Chikumbu said.

However, Member of Parliament for Mulanje Pasani, Dishon Kaliati denied that politicians are influencing depletion of the Cedar.

He instead attributed the problem to weaker laws that give lenient sentences to those found guilty of harvesting the tree before time.

“It is not true that politicians are in the forefront in the malpractice. The problem is our weak Forestry Act.

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