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Malawi Forestry Department deploys armed guards

THE Department o f Forestry Management has said it has embarked on a process of deploying forest guards equipped with firearms to combat deforestation and environmental degradation in different forests of the country.

Spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Management in the Ministry of Natural Resources Sangwani Phiri said about 120 forests guards will undergo intensive enforcement training under the rapid response programme instituted in the department.

Phiri said so far, 30 guards equipped with firearms and other weapons have already been deployed.

“These will form what we are calling the rapid response team.  We would like to address the illegal timber logging and charcoal burning happening in most of our forests. The first cohort has been trained in firearm handling,” Phiri said.

He said this follows the department’s observation that most people who are found depleting the forests have been threatening the guards with firearms, making it difficult for the forest guards to act accordingly.

“These illegal loggers use firearms and other weapons to kill or attack our forest guards. So, we intend to go ahead with the programme after the next budget where we will train another team. All these will be stationed in all regions in the country,” he said.

Chairperson of Parliamentary committee on Natural Resources Welani Chilenga has commended the department for the strategy.

Chilenga said what the committee would want to see is the implementation of positive strategies that would arrest deforestation.

Forests such as Dzalanyama, Thuma and Viphya among others have been registering several cases of illegal charcoal burning and timber logging.

The government deployed Malawi Defence Force soldiers to Dzalanyama Forestry Reserve, Viphya Plantation and Mulanje Mountain Forestry Reserve to guard against charcoal burning and illegal timber logging.

But when he appeared before the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament last week, LWB Chief Executive Officer Alfonso Chikuni said although the board pumps in about K8 million monthly for the soldiers’ allowances, the battle against deforestation seems far from over.

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