Greening lives


By Isaac Kambwiri

When 34-year-old Regina Chasweka’s husband died unexpectedly in 2015, she was reduced to making soliloquies. Hopeless and with nobody to talk to, she sadly discovered that she was just a lonely woman standing on the big stage of life.

“Apart from easing my sense of isolation and breaking down the walls of sadness which had been a part of my life before I met him and became husband and wife, he was the sole bread-winner of the family.


As such, his death was a blow to the belt for me,” Chasweka, who is from Sinyala Village, Traditional Authority Masumbankhunda in Lilongwe Rural, says.However, realising that food would not fall from the sky, she woke up from her slumber and is now the bread-winner.

Her road to success started when she entertained thoughts to search for piecework at the nearby Dzalanyama Forest Reserve, which is being run by Kanengo-based Pyxus Agriculture after it chalked a concession agreement with the government.

Lady Luck smiled at her as she got employed as supervisor in the nursery trees section.Despite it being temporary work, it turned her life around.


“I was able to bring food to the table for my four kids as well as my aged mother,” Chasweka says.

However, barely three months into the job, her contract expired.

And, again, Lady Luck smiled at Chasweka after she got shortlisted by the same company to undergo special training as chainsaw operator at Mpale in Dowa District.

After successfully finishing the training, she was employed on fulltime basis and posted to Khola Forest in Kasungu District.

It is one of the 15 forests Pyxus Agriculture operates in the country.

“My job is regarded by some as the domain of men since it involves cutting down trees and, thereafter, cutting them into logs.

“As far as I am concerned, though, this is a dream job because I get a good salary at the end of the month. I do a lot of things with the money, including paying school fees for two of my four kids,” she says.

Beaming with confidence, she declares that she will soon construct a decent house in her village and buy a plot in Lilongwe City, where she plans to construct another house.

She also wants her four kids to have a good education.

She commends Pyxus Agriculture for its forestry management programme which, she says, has given her a lifeline after she lost hope due to the untimely death of her husband.

Regina’s sentiments are echoed by Natural Resources Minister Nancy Tembo, who commends the firm for its natural resource conservation efforts.

She cites the company’s afforestation programme, saying the initiative has the potential to help the country create more jobs as well as boost the country’s export earnings.

She said this after touring 1,692 hectares which Pyxus Agriculture has planted trees on in Chikangawa Forest under a Public Private Partnership arrangement.

“The initiative has the potential to boost the country’s export earnings and, at the same time, promote the country’s natural resources management drive, which is one of my ministry’s main pillars.

“I would like to commend Pyxus Agriculture for venturing into a forestry management programme of this magnitude as they are planting trees using modern technologies with the aim of producing products such as timber and wood. This initiative has the potential to boost the country’s exports earnings while promoting reforestation in Malawi,” Tembo says.

She says she is particularly impressed with the company’s decision to employ people from areas where it is implementing its programmes, linking the move to improved socio-economic status of people in surrounding areas.

Apart from replanting trees to restore forest cover, Pyxus Agriculture provides free tree seedlings to smallholder farmers annually.

It targets those that work with the company in other programmes.

According to Tembo, almost 60 percent of tree seedlings that are planted annually do not survive due to lack of proper care and failure to adopt modern technologies.

Proper care of tree seedlings entails that chemicals such as fertiliser and other elements are added to the soil at the time of planting.

“I would, however, like to urge Pyxus to teach people in surrounding communities about modern technologies utilised when planting trees in order for us to achieve high tree survival rates across the country,” she says.

Pyxus Agriculture Managing Director Ron Ngwira says his company has, in the past seven years, planted over 12.6 million tress covering about 6,000 hectares of land.

“The land on the hectares in question were bare but we have planted both commercial and natural trees, in the process employing about 691 employees in our forestry department alone.

“We have, in the past seven years, also distributed over six million tree seedlings annually to local smallholder farmers with the aim of encouraging them to realise the importance reforestation in their respective areas,” he says.

Ngwira says the firm adopted tree-planting and management technologies which help trees grow faster within a few years, a development that enables his company to have a continuous sustainable supply of tree products such as wood, timber and poles.

He adds that they have invested about $8.2 million in reforestation exercises in areas such as Mpale, Dzalanyama, Chikangawa, Ngala and Mbalachanda.Ngwira, however, bemoans rising cases of arson, saying, this year alone, trees and other property worth $3 million belonging to his company have been lost through some orchestrated inferno.

He urges government agencies such as the Malawi Police Service and the Judiciary to act on the offenders.The firm’s forestry manager Shingirai Ndolo says Pyxus Agriculture is working on tree-planting technologies at its Mpale Farm in Dowa District.

Apart from the afforestation programme, Pyxus has invested in a legumes production initiative where it is growing crops such as groundnuts and Soya beans, which it adds value to before offering them to local and international markets.

The hope is that, while the land all-about is getting green, people’s lives would improve for the better, too.


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