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Guns unnecessary in forest patrols – Tanzania

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Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFSA) has advised the government of Malawi to adopt a participatory forest management system in its forest guiding principles. The system, the agency said, helps communities to participate and look after the forestry reserves.

According to the agency, when its forest reserves were being managed by the government of Tanzania alone using firearms, there were many illegal timber logging incidences.

Speaking during a visit the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change had to Mount Rungwe Nature Forest Reserve located in Mbeya in Tanzania on Monday, TFSA Officer-in-Charge, Anna Lawuo, said Tanzania used to experience a lot of illegal timber logging before adopting a policy that gave a platform for communities to take part in forest patrols.

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“Formally, the whole of the policy in Tanzania was managed by government, communities were not involved. We were using guns to protect the forest and that time, it did not work because most of the forests were destructed and the staff were not enough to guard all the forests.

“Then we changed the policy. In the policy of 1998, communities are now allowed to protect the forests, since that time, the communities participate in patrolling and get some earnings and cases of forest destruction are no longer recorded,” she said.

Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change Chairperson, Welani Chilenga, who led the Malawi delegation, said it was unfortunate that the 2016 policy that the government of Malawi developed has a component of firearm use in conserving forest reserves.

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“In Malawi, forests are managed by government and we are losing the battle. As parliamentarians since 2014, we have tried to do all we could but we are not winning the battle. Unfortunately, in the new policy, they have introduced firearms.

“Last time, they bought 60 firearms and recruited 60 guards and, this time, Parliament approved the purchase of another 60 firearms, so it is like we are failing to control the system. We are using the army who are just beating up people, it is not working,” Chilenga said.

In January this year, the government adopted a National Forestry Policy 10 years after the last policy was adopted.

In April, the Department of Forestry Management embarked on a process of deploying forest guards equipped with firearms to combat deforestation and environmental degradation in forests of the country.

The department said it took the initiative following observations that most people who are found depleting the forests were using firearms to attack forest guards.

Some Members of Parliament earlier accused the Malawi Defence Force soldiers for killing two villagers at Dzalanyama Forest while guarding against people who had intentions of cutting down the trees for charcoal.

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