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Illegal loggers back in Mulanje Mountain

People in Mulanje have started cutting down trees on Mulanje Mountain, almost a week after Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers went out of the forest.

This comes at a time when Malawi joined the international community in commemorating the World Environment Day on June 5.

Assistant District Forestry Officer David Belo confirmed the development on the sidelines of commemorations marking World Environment Day in the district on Monday.

The soldiers were deployed to protect trees in the forest, which is well known for its Mulanje Cedar.

Belo said the soldiers’ presence had reduced the rate at which people were cutting down trees in the mountain.

“What is happening is that whenever the [MDF] soldiers are here, the people stop this tendency but, once they leave, the loggers come back, largely because almost 90 percent of the population here heavily relies on the mountain for their energy needs,” Belo said.

He said the forestry office in the district is not fully equipped to take over from MDF.

“We lack equipment and we are losing officers annually but new ones are barely recruited into the service. So, we are really finding it hard to operate,” he said.

Belo, however, said the office has started working with community members, including traditional leaders and the youth, to reverse the trend.

He said the office has resorted to civic education and not confrontation with the illegal loggers.

The commemorations were organised by Wildlife Environmental Society of Malawi-Mulanje Chapter with financial support from the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT).

MMCT’s Environmental Education and Communication Programme Officer Kondwani Chamwala said civic education remains critical to environmental conservation on Mulanje Mountain.

“MMCT remains committed to this goal of ensuring that all people are reached with environmental conservation messages as one way of maintaining bio-diversity on Mulanje Mountain,” Chamwala said.

This year’s theme was ‘Connecting People to Nature’.

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