Malawi government is to blame for fires that gut Viphya Plantation, popularly known as Chikangawa Forest, because it sits on solutions to the problem.
One of the major solutions to the fires is to weed the forest twice a year, a thing which government has ignored for many years, Chairperson for the Association for Viphya Rehabilitation, Enock Soko, disclosed on Monday.
Speaking to journalists, Soko emphasized that weeding the forest is the major solution to fires.
He said government’s failure to stick to the forest calendar which usually starts in August also fuels fires.
Soko further suggested that government should hire his association members to also remain in the forest specifically to fight fires.
“In the past, weeding was done twice from March, April, May and June and secondly July, August, September. Fire terrorises the forest in October but with weeding, it was put under control easily. That is not the case these days,” he Soko.
“For example, this year, weeding was supposed to start in March soon after replanting but it was stopped and was supposed to resume in June but delayed further and started in July due to lack of funds,” he said, adding: “Weeding should have been finished by now but we are still doing it. We should have been doing land preparation now.”
Soko said: “Because the calendar is not followed, you will find that the forest is deserted. But if we stick to it, there will always be people in the forest and can control the fires. It may help if government goes into an agreement with contractors already in the forest to remain on the pieces of land they have worked on until rainy season so that they stop any fire coming to their plots. I have done that in Luwawa and Lusangazi where I have plots and I promised to pay the people K100,000. It has worked. They stopped fire which nearly attacked the plots.”
Soko’s association has 53 members who are on government contracts to manage the forest by raising seedlings, planting and weeding.
This year fire destroyed a large portion of the forest some of which can easily be seen by motorists as they drive through the forest on M1 Road between Chikangawa and Mzuzu City.
Ministry of Natural Resources, Mining, Energy, Environment and Climate Change Management spokesperson Sangwani Phiri said lack of funds was compromising the ministry’s efforts to put things in order in the forest.
But he was quick to add that the ministry was not sleeping on the job but looking for funds from various donors for the plantation activities.
Phiri said it was the ministry’s desire to weed the forest twice per year as was the case in the past.
“We shall go back to that calendar,” he said.
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