As part of their 2018 programme to enhance policy and legal frameworks, the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (MPCC) recently convened a meeting with the Department of Forestry and the government’s Inter-Agency Committee on Wildlife Crime (IACCWC) to discuss the amendment of the Forestry Act. This meeting forms part of a series of activities that aim to strengthen wildlife legal frameworks, funded through ICCF by both the United States Fisheries and Wildlife Services and the World Bank’s GEF fund. Lilongwe Wildlife Trust is the implementing partner in Malawi.
The IACCWC includes high-level representation from all departments involved in wildlife law enforcement, such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Ministry of Justice, Department of Public Prosecutions and the Malawi Police Service, representing an opportunity to provide input and gain cross-departmental as well as parliamentary support for what has been a long-awaited and much debated piece of legislation. Several issues that could impede or speed up the progress of its passing were shared by the members of the MPCC, which were not previously understood by the Department of Forestry or its supporting partners.
The MPCC’s support for the Wildlife Act Amendment Bill was instrumental in its passing in early 2017, reputed as the fastest passing of any bill in the history of Parliament. Just last month, the associated regulations were passed which added a further 216 species considered threatened in Malawi under protection.
Malawi was identified as Southern Africa’s principal transit hub for illegally trafficked ivory in 2015 and has since been internationally recognised for its swift and strong response. Both interception rates and court outcomes have improved significantly, with custodial sentences of up to 18 years being passed by the courts. Just 5 years ago, criminals convicted of wildlife crime could expect an average US$40 fine.
Organised forest crime represents another significant threat to the natural resources of one of the world’s poorest countries: Malawi has the highest rate of deforestation in the SADC region of Africa and it is hoped that the recent successes in the wildlife sector can be applied to forestry, the strengthening of the associated legislation being a key step forward.