Last month, we celebrated the passing of the Forestry Act Amendment Bill – a critical turning point for environmental protection in Malawi. This exciting milestone been a long time coming, given that the Forestry Act was last updated in 1997.
Following our successful MP engagement with the Department of Forestry, Hon. Werani Chilenga, Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change, gave interviews at a Ntcheu tree planting event hosted by Inkosi Gomani V to commemorate the passing of Amendment Bill.
Work to update Malawi’s forestry legislation started in 2017 and has been led by the Department of Forestry and supported by USAID through the PERFORM project. In 2018 Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT) joined these efforts through work with the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus, for which we are the Secretariat.
LWT has since become an implementing partner on a multi-million dollar forestry project, co-funded by the British and US Governments, with the aim of sustainably maintaining forest cover and reducing land-based emissions. Our role is to improve and strengthen regulation and enforcement in the forestry sector, specifically for sustainable wood fuel production and use. Other partners are focusing on complimentary areas of work, including sustainable forestry management and increasing the use of alternative energies.
Forestry is a critical environmental and economic issue for Malawi. According to the World Bank, more than half of Malawi’s forests and woodlands have vanished over the last 40 years, and those that remain are being ‘thinned’ through over-extraction and more frequent forest fires. Yet, forests make a substantial contribution to livelihoods and the economy and are needed to protect vital ecosystem services.
The new Act offers a range of increased protections:
- Better regulation of charcoal: The Amendment includes charcoal in its definition of “forest produce” and gives the Department of Forestry the authority to regulate charcoal (e.g., production, transportation, marketing, licensing and sustainable utilisation).
- Increased transparency and accountability: To increase transparency and accountability in the Forestry Sector, the Amendment includes requirements for the Forestry Department to provide for and facilitate access to information and stakeholder engagement.
- Increased conservation efforts: The Amendment broadens the management options for Government. It permits the Department of Forestry to enter into agreements with partners to manage public forests that will protect forests without further taxing the limited resources of the Department.
- Better regulation and law enforcement: Prescribed forestry officers will be better equipped (provision for firearms) to carry out their enforcement duties.
- The Amendment also provides enhanced penalties and fines as well as additional orders that permit forfeiture to government of any property that has been used in committing forestry offences.
- Provision for the forest development and management fund: The Amendment enables the Department of Forestry to direct funds from concessions and other public-private partnerships into the Fund.
Going forwards, LWT and its partners will be working hard to ensure that the provisions in the Act are translated into real protection for Malawi’s forests. On this International Day of Forests, celebrate our achievements to date, by sharing this post.