Deforestation and forest degradation are among the most pressing challenges facing Malawi today. Rampant unregulated deforestation negatively impacts crop production and livelihood security, nutrition and public health as well as national economic development, undermining hard-fought development gains and leaving Malawi less resilient to climate change.

Unaccounted billions of kwacha are lost as a result of deforestation – stemming from poor management and the illicit trade enabled by corruption. Forest crime is increasingly organised, accompanied by the hallmarks of collusion, intimidation and violence. Meanwhile, energy costs are spiralling.

Despite this landscape, progress is possible. Lilongwe Wildlife Trust staff member Yolanda Ng’oma supports the Modern Cooking for Healthy Forests (MCHF) project. Here, on the International Day of Forests, Yolanda reflects on some of the solutions to the challenges facing Malawi’s trees.

“Over 75% of urban families in Malawi rely on charcoal for cooking fuel, and the growing demand has led to an illegal charcoal trade that is driving deforestation and forest degradation throughout the country. To mitigate this dependence on charcoal, the Modern Cooking for Healthy Forests (MCHF) project promotes sustainable forest management, alternative cooking energy options and a stronger legal framework.

“Some of the areas we’re seeing progress in reversing the effects of the illegal charcoal trade is a push for more sustainable consumption of forestry products as well as use of improved cook stoves and the adoption of fuel-efficient technologies.

“Civic education and advocacy on the effects of deforestation within catchment areas remains crucial and should be at the forefront of the national agenda. MCHF continues to work together with communities in selected landscapes to develop strategies that encourage citizens to take ownership of the conservation conversation and work towards shifting towards forest-friendly enterprises as a way of protecting their livelihoods without compromising existing natural resources.

“MCHF is working with the Government to promote alternative sources of energy while recognising the role of forests in the current energy value chain. Trees play a significant role in the hydrological cycle through reduction of run-off, control of floods, filtration of water pollutants and the supply of a large proportion of all water used for domestic, agricultural and industrial needs through forested catchment areas. As we celebrate the International Day of Forests, MCHF remains dedicated to its commitment to implementing a landscape approach that addresses wood fuel supply and demand and reduces underlying drivers of forest cover loss.”


Over 30,000 hectares of forest disappear each year in Malawi alone.

Sounding the alarm

Given our current trajectory, only a strong, sustained commitment to protect forests has the potential to stem the pace of forest cover loss. Fact-based reporting and quality investigative journalism are critical to the thriving public discourse needed to support this.

Together with a range of partners we have produced a dossier covering Malawi’s deepening deforestation crisis. Alongside a range of expert opinions, it features seven investigative reports by top environmental journalists.

Click here to download the dossier.