Speech by Hon. Werani Chilenga, Chairperson of Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus
AT THE LAUNCH OF MALAWI PARLIAMENTARY CONSERVATION CAUCUS (MPCC) AT PARLIAMENT BUILDING ON 3rd AUGUST, 2015
- Your Excellency Gertrude Mutharika, the First Lady for the Republic of Malawi
- Your Honour, the Right Honourable Saulosi Claus Chilima, Vice President of the Republic of Malawi and Mrs. Mary Chilima
- The Speaker of National Assembly, Right Honourable Richard Msowoya
- The Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and President for Malawi Congress Party, Right Honourable Lazarus Chakwera
- Dean of Diplomatic Corps, Mrs. Dumbuchena and members of the Diplomatic mission
- The Chairman for International Conservation Caucus Foundation, Mr. David Barron and your delegation
- The Chairperson for Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change, Hon. Welani Chilenga, M.P. and your committee
- The Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Hon. Bright Msaka, SC
- The Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, Hon. Kondwani Nankhumwa, M.P.
- All Cabinet Ministers present
- Member of Parliament for Lilongwe City Central, Hon. David Bisnowatty, M.P.
- Directors and Representatives of Civil Society organisations
- All Members of Parliament present
- Members of the press here present
- Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus and indeed on my own behalf, I wish to thank you, your Excellency, the state president of the republic of Malawi for accepting to come and grace this occasion.This demonstrates the importance that the Malawi government attaches to issues of environment and natural resources management.
Let me also thank most sincerely the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), African Parks Networks (APN) for facilitating the launch of this caucus and ensuring that parliamentarians within the SADC region participate in the launch. The MPCC is also grateful for the support it has so far received from government bodies and civil society like UNDP, CEPA and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust.
The MPCC is a parliamentary voluntary organization approved by the speaker of the Malawi National Assembly and will not be receiving any funding from government but shall be relying on financial support from external sources.
The caucus aims to build capacity of members of parliament about the value of conservation of our natural resources. With the caucus in place members of parliament will have an opportunity to interact and exchange ideas on various issues of conservation and natural resource management with members of parliament from other countries in the continent where such caucuses are already operating.
The aim of the caucus is to provide a platform for bridging parliamentarians drawn from all political parties within the Malawi National Assembly and other stakeholders including related government related sectors.
The caucus aims at undertaking several activities including raising awareness, acting as watch dog and providing oversight on environmental, conservation and natural resources management issues
Further the caucus will act as platform for influencing, advocating and debating policy as well as legislative reform to address issues concerning the environment and natural resources management.
Through this, the caucus will act as a bridge between parliament and the public on information dissemination, planning and partnership.
Your Excellence, the president, the Caucas acknowledges all the efforts that you are leading in fighting the various challenges the environment and natural resources sectors are facing. We cannot forget to mention your commitment to establish a Caucas in Malawi. Other stakeholders should also be acknowledged for the great efforts in their programmes towards addressing challenges in environment and natural resources management.
Your Excellence, please allow me to point out some of the challenges that this country is seriously facing and if left unattended, the country will reach a point where these issues cannot controlled. This will affect key sectors that depend on natural resources such as agriculture, there by exacerbating poverty.
Malawi has the highest rate of deforestation of 2.8% year in the SADC region and will not attain the internationally accepted MDG goal for forest cover of 50% by 2015. Worrisome enough is that Malawi forest cover now stands at less than 20.4% and is further declining.
Forest degradation/deforestation is affecting the whole ecosystem and continues to affects livelihoods of the rural communities. Deforestation has significantly resulted in poor hydro-energy provision which now stands at 10% (9% for the urban and 1% for rural community) way below the SADC requirements of 25%, and the deforestation has resulted in biodiversity loss and related ecosystem services, as well as soil erosion affecting Agriculture production.
It is sad, your Excellence that Chikangawa and Dzalanyama among the well known forest reserve have lost most trees to deforestation and no sustainable solutions are being implemented. Round wood is finished to exports and now Malawians claim that the round wood they are currently exporting are from neighboring countries, Is this what we want distinguished ladies and gentlemen. Where will this country be in few years to come? This is a million dollar question that most of us have.
The issues of charcoal, your Excellence; This issue need a strong policy direction, otherwise we will talk and talk about it while the forestry is being depleted. The main challenge on charcoal is the poor energy sources in Malawi. This challenge needs a strong policy direction. It is high time that renewable energy sources and alternatives should be given a priority in this country.
We have examples to learn from countries like Rwanda who were not at peace for a long time, but have turned things around within a short period of time becoming one of the model countries managing environment and natural resources. What is the challenge then with Malawi which has been peace for more than 50 years.
We recommend the tree planting season that was embraced some decades ago, your excellence, our observation is that this initiative is not helping in replacing the degraded areas. The initiative needs effective planning and monitoring. The survival rates have been a shame to this country. May be we focus more on natural regeneration rather than spending more resources on this.
We have also noted that deforestation is a result of encroachment into fragile areas. Allocation of land for infrastructure is now moving towards the fragile areas, your excellence. With the infrastructure, the use of burnt bricks is also contributing to deforestation, alternatives such as use of cement bricks would assist, your excellence. Few days ago we learnt that MBS and NCIC are going towards signing an agreement on quality bricks. Your excellence, What do quality bricks mean in the face of deforestation? We need your intervention your excellence.
Mining your excellence, has also resulted in deforestation, There is need for considerations when doing extractives.
Wildlife; Malawi has potential to compete more and more in the wildlife tourism market by capitalizing not only on its diverse offering (mountains, lakes, big Five etc – and pristine habitats are just as important for wildlife tourism as the Big Five), but also on its ‘safe’ reputation in comparison to other countries who are suffering as a result of increased security warnings. But there will be no tourists without wildlife. The recent illegal wildlife trade assessment showed the considerable extent that Malawi is being used as a soft target by traffickers, impacting not only Malawi’s vulnerable elephant populations but also those of Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania. Elephants have already been driven to extinction in some African countries like Senegal and Sierra Leone, and we don’t want to see Malawi next on the list.
Just last week two men were convicted following the seizure of 2.6 tonnes of ivory in Mzuzu. Yes, the sentence of MK2.5 million each, equivalent to $5,500, is the highest that Malawi has passed to date. Yet it is a small sum compared to those of our neighbours.
Here are just a few examples of trafficking cases from 2014:
- Zambia, 5 years for 12.5kg of ivory
- South Africa, 10 years and $392,000 for 1 tonne.
- Kenya, $233,000 for smuggling a single tusk of 3.4kg.
Malawi, your Excellence, similarly needs to take a tough stance to deter these wildlife criminals. We need the legislation, sensitization and training that enables the law enforcers to act with the appropriate force. In fact we need to work together to strengthen our collective response along the whole trafficking chain, whether it’s the ranger fighting the poacher or the customs officer checking a consignment.
In countries like Sierra Leone and Senegal they have already lost their elephants, and I do not ever want to see Malawi on that list. You may feel that there is too much talk of elephants but if we cannot protect our elephants then what hope does the rest of our wildlife have? Species extinction leads to loss of biodiversity which in turn will have far reaching impacts on issues like agriculture and human health.
On disaster, Your Excellence, this challenged is owed to climate change, yes, however the magnitude of disasters in Malawi is compounded by degradation in natural resources specifically forest cover. For instance, floods and strong winds have affected most assets because of bare land. You may also wish to know that the deforestation in upper areas of Blantyre, Thyolo, Mulanje and Mwanza are the main reasons for the Lower Shire floods.
Food insecurity, Your Excellence: It is not news to all Malawians that some decades ago, this country was food secure, however the deforestation and poor farming technologies have contributed to soil degradation, resulting in poor yield. If forestry issue is not addressed in this country, we will soon be doomed.
Your excellence you may wish to know that the current challenges in the environment and natural resources are compounded by the weak, outdated and porous policy and legal frameworks. The Caucas acknowledges efforts by stakeholders to review and develop fresh frameworks but the main challenge has been delays in finalization, for instance,
- The forestry sector is still depending on the weakest laws of 1996 and act of 1997, processes towards review of the policy has stalled for a long time;
- The Environmental Management act 2004 is still being reviewed for close to 8 years;
- Wildlife policy 2000, is still being reviewed up to date;
- National Climate Change Policy is still in draft form your excellence;
- Malawi is now drafting the National Meteorological Policy;
- Malawi has not yet finalized its agriculture policy;
- Mines and Minerals act 1981 is being reviewed for more than 7 years;
- Land bill has been in draft form for a long time; and
- Energy policy 2003 is being revised now;
We gratefully acknowledge your policy direction to ensure that the National Disaster Risk Management Policy which had stayed in draft form for more than 5 years was approved and we look forward to effective implementation. We hope that future similar disaster challenges like the January 2015 will easily be coordinated and addressed. We also acknowledge your commitment to get loan from WB towards recovery funds. We also hope that this currently is moving towards a sustainable solution to address issues of disaster.
Your excellence, distinguished ladies and gentlemen with all the dynamics that the World has been going through, how do cope with outdated policies like these. It is as good as saying the environment and natural resources management has no policy and legal frameworks.
With the existing weak, outdated and porous policy and legal framework, implementation has been a challenge. Even with the passion to implement some these frameworks, we do not have the muscle and confidence to take people to law. For instance, the forestry sector has more court cases on round wood which they have lost and cannot defend.
Your excellence, the challenges in the environment and natural resources management are also compounded by the inadequate resources to the sector. We have closely observed that every national budget top three sectors are Agriculture, Health and Education. Our Big question has always been, why these three only? How do they survive without conserving environment and natural resources? You may wish to learn that a public expenditure review report which was sponsored by United Nations, noted that between 2006–2012, the entire environment, natural resources, disaster risk management and climate change sector, received an average of 3.5% of the entire budget. In a sad development, only 1% of this 3.5% was shared among all the 28 districts. It is sad to note in some strategic Ministries, up to 80% of the budget was spent for on salary related issues, leaving 20% for operational costs and nothing provided for realizing results. Local councils which implement programmes have not received funding that would translate into tangible results. In fact the flow of funds has not been consistent. Citing example on the National Budget, forestry and disaster affairs has received the least share in the National Cake. We therefore, cannot expect these sectors/local councils to perform with the mediocre allocations. This has been the same trend even in the period between 2013 and 2015.
Your excellence, you may wish to learn that the Decentralization policy has not been fully implemented in most of the environment, natural resources and climate change sector.
There are many issues, Your Excellence, ladies and gentlemen that the environment, natural resources and climate change sector is facing, but I thought I should highlight a few. In responding to all issues in the sector, there are four key recommendations which you can support the MPCC to undertake it activities;
- Government should facilitate the speedy approval of all outstanding policy and legal frameworks, We need a policy direction here your excellence;
- Closely monitor implementation of policy and legal frameworks;
- Funding for the sector should be reconsidered, and special attention should be given to the District Councils where the actual management of environment, natural resources and climate change management happens and also District Disaster Risk Management Officers who operate without a budget; and
- Coordination and harmonization of programmes/policies across all sectors.
We are there to deliver as a Caucus, honeymoon for environmental and natural resources criminals is over. Give us the muscle, Your Excellence. It is high time that Malawians realize that Malawi is our only country and we need to love and conserve the remaining resources.
Let us be united in this.
May God bless MPCC
May God bless this great nation of Malawi and its Leadership
May God bless Africa