Today is International Day of Forests, a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of forests. The theme for 2019 is ‘Forests and Education’ and we believe education is key in all our projects.
In Malawi, Africa, deforestation has reached a crisis point and most of the country is now deforested due to shifting cultivation, timber and charcoal production and firewood for cooking.
There are very few protected forested areas and little control over how local people treat forested areas. People move into the forested areas and clear trees to provide space for farming, they burn the trees where they fall, temporarily cultivate the land, often on sloping hills that are unsuitable for growing crops for more than one or two years, before the topsoil is washed away by rains rendering the soil infertile. Then they move on and do it all again in another area.
The effect of burning after clearing the trees.
Fortunately, in the north of Malawi we still have some forests left but they are disappearing fast as there is little understanding of the importance of trees in regulating rainfall. In areas where forests have been destroyed, periods of drought are common, leading to crop failures and food shortages.
Our approach is very community led. Our environmental team inspire and work in partnership with District Forestry teams, local stakeholders and communities. We educate people living in the forested areas about the importance of protecting their forests. We help communities set up volunteer forest conservation committees and introduce bylaws to protect the trees, empowering them to be the solution.
Since our Forest Conservation project started in 2007 we have established 170 Forest Conservation Committees and we are directly working with around 1700 people.
We recently met with an active Forest Conservation Committee deep in the Kandoli hills, many of whom were previously destroying their own forest. Through education, they now understand the importance and feel empowered to protect their land.
One fantastic Forest Conservation Committee in the Kandoli hills, who are passionate about protecting their forests.
Through this project we are doing our best to reduce further deforestation in Malawi.