seedlings this tree planting season, according to recent statistics released by Forestry department of the Ministry of Natural Resources. Malawi’s forestry season is a period designated by the government to encourage and promote re-afforestation in all parts of the country, and runs from December to April which is also a rainy season.
According to Sangwani Phiri, the ministry’s spokesperson, this season, the ministry has managed to produce 58 million seedlings of both exotic and indigenous trees through its network of tree nurseries spanning the country’s 28 administrative districts.
“Through the districts forestry offices, we managed to produce a variety of tree seedlings which have been planted over the country.” He said.
The tree seedlings, according to him, have been planted on customary lands, plantations and forest reserve areas. The planted seedlings include fast growing exotic trees namely blue gum, acacias, gliricidia and pine trees, commonly used for fuel wood and for house construction purposes by most households in Malawi, which means there is a big demand for their wood.
Malawi is a country where 95 percent of its 17 million inhabitants depend on trees for fuel wood.
There are also some indigenous tree species among the planted tree seedlings. They have been planted in order to replenish indigenous forests, which are disappearing fast mainly due to illegal exportation of hardwood, curio making, timber and fuel wood.
Phiri says, it is expected that the number of planted trees could surpass 60 million mark, as that number is only for public forests and plantations, but there are also several non-state actors, who are taking their part in making sure the world’s lost green cover is restored.
One of the entities, taking the re-afforestation initiative is the Electricity Generating Company of Malawi (Egenco). The sole provider of main grid electricity in the country. According to the CEO of the company, William Liabunya, this year alone, they have managed to plant over a million trees and still want to reach another half a million by the end of the rainy season.
“We planned to plant 1.5 million trees this forestry season. So far we have planted over a million tree seedlings. We hope to reach our target by the end of this forestry season.”
Liabunya said that since his company relies on the Shire river to generate electricity, they thought of taking a leading role in planting trees along the river banks of Shire. Vast areas along the river have suffered alarming levels of deforestation, resulting in the siltation. Siltation is one of the major problems, affecting production of industrial and domestic electricity in the country. As Malawi is 95 percent dependent on hydroelectric power supplied from its three power stations, located along the middle course of the Shire river, which is Malawi’s biggest river and also provides potable water for over two million people in Malawi’s commercial hub of Blantyre and some of its surrounding districts.
“It is essential for us that we plant trees along the banks of Shire river to mitigate the impact of siltation in the long run and possibly restore the vegetative cover for a better future.” Optimistic Liabunya said.
There are also individuals who are planting trees on their customary lands. One such person is Monica Chingota, a 37 year old mother of three from a Lower Shire district of Chikwawa, who said, she saw the need to plant trees on her bare grounds to protect them, while at the same time, hoping that when the trees grow up, they will act windbreakers. During the rainy season, the area suffers of destructive heavy winds.
Malawi is one of the countries with the highest deforestation rate in the world, ranking second in Africa and fourth in the world, according to the 2010 Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report. Even though, many tree seedlings are planted to replenish the forest cover, little is being done to take care of the planted trees. This result in a low survival rate of the most of the newly planted trees. Bush fires are common in most areas in Malawi and are attributed to most tree growth failures.