LILONGWE-(MaraviPost) –The Malawi government through department of forestry has strongly disclosed that it will continue using Malawi Defense Force (MDF) soldiers in protecting public forest reserves from further depletion.
This comes amid the general outcry of the soldiers torturing civilians in various forms when executing duties.
The department has resorted to the use of soldiers in managing forests while abandoning the sustainable way of co-management where in some cases are said to have worked perfectly.
Although, Kuti and Majete forests are private owned reserves in Salima and Chikwawa districts respectively, working closely with communities is proving to be sustainable in managing forests than using soldiers.
Just a month after MDF soldiers were deployed to Viphya Plantation popularly known as Chikangawa in Mzimba district, unpleasant reports have already emerged on how surrounding villages of the forest have been reported mistreatment from soldiers.
The same torment reports were also recorded at Dzalanyama forest reserves where one surrounding community members was tortured to death which till now MDF has been denying the claims.
But addressing Association of Environmental Journalists (AEJ) in Malawi during end of year dinner in the capital Lilongwe on Saturday, Teddie Kamoto, Forestry Department’s Deputy Director hinted that the use of soldiers was the last resolution after exhausting all avenues of managing the forests.
Kamoto while acknowledging that the use of MDF soldiers was draining resources in handling natural resources, the department will not sleep until the reserves regain their core status.
He added that the use of soldiers has been necessitated by dangerous weapons communities employ when dangling with forest game rangers or guards where they (guards) end up overpowered.
“The Forest Act allows the department to use force in managing natural resources reserves. So, we are in our mandate. The department acknowledges how huge funds are used for hiring soldiers to bring order in our forests.
“We understand that some soldiers execute their powers beyond mandate but that shouldn’t be an excuse to relieve their noble duties displaying. Some communities are hostile who usually use dangerous weapons against unarmed guards hence deployment of soldiers.
“Communities must take their responsibility as well when MDF personnel are in these reserves that any mischief will meet their rough rides. The department will however venture into co-management which remains also a sustainable way of protecting forests”, said Kamoto.
Werani Chilenga, Chairperson for Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Natural Resource and Climate Change quashed the use of soldiers describing the approach as unsustainable that needs thorough overview.
Chilenga observed that though soldiers are being deployed to manage forests no meaningful results have been registered saying the forest reserves are still depleted.
“The use of soldiers remains skeptical as more trees are still wantonly cut. Even some forest officers connive with communities on timing of soldier’s patrol schedules whereby the area where MDF personnel are manning villagers don’t come closer but as soon as they leave communities resurface to cut trees.
“What the nation requires in the comprehensive and robust legal frame which will incorporate communities and use of forces in managing forests while intensifying security of information outflows. This will help also in regeneration process of the forest reserves in Malawi”, said Chilenga.
Mathews Malata, AEJ President therefore challenged media practitioners to come up with comprehensive and investigative articles that expose gaps in managing forests which also provoke authorities in employing sustainable ways protecting the environment and natural resources