The call comes at heels of mix reaction among the general public after the Malawi government through forestry department on September 16, 2015 issued license to produce charcoal for commercial purposes to Kawandama Hills Plantation inside Viphya Plateau in northern district of Mzimba.
Environmental and social experts quelled government over the decision saying thorough consultation was not properly done for viable inputs which government defended the moves as a way of igniting the general public interest to own their forests which can be used for commercial purposes.
Through a public debate in which CEPA in collaboration with Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and Christian Aid organized on Friday, October 9, in the capital Lilongwe participants which were drawn from government agencies, media, chiefs, Members of Parliament (MPs) aimed at enlightening the public on charcoal licensing requirements, raise more awareness on alternative sources of energy such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas and Briquettes to reduce pressure on trees and reliance on charcoal and raise more awareness on usage of electricity as compared to charcoal.
“While we recommend government for the brave decision to give license to charcoal production, there is a need for all Malawians to start embracing other sources of energy including Liquefied Petroleum Gas and Briquettes to reduce pressure on trees and reliance on charcoal.
“Phasing out of paraffin or gas stoves was the genesis of illegal charcoal production in Malawi which was an alternative to electricity usage as only 10 percent of the country’s population access the services. This is the reason we are calling the resumption of such energy sources.
“Let’s work together in embracing these other sources of energy by making sure that deliberate policies are put in place to support the transformation of energy sector in Malawi. These alternatives will lessen pressure on electricity usages which only the few benefit”, explains Luke Malembo, CEPA’s Programme officer.
Nyuma Mughogho, Assistant Forestry officer in forestry department defended the move of issuing charcoal license production saying all necessary requirements were followed only that public awareness on the whole transaction remains for execution.
“This license applies to individuals who own their forests for charcoal production and it was given in a good faith. What remains is the intensive campaign and awareness on the modality of getting such a license which will be our next course of actions”, assures Mughogho.
Echoing on the same Group Village Headman (GVH) Georg James of Epesi village, Traditional Authority (T.A) in Mwanza district said putting in place comprehensive by-laws in communities on forests was an ideal to arrest the illegal charcoal production with the emphasis on Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) which he said was working in other parts of the country.
The 6.08 million standards bags of charcoal was estimated being used in the country’s main cities for about 1.4 million cubic metres of wood representing equivalent volume of 15,000 hectares of forestland cut in 2007.The development which has contributed deforestation with adverse impact to low income livelihoods in most rural areas of the nation.
In a desperate move to contain charcoal crisis in Malawi, government starts issuing license to charcoal production which is the first of its kind as in the country urban areas demand for the product account for 90 % with unregulated trade estimated a MK5.78 billion (US$41.3 million) per year.