Mulanje Mountain dispute forces Norway to pull out K5bn aid

BLANTYRE(Maravipost)—The wrangle over Mulanje mountain, which was ignited by Bon Kalindo, popularly known as Winiko in comedy, has started producing negative results with the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) losing K5 billion aid from the Norwegian Embassy.

Leading a group calling itself Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje, Kalindo has been has been accusing the MMCT of destroying theenvironment more than its publicized agenda for the conservation of resources in the mountain.

In an interview with The Daily Times , chairperson of MMCT’s board of trustees, Eston Sambo, confirmed that the embassy has decided to pull out at a critical time when it had already committed US$8 million (K5.2 billion) towards maintenance of the mountain’s ecosystem and improvement of livelihoods of the communities around the massif.

“We are greatly worried with this development considering that we depend on donors such as the Royal Norwegian Embassy for implementation of our programmes,” he said.

He, however, blamed the concerned citizens, led by politician Bon Kalindo, for distorting the image of the trust.

“Claims, as peddled by that group, that we were only destroying the mountain rather than conserving it, and that we were bringing science or whatsoever, have cost us a lot; they have already given us a rotten image nationally and internationally,” Sambo lamented.

“This prompted the embassy, which has been funding us in the past five years, to start questioning our credentials and credibility. They said they could no longer take the risk of funding us the next five years as they thought we were really tainted which is very unfortunate,” he said.

Interventions such as environmental awareness, firebreaks, and law enforcement, added Sambo, are likely to vanish on the mountain.

“This will mean trouble as pressure for the resources is also bound to increase. There will be no-one to police the mountain. Even Mulanje Cedar will become extinct in near future as there will be no enforcement.

“Besides there is a looming economic loss among 350,000 people that the trust used to support in areas such as bee-keeping, small-scale irrigation, fish farming, just to mention a few. Where will these people go? They will all be depleting the mountain’s precious resources for their survival,” the chairperson noted.

Wrangle over the mountain took a dramatic turn when a group calling itself concerned citizens of Mulanje district recently petitioned their District Commissioner demanding the immediate re-opening of Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) offices which the group led by legislator Bon Kalindo closed.

The concerned citizens said they ddi not agree with the position taken by the group led by Kalindo, Member of Parliament for Mulanje South constituency, which accuses MMCT of destroying the environment.

MMCT is an organization which works to support biodiversity and conservation in Mulanje.

It is an environmental endowment trust funded by the World Bank through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). MMCT aims to provide long-term reliable support for biodiversity research, the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable utilization of natural resources of the Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve.

Mulanje Mountain has a very rich forest reserve, which is a home to a rich and diverse endemic plant and animal species. It is also a catchment of headwaters and a source of nine perennial rivers and streams.

The Norwegian Embassy entered into agreement with Malawi government in 2008 to financially support biodiversity conservation of the Mulanje Mountain forest reserve through the Department of Forestry and MMCT.

Through the agreement the embassy was funding the trust which assisted in establishing sustainable management of natural resources vital to Malawi’s economic growth and environmental protection through cooperation between the Forestry Department, local authorities and communities.

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