The Malawi Defense Force has expressed concern with rampant cutting down trees in Perekezi Forest Reserve saying this may lead to water problems in the future as the forest is a source of two major rivers in the district - Mzimba and South Rukuru rivers.
MDF's Brigadier Laurence Mambo made the remarks Wednesday where Moyale barracks soldiers are conducting various military maneuvers and flushing out illegal charcoal producers in efforts to save a remnant of trees in the natural resource.
"Our forests are our national assets which have to be protected at all cost. You know as soldiers we are always doing our exercises in forest reserves so if these reserves are depleted we will have one medium of our exercises taken away from us, in short, we will not have any place to conduct our jungle warfare," said Brigadier Mambo.
Brigadier Mambo said it's imperative that they protect the forests as part of the government organ mainly against those involved in illegal charcoal production.
Director of Agriculture Environment and Natural Resources at the Mmbelwa District Council Ezra Mbendera conceded that almost 50% of the Perekezi forest has been destroyed by charcoal producers.
"Perekezi forest is going down in terms of destruction of trees. As you go along the M1 road you clearly see that there is wanton cutting down of trees as if people are opening estates where a lot of trees are cut down for charcoal production," said Mbendera.
Mbendera said the co-management agreements they signed with communities are no longer working as now a larger percentage of the forest has been destroyed.
Weighing in on the matter district commissioner for the Mmbelwa District Council Emmanuel Bambe hailed the presence of the Malawi Defence Force in the forest saying this may help in halting rampant cutting down of trees in the reserve.
"Their presence is making a difference as you can see already we have a lot of change in terms of the people that degrade this forest, and we are also grateful because Perekezi forest is a source for the main rivers here. The Mzimba and South Rukuru rivers used to be perennial but now with the passage of time we are seeing the water levels declining but we believe with this initiative should we maintain the vegetation we can save a lot of lives," said Bambe.
The Malawi Defence Force 3rd Battalion is in the forest conducting military maneuvers while at the same time dealing with illegal activities like charcoal production by people who come as far as the central and southern regions.