Armed Forest Guards to Patrol Country's Forest Reserves
The Forestry department has embarked on recruitment of armed forestry guards to offload the responsibility of protecting forest reserves from the Malawi Defence Force which has a sole responsibility to guard the nation.
Head of law enforcement operations in the department Daniel Kabichi made the remarks Tuesday in Mzimba during an orientation meeting for stakeholders at the Mmbelwa district council on laws and regulations aimed at curbing charcoal production.
Kabichi said 300 armed forestry guards have already been recruited and that there are plans to recruit more with the approval of Parliament.
Said Kabichi, "As the forestry department has started recruiting our own forestry guards that will be trained in using firearms so that we offload the responsibility of protecting our forests from the Malawi defence force which has a sole responsibility of guarding the Nation, currently we have recruited 300 and we may recruit more if parliament allows to do so."
According to Kabichi Charcoal production remains the major cause for deforestation in the country resulting into loss of 0.6% of forest cover every year.
He said despite many arrests being made, fines being meted out by the courts are still on the lower side and there are inconsistencies in terms of balancing up the punishments by the courts across the country.
Said Kabichi, " The amended forest act is punitive enough because the maximum charge is 20 years and the maximum fine is K15 million but now the issue we are facing is implementation of this law there is inconsistencies in terms balancing up of justice across the nation, though many arrests are being made the fines being meted out are very low for reasons best known by the judiciary."
Kabichi said as a department they have now come up with sentencing guidelines and a charcoal technical order which outlines the value of the charcoal to help courts come up with relevant punishments.
Said Kabichi, " We are also looking at the issue of forfeiture which is very key in conserving forests looking at the different instruments that are used in committing forest based offences and we would like the costs also to use such when arriving at meting out justice."
In his remarks Chief of Party for the USAID funded Governance for Solutions project Stephen Snook said there is need for strengthen law enforcement and punishments that can deter those in illegal charcoal production which is resulting into loss of 0.6% of forestry cover every year.
Said Snook, "charcoal is contributing to the loss of land in Malawi and if nothing is done more harm will be made to the environment in the country."
Snook said they are working with key institutions to like the national police and the judiciary to coordinate efforts so as to increase the number of cases being prosecuted, makes penalties they are imposed stiff and intensify public awareness on the new forest laws.
The USAID funded Governance for Solutions project is being implemented in 8 districts in the country.
Last modified on Wednesday, 24/05/2023