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Stakeholders Punch Holes in New Forest Act

Bakili Bakili - pic by Hastings Jimani

Delegates at a half day conference aimed at addressing illegal charcoal production in Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve on Wednesday noted some gaps in the new Forest Act.

For example, Senior Resident Magistrate Shaheeda Bakili of Mulanje Magistrate’s court said absence of monetary values of specific trees in the new forest act is one element that is failing the courts from pronouncing necessary sentences to offenders of forest crimes.

“Of course the new law is very strict and helpful to the nation as it has heavy punishments for the convicts,” said Magistrate Bakili.

Concurring with the Magistrate, Station Prosecution Officer at Mulanje Police Station Hartwell Kachikonga said the new forest act is not disclosing species of the trees and this he said is also a challenge in prosecuting forest cases.

“Since January this year, we have taken to court 18 cases and out these cases, we have managed to secure 16 convictions, only two are remaining and we thank our court for these convictions and the stiffer sentences,” said Kachikonga.

Director of Planning and Development at Mulanje District Council Morson Magombo speaking during the meeting called for collaborative efforts in management of the forest reserve through restoration of trees and control of deforestation.

“Under the decentralization set up, we have recognized local structures like Area Development Committees (ADCs) and Village Development Committees (VDCs) but still structures like the Village Natural Resources Management Committees (VNRMCs) are crucial in protection of forest reserves and other local forests,” said Magombo.   

Forestry Assistant in Mulanje Sivero Benias told Zodiak Online that they are struggling to make patrols in the forestry reserve due to inadequate finances.

“Forest patrols are very expensive. We need funds for fuel and allowances for the officers and with our meagre funding we are not able to carry these operations,” said Benias.  

During the meeting, stakeholders mentioned the bursting of Mulanje Mountain during the March Tropical Cyclone Freddy, flooding of rivers from the mountain and unreliable rainfall pattern as some consequences of deforestation of the mountain.

The meeting was organized by Governance for Solutions (GfS).

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