The European Union (EU) says despite having some of the finest policies and regulations for the protection of the environment in the country, lack of implementation has increasingly become a great concern.
EU Deputy Ambassador to Malawi Aurellia Valtat said this at a tree planting event jointly organised by the EU and Oxfam at Ntanilla village in Dowa district where 3, 000 different types of fruit trees including Oranges and Mangoes were planted.
Malawi faces serious environmental management challenges in the region ranging from deforestation, waste management and effective land use among others.
The challenges, however, are not a total reflection of policy or legislative gaps as the sector has for the last decade benefited from various streams of climate funds meant for policy and legislative improvement and institutional capacity building.
The just ended meeting of parliament, lawmakers amended the Forestry Act to introduce heavy fines and allow forest guards to use firearms to protect themselves from aggressive poachers.
Also, the country now has an amended Environmental Management Act (EMA 2017) which has just entered into force. Last week the cabinet approved the National Resilience Strategy (NRS) developed under the Ministry of Disasters and Public Events.
The EU suggests good as they are, the documents may not bring any new results if the attitude towards implementation remains unchecked.
“One of the challenges we have seen is that the text in the law is always very promising but the problem is implementation, that is what we have noticed on the ground as well ” said Valtat.
Additionally, Valtat wants local structures to champion climate action interventions if efforts to combat climate change are to be sustained.
Valtat added: “Really there many factors that create the situation so we want to create much more ownership locally so it doesn’t have to be a top-down exercise. It should be an exercise that is also carried out by the local people, so I think, there, education is very key because you shouldn’t wait for the government to provide everything, you should also take your destiny in your hand and a help people to make those decisions locally rather than just waiting for the government to take action.”
Another problem defeating reforestation programs is the lack of care for planted trees and types of trees planted – some which do not present tangible benefits to communities beyond wood.
“I am sure you have heard about other tree planting. But the reality is that in three years how many of those trees are still up there and are providing services to the local villages?,” she quizzed.
Director for Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources at Dowa District Council Noel Limbani conceded they face struggles to manage the trees to maturity. He however commended traditional leaders for introducing bylaws that help punish those found destroying the planted trees.
Limbani said: “ Our main challenge with survival is the management of trees, planting is not an issue. As Dowa one of the strategies is that we are working with the local leaders to have strong regulations and bylaws. Most of the trees are destroyed by the livestock so the chiefs have their own rules they enforce to ensure the trees survival.
On the other hand, he cited late planting and the types of trees which are usually planted as some of the contributing factors to the poor performance of the trees.
“Usually farmers come in very late in the season to plant trees when the rains are turning off yet this is an exercise that is supposed to happen early in December. The other thing is the type of the trees we are planting : farmers have an aim for fast-growing trees so they can benefit within the household” said Limbani.
The planting of the Fruit trees in the area is said to be in line with a phased-out EU supported Farm Income Diversification Program that was intended to better the nutrition status of the villagers.
“Dowa still has issues with nutrition. We don’t see many fruit trees and it is hard and expensive to find them and that is why we have partners coming in to support us. From the fruits you can make Juice or be taken as a snack, in the end, you get some vitamins which help fight diseases especially among under-five ,” further stated Limbani.
Senior Group Mtsiriza acknowledged the presence of stunted children in his village and seized the opportunity calling on more organisations to support.
While promising to take care of the trees together with his subjects, Mtsiriza complained his people drink water from unprotected wells and asked the EU to assist with means that will facilitate the supply of potable water.
Other than the tree planting, the EU plans to boost civic education programs on how communities can look after the environment.
Valtat also disclosed EU is significantly investing in the renewable energy sector as it is currently supporting the government to power over 100 buildings using Solar energy.