Published on April 1st, 2016 | by lawilink0
Mwanza Adopts Forestry Bylaws
Mwanza is one of the districts richly endowed with natural resources from rivers, forests, mountains and rich fertile soils that provide perfect conditions and environment for agriculture. No wonder Mwanza boasts of crops like pigeon peas, maize, beans, Irish potatoes and fruits like bananas, avocado pears and tangerines. Bee keeping is also prominent due to the presence of vast areas covered with natural forests. Due to the increase in agricultural production at the expense of the natural resources in the district, an assessment was done in 2012 by CEPA with funding from Christian Aid with a view to helping communities in coming up with interventions for enhancing management of endangered natural resources. The climate change goal was to make the vulnerable communities resilient to climate and market shocks through different on farm and off farm activities. The assessment revealed massive natural resources degradation due to pressure from the communities who depended very much on natural resources for their livelihoods apart from small scale subsistence farming activities. The pressure on natural resources had negatively resulted in massive deforestation affecting village forests and the government protected Thambani Fores Reserve, Government protected Thambani Forest Reserve, river banks of many rivers, such as Mwanza river. Deforestation also led to washing away of fertile soils which led to reduced agricultural yields in the district.
It should be noted that the communities at group and village level developed Natural Resources Management Action Plans in 2014 drawing from recommendations made in the consolidated district forestry bylaws developed.
Following the assessment CEPA organised dialogue sessions bringing together government officials, political leaders, and communities, including community leaders. The sessions were meant to identify key issues in natural resources management and their proposed solutions. The communities in Traditional Authority Kanduku, Nthache and Sub TA Govati proposed the development of Forestry bylaws for the district, to contextualize National Forest Policy. The bylaws focus on management, roles and responsibilities of committees and communities and penalties for non-compliance. The bylaws were developed by communities in the three Traditional Authorities of Mwanza with support from CEPA.
The bylaws were finalised and presented to Mwanza district council for adoption in 2013 presented to Mwanza District Council in 2013 for a final review and subsequent adoption. After a long period of engagement with district authorities coupled with the coming in of councillors in 2014, the council adopted the Forestry Bylaws in June 2015 making Mwanza the first district in Malawi to develop and adopt district forestry bylaws prior to the adoption of bylaws, communities had developed natural resources management Action Plans in 2014 drawing from the forestry bylaws.
The action plans were meant to ensure quick understanding, adoption and implementation of the forestry bylaws at village level. Some of the bylaws on which the action plans were based and are being implemented are: each village to have its own village forest area; each village to have a village natural resources committee; each village to have its own tree nursery and; all villages to replant trees on all fragile and sensitive areas. As part of implementing the bylaws village forest areas (VFAs) are patrolled regularly and culprits are penalized. During one of the patrol session a man was found cutting down trees without permission in Kachere VFA in Njanjama village TA Nthache. The man was ordered to dig and construct a pit latrine and he did so.
By Charles Kabambe, CEPA