World Bank Country Manager for Malawi, Hugh Riddell says Malawi is at the verge of disaster if its citizens will not be empowered to stop cutting down trees carelessly for a living.

Riddell sounded this recently in Lilongwe at a Landscape Restoration Forum which was held under the theme “Scaling-Up Financing for Forest Landscape Restoration in Malawi”.

“80% of land in Malawi is in degraded which means less productivity for farmers, less access to water, so we are really destroying the future of Malawi if we follow on on this.”

Ridell cited that Malawi can deal with the problem at hand if its citizens have been provided with other income generating activities, as currently they are forced to destroy the environment due to poverty.

“I agree that the majority of people hardest by degradation are in rural areas but let’s be honest if you look to the access to water in Lilongwe, the destruction of Dzalanyama forest and other catchment areas, that impact cities a lot and on top of that cities rely on charcoal, illegal charcoal burning, for cooking. So, it’s not a problem of rural areas only.”

He suggests the need for empowering the citizenry with small scale alternatives that would help them find their daily bread so that they stop cutting down trees.

“We need to give them other income opportunities, to be more efficient how they plant their maize or other sources of legume vegetables or small-scale animal farming.”

“We all saw the destruction of cyclone Freddy and one reason is that there was no forest on the hilltop, there was flooding destroying people’s lives. We see rainy season coming, there’s 4.4 million people going hungry if we don’t find food and one reason is low productivity. We see actually the results of degradation we are doing; we have to help people to get jobs.”

The World Bank Country Manager for Malawi has committed to continue supporting the country in forest restoration interventions.

Malawi has set a target of restoring about 4.5 million trees by the year 2030.

by Lester Mhone