LILONGWE, July 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Malawi plans to spend about $385 million by 2030 to plant trees and restore other degraded land, in an effort to reverse rampant forest losses in the country, forestry officials said this week.
The area set to be rehabilitated covers 4.5 million hectares – nearly half of the country’s total land area, according to Tangu Isabel Tumeo, the principal forestry officer in the country’s Department of Forestry.
Altogether the country has lost 7.8 million hectares of trees since the 1980s, according to government figures.
The ambitious forest restoration initiative is part of the country’s commitment to the Bonn Challenge, agreed by nations in Germany in 2011. That effort calls for the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded land worldwide by 2030.
African nations have pledged to provide 100 million hectares of reforestation toward that target.
In Malawi, the government aims to improve the protection and management of 1 million hectares of natural forests and plantations by 2020 and 2 million hectares by 2030 and restore 500,000 hectares of deforested or degraded forest by 2030. It also aims to plant 20 million trees along rivers and streams by 2020, Tumeo said.
The government also wants to see 50 percent of the country’s crop land planted to at least 10 percent trees by 2020, with 80 percent planted in that way by 2030, she said.
Malawi also aims to increase the size of community forests and woodlots and improve or expand commercial forest plantations, she said.
The plan follows a nationwide assessment that identified as problems forest loss, decreasing land productivity and soil fertility, poor water catchment management and a decreasing ability for farmers and other households to deal with climate change impacts.
The plan, developed by the government Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining with the assistance of partners such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, USAID and the U.S.-based World Resources Institute, needs to be embraced by a wide range of people across the country to work, Tumeo said.
Those include farmers, rural communities, traditional authorities, non-governmental organisations, businesses and government agencies, she said.
As part of the effort, the country will create “more coherent and well-coordinated” materials for use by agricultural extension agents and training programmes on agro-forestry, she said.
“Community forests and woodlands will encourage community user groups, especially women and local entrepreneurs, to establish and manage woodlots as economically viable businesses, organised to produce a steady supply of forest products,” she added.
The government hopes that planting trees along rivers and streams also could help cut flooding risks and improve the reliability of hydropower facilities, which have been hit by drought.
Judith Kamoto, a lecturer in horticulture at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, questioned whether the ambitious effort would be adequately monitored to ensure it stays on track.
But Tumeo said she was optimistic that the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization will support monitoring of the programme, as it has done in countries such as Niger, Rwanda and Guatemala, which have seen some success in their reforestation efforts.
Clement Chilima, Malawi’s director of forestry, said achieving the reforestation goals would take work by nearly everyone in the country.
“This is not a forestry department initiative alone. It is for all Malawians to join hands and address this challenge for the good of our nation,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
(Reporting by Charles Mkoka; editing by Laurie Goering; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)