The Principal Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Kester Kaphaizi has expressed concern over Malawi”s deforestation rate which is ranked first (1st ) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Kaphaizi made the remarks on Monday at Cross Roads Hotel in Lilongwe during the official launch of 3 year joint forestry management project on Empowering Forest Dependent Communities through Commercialization of Small Scale Forestry project to be implemented by ICRAF and World Vision Malawi.

The project estimates its goals and objectives to impact in; commercialization of small scale timber out grower schemes and sustainable utilization of natural forests, accountability mechanisms for improved forest resource usage, establishing and developing market linkages for forest products and developing, documenting and utilizing sustainable management practices for natural forests and timber out grower schemes or plantations.

The PS observed that forest cover in the country had declined in the last few years due to population growth which is currently at 16.2 million people most of whom depend on agriculture.

“Malawi”s deforestation rate is ranked fourth (4th) in the world second (2nd) in Africa and first in SADC,” revealed Kaphaizi and commended the European Union (EU) for supporting ICRAF and World Vision Malawi to the tune of 1,260,975.00 Euros to be implemented in Mzimba, Karonga, Dedza, Ntchisi, Machinga and Chikhwawa.

He said agriculture and natural resources are amongst the key areas in terms of economic growth in the country to which government has set up strategic programs such as the National Forestry Program to reduce poverty in Malawi.

In his remarks World Agroforestry Center Regional Coordinator for the Eastern and Southern Africa Jeremias Mowo said in the past years” forests management was sustainable but had just died in the recent years due to various factors such as poverty and population but expressed optimism that the project would largely have an impact to some of the major challenges of forest conservation in the six districts.

“Forests play an important role in people”s lives, since time immemorial forests have been a source of our livelihoods including; food, firewood, fodder, building materials, agriculture and medicinal amongst others,” said Mowo.

The project is expected to benefit over 56,000 households, over 200 private sector players, about 2,000 members of the civil society organisations and local forestry officials in the targeted communities.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) over 13 million hectares of forest worldwide are lost each year.

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