Timber processing company, Raiply Malawi Limited, may be successfully running a 20,000-hectare concession area in the Viphya plantation but all the success could be down to a strategy the company uses to tame arsonists.
Over the years, the company has supported communities around the concession area, providing them with social amenities such as heath services, boreholes, education infrastructures and others.
In turn, the communities have reciprocated by taking the Raiply concession area as their own, helping out in preventing the fires and literally playing a part in fighting fire outbreaks.
“Currently we are on a programme of distributing desks to some schools around the area. There are schools whose pupils have never seen a desk throughout their life there,” said Raiply Chief Executive Officer Thomas Oommen in an interview at Chikangawa.
“We also have Mtangatanga school just nearby which of late has been attracting a lot of pupils, leading to increased intake and the need for more teachers and classrooms. We are building both the teachers’ houses and classrooms.”
Oommen said the company is also fulfilling its promise of building a laboratory and library at Mtangatanga secondary school and stocking the school with computers.
He said currently, construction works have gone past the foundation stage and that the company has already reserved door and window frames, promising to take care of all the timber requirements for the project.
Oommen said the company has also opened up its staff health clinic to surrounding communities.
“We are [now] constructing a laboratory and another unit to increase capacity at the clinic,” added Oommen.
The company also provides fertiliser and seed to some aged people and those who cannot afford them around the area.
It also sponsors sports and has just spent over K600,000 in sponsorship for volleyball.
Oommen said there are some people around the plantation who think they are not getting enough and end up setting the section on fire, thereby lowering the quality of timber.
“We think the best way for us is to support the communities as much as possible. That way, we believe, they will feel like they are part of us and become conscious on the conservation of the source of the support which is the concession area,” he added.
“In the end, they are aware of the need to protect the forest and help us in times of fire outbreaks. The results might not be as fast as we wanted to achieve them but at least we are getting something.”