Malawi must harness tree based enterprises – IIED report

Malawi needs to invest in small forest and farm enterprises that restore bio-capacity while meeting domestic needs for food, fuel and construction materials if it has to achieve sustainable development, a new report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has said.

“Most technical experts in the region have been saying this for some time – but getting the business incentives right to allow domestic entrepreneurs to flourish requires a new concerted effort” Duncan Macqueen, leader of IIED’s forest team said.

The report unveiled on Tuesday was compiled by Bright Sibale Director at Centre for Development Management, Lilongwe, Robert Kafakoma Director at the Training Support for Partners, Lilongwe, Abel Shaba Research Associate at the Centre for Development Management Lilongwe and Duncan Macqueen Principal Researcher and leader of the Forest Team at the IIED.

“The Government of Malawi has laid out important policies that should help incentivize the use of tree products in local forest enterprises for income generation through agro forestry, on-farm tree planting and woodlot establishment.trees

“But so far these policies have failed to deliver entrepreneurial activity based on trees at any significant scale – either through lack of resources for implementation or through entrenched views that discourage such activities at field level,” the report said.

Dubbed ‘Trees on-Farms:  Removing the obstacles to enterprise’ explored opportunities for climate-smart, on-farm, tree-based enterprises in Malawi with particular focus on the recent use of Jatropha, Neem , Moringa  and Albida.

William Kamoto, a Jatropha farmer at Nsundwe village in Lilongwe district, central Malawi, reported that he planted Jatropha as his “savings bank”.

He said that it does not take many inputs or agro-economic processes to manage it.

While in Salima district, Charity Kamodzi said she planted Neem trees around her house particularly to supply leaves for medicinal purposes to traditional healers and all the people in the district who want Neem medicine.

Kamodzi noted that with the high HIV and AIDS prevalence in Malawi, the demand for traditional medicine is increasing, partly because many people living with HIV are poor and cannot afford prescribed medicines.

The study specifically tried to explore and discuss how on-farm tree-based enterprises can develop products that reduce poverty while also intensifying production to meet local demand for food, fuel and construction materials in ways that are climate resilient.

It said Malawi faces a precarious future coupled with rapid growth among rural populations, entrenched rural poverty, lack of food security and biomass use – especially for energy-widespread resource degradation including deforestation at about 100,000 hectares per year; and an increasingly unpredictable climate.

“An urgent response is required to this situation in which restoration of tree cover is a central component. Trees are crucial for soil conservation and food security, local energy supply, construction materials and medicines. But they are also critical for diversifying income generation,” the report suggested.

The report also notes that the growth of tree-based enterprises continues to face a number of challenges among others lack of quality standard guidelines, high rates of deforestation, further pressures through competition for land and lack of secure markets.

“The government of Malawi urgently needs to develop a system of tax incentives and subsidies and extension support in favor of promoting tree-based enterprises. For example, currently, the country has no discernible policy framework or incentives for the production of biodiesel,” the authors suggest.

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