Illegal timber sawyers in Viphya plantation popularly known as Chikangawa Forest are suspected to have poisoned Raiply Malawi Limited’s tree seedlings worth K40 million.
Raiply Malawi Limited’s Forestry Manager, Nathaniel Nthala said in an interview that the destroyed seedlings at Champhoyo Nursery garden, within the forest, would cover 84 hectares of land.
“On 4th January this year, we found that some seedlings, especially bluegum [eucalyptus], were showing signs of dying. We reported the matter to Forestry Department and Forestry Research Institute of Malawi (FRIM) so that they could come here and get samples for testing,” he said.
Nthala added that the company suspects somebody, especially disgruntled illegal sawyers, whom they have been chasing out of the forest, to have sprayed the nursery with some poisonous chemical.
“We know this is total sabotage; it is criminal act because the way they [seedlings] are dying, it is more or less the same as what happened last year at Chauteka Nursery [garden].
“Last year, Chauteka Nursery garden was also destroyed and FRIM confirmed that the seedlings were sprayed with a poisonous chemical,” he said.
Nthala said the incident forced Raiply to shift its nursery garden to Champhoyo, several kilometres away.
He explained that the company has been confiscating illegal sawyers’ equipment and that, currently, the forest has been closed to sawing hence those that are bitter may have deliberately poisoned the nursery in retaliation.
“It could be an act of retaliation by people who feel they are being victimized by having their items confiscated or those that are against the closure of timber sawing,” he said.
He, however, said Raiply has watchmen who guard the nursery day and night and that people who work on the nursery garden are the company’s employees.
Asked whether this was a sabotage by the employees, he said “it could be” but was quick to say that the company believes it was done by outsiders.
“This means we cannot plant this season because we cannot raise seedlings now. It is too late.
“This has affected our planting program because we already prepared 100 hectares of land for the 134, 000 seedlings,” Nthala said.
He explained that Raiply reported the matter to police who visited the scene though nobody has been apprehended since the Chauteka Nursery garden incident last year.
Mzimba District Commissioner Thomas Chirwa who also visited the scene Thursday expressed disappoint.
“What I have seen here is very deplorable. I am really sympathizing with Raiply.
“The work that is being done here, of course, it is being done by Raiply but, nationally, it is very important because it is helping the whole Malawi,” he said.
Chirwa said the council would work with chiefs and the police in the district to track down the suspects.
“I am calling upon communities wherever they find people talking negatively about Raiply or any other forest areas that we have within the district to alert us and the police so that we crack down on them,” Chirwa said.
In November last year, President Arthur Peter Mutharika opened a US12 million (about K9 billion) Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory at Raiply with an advice to people to refrain from plunder.
“Avoid harvesting timber illegally in concession areas. This is how we can sustain the employment opportunities that have accrued in our areas through Raiply Malawi Limited,” he advised.
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