Malawi commemorates International Mountain Day: Minister Tembo says government prioritizes sustainable mountain conservation

Malawi will on Saturday join the global community in commemorating this year’s International Mountain Day, which falls on December 11 annually.

Addressing journalists on Friday ahead of the commemoration day, the Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources, Nancy Tembo, said the government places sustainable mountain conservation and development as one of the priority issues in the national agenda.

Tembo said mountains provide life supporting goods and services for millions of people, including water, food and energy security at national, local and regional levels.

Malawi commemorates International Mountain Day: Minister Tembo says government prioritizes sustainable mountain conservation

Tembo said the day “is very important for Malawi” as mountains and highlands cover a significant part of the country, taking approximately 25 percent of the land surface.

The minister said the government is, therefore, implementing a number of initiatives targeting to improve mountains and highlands across the country.

“For example, the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources has embarked on the Malawi Watershed Services Improvement Programme (MWASIP) which aims at increasing the adoption of sustainable landscape management practices and improving watershed services in targeted watersheds some which are located in mountainous areas.

The Environmental Affairs Department is also implementing a Project aimed at addressing the challenge of invasive and alien species in Nyika Plateau and Mulanje Mountain. Soon, the national Tree Planting Season will be launched and mountains will be some of the areas that will be targeted for tree planting.

The Ministry of Agriculture through the Land Resources Conservation Department is promoting sustainable farming in highlands through a number of land and water management practices that will reduce land degradation and promote landscape restoration,” said Tembo.

Tembo further observed that mountains host a wide range of ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, rivers and wetlands that contain a wide range of biodiversity which is a vital source of food, medicine and for tourism—hence the need to manage and develop them sustainably.

She, however, expressed concern that mountain ecosystems continue to be under serious threat from climate change and serious land degradation.

“High population pressure has forced people to settle in and encroach mountain areas such as Thyolo Escarpments, Livingstonia and Mphompha Highlands, Nyika Plateau, Mulanje Mountain and Dedza Mountain, causing extensive deforestation.

Unsustainable cultivation practices in these mountain areas has resulted in massive land degradation leading to soil erosion and the subsequent siltation of rivers and other water bodies downstream. This affects other sectors of the economy including those that depend on electricity.

Decreasing water flow from mountains will seriously affect agricultural production and food security, not only for mountain communities but also for the millions of people who live in lowland areas and depend on irrigation water from mountain streams.

Decreasing water flow from mountains is also threatening the supply of water to large urban centers in the lowlands and the production of hydropower as a result of drying up of water bodies due to frequent droughts and dry spells,” she said.

Tembo also said the government is committed to review and update its development policies with the aim of integrating appropriate strategies for “sustainable mountain development and mountain ecosystem conservation”.

She then called upon non-governmental organizations and donor agencies to also review and update their development cooperation policies and strategies, to ensure that “sustainable mountain development and mountain ecosystem conservation” are an integral part.

The International Mountain Day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003 to highlight the challenges facing mountains and the need for sustainable development.

The official commemoration of the day in Malawi will be held at the Gymkhana Club Grounds on the foot of Zomba Mountain on Saturday, 11th December, 2021.

The key messages on the day will reportedly focus on the call for action for all Malawians to join hands to reduce the negative effects of climate change in mountains, control land degradation, preserve mountain ecosystem services, support sustainable food systems and improve infrastructure and services for mountain people in the spirit of the UN Agenda 2030 of leaving no one behind.

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