Massive planting to save Malawi’s national tree Mulanje Cedar, facing extinct through illegal logging

Malawi’s critically endangered national tree, the Mulanje cedars,  is now almost extinct due to illegal over-exploitation for the valuable timber by communities surrounding the mountain.

Massive plantation of Mulanje cedar  on Mount Mulanje.

A communique from three concerned environmental organisations, Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT), Botanic Gardens Conservation International and the Forest Research Institute of Malawi, has doubled efforts to immediately replant the national heritage, which occurs naturally only on  Mulanje Mountain and nowhere else on Earth.

“This ecologically and economically valuable tree is therefore an essential part of Malawi’s heritage and our global responsibility is to care for it,” says the communique from the three organisations distributed by Ibrahim Mitole, MMCT’s Biodiversity Conservation Research & Monitoring Programme Officer.

“The Mulanje Cedar cloud forest cover has drastically declined over the past 10 years due to illegal over-exploitation for the valuable timber and consequently the Mulanje Cedar is now almost extinct.  This crisis causes a challenge to other forest plants and animals, flash-floods due to the degraded mountain catchment and also a loss of livelihood income for the communities that were sustainably using the timber resource.”

It continues to say that a major coordinated international and local response to this crisis was organized through MMCT, Botanic Gardens Conservation International and the Forest Research Institute of Malawi, who are now working closely together with community groups to restore the cedar cloud forests on Mt Mulanje and they are asking for extra help to continue with the task.

“A huge effort was launched to replant the mountain with Mulanje Cedar seedlings and to develop a process to improve the mountain’s future management.  During this past year’s rainy season, about 335,000 Mulanje Cedar trees were planted up on the mountain at a cost of over MK82 million.  

“The British Government Darwin Initiative funded K32 million mobilising the conservation project by establishing 10 community group cedar nurseries and MMCT financed K50 million for the purchase, transportation, planting and caring of the trees.

“This year, an additional 300,000 Mulanje Cedar seedlings can be planted on the mountain from the stocks available at the community group nurseries.  MMCT cannot finance this substantial cost alone.  

“The project team is now appealing for public support to assist to plant all these trees on the mountain.  It costs only K250 to procure, transport and plant one Mulanje Cedar seedling. So please, make Mulanje Cedar your tree-planting commitment this year so that we can as a nation be proud to complete this reforestation.”

The organisations are appealing to the public that should they require any additional information or like to arrange a special event, to contact Ibrahim Mitole on +265 888 527 642 /+265 991 347 411 or email [email protected]

“Let’s all join hands and give good support to the 2018/2019 Cedar planting season on the mountain and yes, we can save our National Tree from extinction!” 

Mitole says Mulanje Cedar, just as all trees on Mt Mulanje, has always been managed to be used in a sustainable manner all along,  and in the past the Cedar concession were being given to contractors to harvest fully grown and old trees as a management practice. 

“With time, people took advantage of this and started to log all Cedar trees regardless of size and age. The forest department failed to arrest this situation due to a number of reasons, among others, shortage of personnel coupled with less funding to forestry activities. 

“This resulted in the rise in cases of illegal logging of  Mulanje Cedar on the mountain. Survival of young trees on the mountain has always been affected by illegal fires and other invasive species. 

“MMCT and the Forestry department has been and always will continue to safeguard the trees from fires by having fire standby teams and clearing firebreaks during the dry period. With coordinated support from different sectors including communities, we will also continue to conduct law enforcements on and around the mountain to help protect the trees and other natural resources,” Mitole said.

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