Minister shuns Chikangawa meeting over fuel, allowances

Malawi Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jennifer Chilunga  has turned downed an invitation from Youths to officially open a week they have dedicated to remind government of the disastrous consequences Malawi will encounter if the current practices in the 55,000 hectare Chikangawa forest plantation go unchecked.

While 20,000 hectares of the 55 000 hectares forest is now under the concessionary arrangement with Raiply and seems to be well managed, the 35,000 hectares left in the hands of government is heading for extinction, the youth claimed.

The plantation is one major economic project for the Malawi’s agro-based economy through its local supply and export of timber and other value-added products.

Originally meant to be a paper project, the forest reserve supplies Malawi and her neighbors with timber, and various value-added products such as household furniture, ply woods, shutter ply and block boards, air-dry timber, cured dry timber.

Dubbed ‘Youths for green Malawi: Chikangawa, our economic treasure’ the week will run from 28th January to 4th February 2013. And activities lined up for the week include; Replanting deforested sections of the plantation , Stakeholders Engagement meetings, Environmental Open Day (Education and awareness campaign) and live public debate on radio.

Chilunga – who refused to comment  when contacted – demanded fuel from Lilongwe to Chikangawa and allowances  all amounting to MK200,000 for her participation.

But the organizers Mzuzu based Youth and Society, who are struggling to raise funds to meet the total budget of activities planned at MK700,000 described the ministers demands as ‘absurd’.

Youth and Society Chairperson Charles Kajoloweka expressed ignorance over the minister’s demand’s but Nyasa Times sources in the organization confirmed the development.

Ironically, Chikangawa forest and all other forests in Malawi fall under her ministry.

“The rate at which Chikangawa forest is being unduly destroyed calls for immediate civil and political action.  There is need to reverse the situation now,” Kajoloweka said in statement released this week.

Kajoloweka said despite the economic benefits realized from the Plantation – the forest is at the edge of collapse due to wanton and unchecked deforestation.

Jennifer Chilunga : Need allowances and fuel to attend

“The Forest is being eaten away and there seem little or no solution in sight to save it from extinction. While hundreds of hectares are harvested annually, replanting is disproportionately done on very small scale. According to reports, in a good day, a licence holder can do 150 planks of different sizes per day, which are around 80 to 90 trees.

“There are more than 200 licence holders plying timber businesses in Chikangawa plantation. Wild and uncontrolled fires are also a common sight. In addition, the plantation only gets K15 million budgetary allocation against its annual budget of about K80 million to replant a thousand hectares of trees,” he explained.

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