The Challenge - Long-term deforestation due to total reliance on trees for domestic fuel, building and brick-burning
Deforestation is a major challenge in Malawi, largely overlooked in the urgent rush to find food for today. However, it has widespread consequences, causing environmental damage—soil erosion/deterioration, excessive water evaporation, lack of protection from extreme climate events and the steady decline of wildlife habitats.
But the need for wood is relentless—it’s the only household fuel available in the rural areas for cooking, heating water for hygiene, burning bricks and providing timber for building construction. This natural resource is running out, and charcoal burning, though illegal, has decimated forests of indigenous hard-wood trees in mountainous areas, leaving the lower lands without protection from flooding and soil erosion.
The indirect results are sobering. Hunger is increased as poor soil reduces harvests, poverty is worsened as flooding destroys homes and fields, health is affected by poor hygiene, quality of life is impacted by the care-giver having to walk further and further for wood or pay high prices due to dwindling supply.
The Malawian Government has deemed deforestation “an unsolvable problem”.
One of the results of deforestation - flooding, destroying crops
But we can all help. For years we’ve been promoting reforestation, growing and providing a variety of tree seedlings, and encouraging tree planting in the community by training voluntary groups, then establishing local tree nurseries.
We’re providing 4 main tree varieties: mtangatanga and acacia for firewood, moringa for nutrition and glycidia as green manure, dropping nitrates and leaves when planted amid crops, improving soil quality.
Over the years we’ve produced many thousands of seedlings in our Tree Nursery. Initially, we happily distributed them liberally to communities, schools, and families on our Food Programme, but as we followed up to monitor progress we found results were disappointing—care of the young trees had diminished and most had been lost to the climatic challenges. So we reassessed and became more selective, investing our time and training into committees that shared our vision.
We’re pushing the pro-active care of trees—adequate irrigation, pruning, weeding, and applying top dressing to nourish and retain moisture, while blanketing roots to protect from sun damage and soil erosion. Gradually people are beginning to grasp the urgency and importance of the task and the benefits that can result....