Malawi hosts Chiefs Forum on Natural Resources Management
The Government of Malawi in collaboration with the German Development Cooperation through GIZ and International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN and other partners hosted the first-ever Chiefs Forum on Natural Resources Management and Transition to Sustainable Agriculture and Livelihood event in Lilongwe from August 30th to August 31st, 2023.
Malawi’s Head of State, His Excellency Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, presided over the closing meeting, which was held at the Botanic Garden.
President Chakwera and the chiefs signed a call to action in their bid to improve governance to conserve and restore lands and natural resources and to promote best practices for sustainable agriculture and livelihoods.
Chakwera said traditional leaders are critical stakeholders in the conservation and restoration of natural resources as they are highly respected in their society and are capable of enforcing rules. He said traditional leaders have a powerful voice and influence.
He then urged them to reclaim their role in environmental management as this guarantees the sustainable management of Malawi's diverse landscapes, which includes employing cross-sectoral strategies to address the drivers of environmental degradation related to population dynamics, poverty, and energy.
The president called upon the chiefs to curb lawlessness in the management of forest resources by engaging with their subjects and facilitating behavior change initiatives that would also help stop the practice of cutting down trees unnecessarily and environmental degradation.
He said the rate at which plunder of natural resources is taking place is something the government alone cannot manage, hence the need to take an active role in instilling discipline, a sense of ownership, and behavioral change.
He then expressed gratitude for the chiefs' call to action, which he believes has a powerful voice, and asked for its effective implementation to put an end to environmental degradation in some areas.
"I am very excited to see that Malawian chiefs have decided to call to an end to the depletion of natural resources—trees and forests in particular—and that you want to take a leading role in these matters. Chiefs are agents of development because they are the link between the government and the citizens.
"The government recognizes the role that chiefs play in the management of forests and natural resources. It is for this reason that the government has placed chiefs as key stakeholders and at the centre of all technical and governance blueprints as highlighted in the policy documents and strategies in the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources, and Climate Change," Chakwera explained while thanking the chiefs for taking the time to build consensus on how to strengthen their role and participation in the management of natural resources.
In his address, the president thanked the organizers of the meeting, including the German Development Cooperation through GIZ, International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN, and the Department of Forestry. Further support also came from AFIDEP, UNDP, and the Tobacco Commission.
The Minister of Natural Resources and Climate Change, Honourable Dr. Michael Usi, assured the traditional leaders of the government’s commitment to financial and technical support to help them manage the natural resources.
Dr. Usi said the ministry is geared towards working with the chiefs to increase charcoal manufacturing by, among other things, producing more briquettes and bamboo to serve as alternative fuel sources. The minister commended the chiefs for contributing meaningful ideas for sustaining the environment during the two-day meeting.
Retaliating to the minister’s statement, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change, Dr. Yusuf Nkungula, said, "The government and its partners remain steadfast in providing the necessary resources, policy support, and technical expertise to ensure the success and sustainability of conservation and restoration initiatives.
Moreover, the ministry is dedicated to working with the chiefs to strengthen governance structures, enhance capacity building, and promote the involvement of local communities in decision-making processes.
In his statement, one of the participating traditional leaders, Inkosi Ya Makosi Gomani V, said the chiefs have developed a call to action, expressing their commitment towards protecting and sustaining the environment by, among others, establishing by-laws, dealing with encroachment in protected forests, sensitizing communities on sustainable agriculture and soil conservation, protecting water resources, and promoting regeneration of forest resources.
Over 200 traditional leaders from all the districts across Malawi participated. They were joined by their district commissioners. The meeting received a high level of interest from the Malawian Government.
Other participants included the Vice President Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, the Minister of Local Government, Unity and Culture, Honourable Richard Chimwendo Banda, the Deputy Minister of Local Government, Unity and Culture, Honourable Owen Chomanika, the Deputy Minister of Health, Honourable Halima Alima Daud.
Other participants are Dr Jules Rutebuka, IUCN ESARO Regional Programme Officer, Sustainable Agriculture, Tangu Isabel Tumeo, IUCN Programme Officer ( Malawi), Hannah Justina Weggerle, Advisor under AREECA as well as the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Rebecca Adda-Dontoh and Representatives from the Departments of Land Resources Conservation, Fisheries, Tourism, Agricultural Extension Services, and Wildlife and Forestry to name few.
The meeting was organized by the IKI-funded AREECA Consortium project, a large-scale FLR project led by GIZ and implemented by IUCN, FAO, World Bank, WWF, WRI and AUDA NEPAD.
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