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Malawi Unveils Us$1.1m Urban Clean Cooking Fund

Government has launched a US$1.1 million Malawi Clean Cooking Fund, an initiative funded by USAID and UKAid to cushion mounting pressure on biomass in the country.

The fund is intended to promote use of biomass in a sustainable way following pressure on Malawi's forests due to rapid population growth.

Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources, Nancy Tembo, led the launched programme on Wednesday.

Tembo said Malawi’s economic development and social well-being largely depends on the country’s natural resource base.

Yet, she noted, forests are under intense pressure from a variety of man-made induced factors.

Tembo captured with Martin Dawson of FCDO

A 2007 economic valuation of natural resources in Malawi commissioned by the UN Environment Programme estimated that unsustainable natural resource use was costing the country more than US$ 191 million, or 5.3 percent of GDP, annually.

She said forests used to cover more than half of Malawi's land. Today, forests now cover only 25% of the land. And annually, Malawi is losing 0.63% of forest cover—which is roughly 15,000 hectares per year, according to the recent National Forest Inventory and Deforestation Calculation.

"This negative outlook is further compounded by climate change and extreme weather conditions which are having devastating effects on the availability of clean water, fish resources, energy and health,” she said.

She said the fund is aimed at promoting fuel efficient cooking technologies and alternative cooking energy.

“The initiative will provide financing to the innovative entrepreneurs, that have the creativity, and business vision, to transform cooking and change history in Malawi. This is great, coming at a time we are exploring options for household energy cooking demand in the country," Tembo said.

She added that the government is mainstreaming climate change and natural resources management into national policy planning and frameworks of different sectors to ensure sustainable economic growth and development in Malawi.

Modern Cooking for Healthy Forests (MCHF) project is co-funded by the USAID and UKAid. They were represented at the launch by Deputy Development Director in the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Martin Dawson and USAID Deputy Mission Director, Feston Sands.

The two lauded the initiative as a move that will remedy challenges rocking the sector of environment in Malawi especially among urban resident’s energy demand.

MCHF Chief of Party, Ramzy Kenan, hailed Tembo for demonstrating strong political will in addressing Malawi's challenges in forestry and environment in general.

“I have not seen anywhere near the level of commitment and passion that she is bringing to the forestry and other environmental sectors—and with this high level of support, my colleagues and I feel real change is not only possible, but it will come,” said Kenan.

“The initiative will provide financing to the innovative entrepreneurs, that have the creativity, and business vision, to transform cooking and change history in Malawi. This is great, coming at a time we are exploring options for household energy cooking demand in the country," Tembo said.

The MCHF head also extended appreciation to USAID and FCDO for their support.

The initiative has already raised expectation among environment and climate change activists.

National Coordinator for Civil Society Network on Climate Change (CISONECC), Julius Ngoma said the fund will contribute to reduction of environmental degradation through deforestation.

Some of the distinguished guests that graced the Clean Cooking Fund

"It will provide an opportunity for enhancing incomes due to financial incentives and help to woe private sector to take part in addressing environmental challenges through development of innovative solutions," Ngoma said.

He added that the initiative should ensure that local investors and innovators are specifically targeted to benefit from the fund and that it should align its activities with the existing climate, environment and forestry initiatives for sustainability and long-lasting impact.

Photos credit : Charles Mkoka, Association of Environment Journalists (AEJ)

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Charles Mkoka
Charles Mkoka is one of AEJ News Editorial Production Crew

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