SALIMA, Malawi 05th December, 2021 (AEJ) – Worsening loss of Malawi’s natural assets ranked high at a civil society forum that took place in Salima last week. Both Government and civil society organisations highlighted a need to step up environmental restoration and conservation initiatives to contain the country’s dwindling natural resources.
Current loss of natural assets potentially threatens poverty eradication efforts, including Malawi’s MW2063 vision aspirations, according to principal secretary in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Public Sector Reforms, Winford Masanjala who spoke at the forum.
For instance, the department of forestry estimates an annual forest loss of 32 thousand hectares per year, while other studies also indicate the country loses 30 tons of soil per hectare per year.
"With over three-quarters of the country’s soils at risk, soil loss in Malawi represents a major threat to food and nutrition security, agricultural growth, the provision of ecosystem services and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)" reads part of the soil loss atlas of Malawi published in 2019.
To deal with these challenges, Masanjala said there is a need for civil society and government to work together, especially in expanding targeted investments in environmental and natural resource management.
He also acknowledged that policymakers and program implementers overlook the fact that investing in the productivity of environmental resources, especially those that promote agricultural productivity, such as soil and water resources, could greatly improve Malawi’s poverty situation. Msanjala said: "Environmental sustainability has the potential to contribute to economic growth mechanisms and promote equitable wealth creation as highlighted in the Malawi Vision 2063 by, among others, opening new markets by stimulating demand for green goods, services, and technologies, contributing to fiscal consolidation by mobilizing revenues through green taxes and through the elimination of environmentally harmful subsidies, reducing risks of negative shocks to growth due to resource bottlenecks, as well as damaging and potentially irreversible environmental impacts."
One of the participants Maynad Nyirenda, board chairperson of the Coordination Union for the Rehabilitation of the Environment (CURE), stated that the studies shared during the meeting will stimulate evidence-based advocacy and ensure coordination in the implementation of a variety of interventions at various levels.
On her part, Malawi Environmental Endowment Trust – MEET national coordinator Karen Price said the meeting has drawn several resolutions on pertinent issues affecting environmental management, such as the thin plastics ban, Environmental Social and Impact Assessment (ESIA) guidelines, the adopt a forest Initiative and others, which they will be acting on in phases.
“We have a number of areas that we are still exploring and looking to engage in as CSOs. Primarily, we have been working on the issue of thin plastics for a number of years, and we will not relent until our landscapes and natural ecosystems are free from thin plastics. In addition to that, we are looking at how best we can track funds allocated to the environment, including the carbon levy, “explained Price on the sidelines of the event.
During the meeting, officials from the department of forestry and department of environmental affairs EAD made presentations on state of thin plastics ban, review of the ESIA guidelines, and the adopt of a forest initiative, all of which have staggered.
Giving an update on the plastic ban EAD's deputy director, Michael Makonombera told the gathering that the government's hands are still tied because one of the thin plastics manufacturers, Golden Plastics, obtained another injunction, and four months down the line, the court has not been able to set a date for the government to be heard to challenge the matter.
An update on the adopt a forest initiative, which government introduced to speed up forest and landscape restoration, painted a picture of how the initiative has flopped but did not fall short of new approaches being pursued by authorities, including setting up one-on-one meetings with CEOs of some of the leading companies.
Ted Kamoto, deputy director in the Department of Forestry, stated that all 63 proposals received were unsatisfactory, owing primarily to "applicants' failure to fully grasp the concept."Kamoto admitted that introducing the initiative without clear guidelines might have contributed, but assured interested institutions the guidelines would be ready soon.
The meeting was organized under the Poverty-Environment Action for Sustainable Development Goals (PEA) Project, jointly supported by UNDP-UN Environment, FAO, and UN Women initiative.