The planting of 300 Trichilia emetica, also known as Natal mahogany trees, along a dual highway that connects with the presidential road at area 18 interchange to Bingu National Stadium gave the Lilongwe greening initiative a boost on Monday, Chilembwe Day holiday. A sizable group of volunteers, including members of youth organisations and environmental activists from various areas, worked for nearly four hours to plant the trees.
It also turned out that such gatherings might be bringing people together, as many people witnessed MCP representative for the area, Alfred Jiya, and the DPP member of parliament, Werani Chilenga, working together to plant trees. Chilenga is also leader of Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus and chair of parliamentary committee on climate change.
Chilenga noted that some political decisions have for too long contributed to the degradation of the environment and the disappearance of important greenspaces, and he added that it would be ideal for politicians to separate politics from conservation work and cooperate to undo the harm done to the environment. Additionally, he urged the Lilongwe city council to cease working alone and unite with all parties interested in restoring the city's former beauty as a garden city.
Chilenga stated, "Our city is expanding, and as a result, we are also losing a significant number of trees. Today, we are providing an example to show that, if we cooperate, we can still accomplish something fantastic for our cities. Because of what happened last time, when the contractor began removing Mbawa trees for the six-lane road project without an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report in place, we can only hope that the city council and other agencies will improve their collaboration. Everyone must be vigilant because we don't want that to occur again.''
Jiya, for his part, applauded MPCC, Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, Movement for Environmental Action, and others for bringing the Lilongwe greening program to his territory. Jiya acknowledged that there had previously been some confusion about how to balance city growth and conservation efforts, but he vowed to work with the community, city council, and the ministry of Climate Change and Natural Resources to get everyone on the same page. "I will mobilize the community to ensure that these trees are safeguarded and cared for, as you know that we have incidences where certain unpatriotic people normally come at night to uproot the trees after planting. It's time to move with one accord and green our city. That shouldn't take place.'' Jiya observed.
However, if the Lilongwe greening program is to be successful and long-lasting, non-governmental organizations engaged in conservation work have urged the city council to be proactive and coordinated.
For instance, Dorothy Tembo Nhlema, director of programs at Lilongwe Wildlife Trust and one of the main organisers, has asked Lilongwe city council to create clear guidelines for the campaign so that all parties willing to support should find it simple to know the types of trees needed in various areas and the budgets required. Nhlema invited other companies and individuals to show interest in such initiatives.
Mala Kayira, a young environmentalist and member of Movement for Environmental Action, emphasized the need for the city council to take action, improve existing greenspaces, and expedite efforts to reclaim the city's greenspaces that were encroached upon or corruptly provided to some developers. She also invited young people to join efforts to reclaim Lilongwe's lost greenspaces.
''Following on the planted trees is very crucial if this campaign is going to be worth sustaining" added Kayira.
Trees planted were provided by Lilongwe Botanical Gardens. Lilongwe greening campaign was launched in 2021 and seeks to restore 800 hectares of degraded land in the city.