SALIMA, Malawi 25st April, 2022 (AEJ) - Today, food security is utmost important asset to Malawians especially in the wake of storms such as Ana and Gombe that caused massive destruction through flooding to subsistence farmers crops. The storms follow another devastation globally, Covid-19 pandemic that ravaged the universe crippling economies to a standstill.
However, in Traditional Authority Tambala on the peripheral of the Salima – Dedza Forest Reserve, a live fence will ensure crops that used to be trampled by wildlife, will now be secured until harvest time. Thanks to a new solar powered fence to be erected in liaison with local communities and the reserve management soon.
Speaking after attending a fence sensitization engagement meeting at Salima boma, Senior Chief Tambala explained they received the project wholeheartedly.
“We are looking at the long-term relationship with the reserve management. They want to fulfill the protection of crops and property. This is for our own safety as residents of the area of Tambala. It is about giving us ownership of the reserve. My community will lead the exercise and the fence will be fully safeguarded,” explained T/A Tambala who led a delegation of the eight chiefs from his area to the meeting.
Wildlife Action Group (Wag) currently manages Thuma and Dedza-Salima Forest Reserves. The non-governmental organization works in partnership with local communities to protect, preserve and restore two important government forests in central Malawi. This work is also being executed with the support of two other government departments namely; forestry and national parks and wildlife.
Speaking in a separate interview Wag director Lynn Clifford, observed that they have been working tirelessly to contain human wildlife conflicts in Dedza. "We are delighted that we have managed to secure funding to extend the solar powered fence which will enable us to mitigate these conflicts. We expect to build a further 20-kilometer in the area Traditional Authority Tambala with full support of the communities and chiefs in the area to be covered by the fence,” Clifford made the announcement.
The fence will not only secure people’s lives, property and livestock. It will also create short employment opportunities for over 500 villagers, with some likely to be fully engaged as fence attendants after the project by Wag.
Wag is working very closely with surrounding communities around the reserves. So far, they have set up excellent robust relationships and work hand in hand with traditional leaders in most areas sharing the reserve boundary.
Recently, eight Group Village Headmen including T/A Tambala met with Wag management to discuss the implementation of the fence as a new co-management development. Communities in TA Tambala area have been hoping for a fence to be erected to reduce wildlife conflicts.
Group Village Headman Mgawi welcomed the development as good news, this is because there is good neighbourliness with Wag staff and the community. “We have wholeheartedly received the new solar fence project in our area,” Mgawi explained in an interview.
Another Group Village Headman Kazembe cited the prevalence of stray elephants as a problem in his area. “We hope the fence will prevent elephants from leaving the reserve to the village where they wreak havoc in people’s gardens.
According to Clifford, funding has been realized through World Wildlife Fund Belgium and has been greatly welcomed by the people.
The solar fence project with be implemented with community assistance to protect human life and boost food security. The eight GVH’s are so far controlling illegal charcoal burning outside and along boundaries due to enhanced relationship, sensitization provided by Wag. Morale is high however unfortunately only villagers from Kapanda area continues to refused any relationship to work with Wag management.
Tambala added that local governance structure was contacted and consulted and they are working together. We will take the message to the people about this project that will stabilize relationship with the reserve management.
Other than the fence Wag has been implementing a number of incomes generating activities for peripheral communities’ living close to the boundary. This is part of livelihood other than engaging in illegal unsustainable practices in the forest reserve.
The activities include gravity fed irrigation to grow vegetables for sale, beekeeping, tree planting, chicken rearing and goat pass programmes which are currently very active.
These livelihood initiatives have changed people habits from simply being charcoal burners for a living. Now people are busy growing crops, selling them and eating what they need as part of food and nutritional security.
“It’s a real win-win situation for both the people and the long-term sustainability of the reserve,” says Moses Kephar Wag extension officer.
Group Village Headman Nangamphasa wrapped up, “Yes, I and my chiefs, we want the fence because elephants have been terrorizing us for many years.”