Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources Hon Nancy Tembo has applauded Wildlife Action Group (WAG) current management of Thuma and Dedza Salima Forest Reserves for sustained integration of peripheral communities in their conservation programming.
WAG recognition comes as drivers of forest degradation namely unsustainable charcoal, firewood demand, forest fires and conversion of farming area continue to wreck havoc in the forestry sector in the country.
Speaking during the event, Traditional Authority Kambwiri speaking on behalf of the three influential traditional leaders observed that there is now unity of purpose for reserve staff to go to the surrounding villages now.
“This is a clear sign of cooperation with local communities. This is because there is support to surrounding schools to help construct classroom blocks. The WAG has played a key role in this development process.
Parliamentarian for the area Gerald Kapiseni Phiri also acknowledged that there is now irrigation, pass a goat programme, gravity feed irrigation horticulture and chicken rearing. We also have a new hospital where WAG supported with bricks at Nkhanga Zawala.
Taking her turn, honourable Nancy Tembo accompanied by Director of Forestry Clement Chilima commended WAG, while calling upon people to come and appreciate the work happening at Thuma and Dedza Salima Forest Reserves.
“Our forests have been plundered through charcoal burning and the benefits local people were getting are no longer there. I just want to thank you Lynn Clifford, you are managing the biodiversity with communities. The work you doing in empowering communities will help grow the forests,” Tembo explained.
We must restore our ecosystem, restore our biodiversity and we can plan work together in ecosystem restoration.
Tembo has since urged both sides [communities and reserve managment] to ensure conflict resolution mechanism are in place in case of disagreements. Local senior chiefs namely Kambwiri, Kalonga and Ndindi from Salima who have been instrumental in ensuring the reserve community improved relationship were present during the first ever visit by a Minister to the reserve.
WAG Field Operations Manager Clifford said in a separate interview they have always wished to be visited by Ministry officials. She finally said they were happy their request was finally accepted.
WAG has been managing Thuma from 1996. So far, they have managed to restore 7,000 hectares of what was a degraded area as a result of charcoal burning, Currently, only a small portion remains on the Dedza - Salima to be under its control.