LILONGWE, Malawi, June 18, 2021 (AEJ) - Wildlife Action Group (WAG) has embarked on a mass sensitisation campaign to raise awareness on recently amended forestry act, reduction of human elephant conflicts and importance of forest conservation to communities around Thuma, Dedza – Salima forest reserves.
The Forestry Act was recently revised and WAG has invested effort, time and resources to translate the legislation and printing of 10,000 copies. These have been distributed to group village headmen, village headmen and senior chiefs in the four districts that surround the reserve.
This is a gesture of good will from WAG to neighbouring villages so that they understand the new law and the prescribed penalties.
“We are doing this because ignorance is not a defence in a court of law,” says WAG Extension Manager, Austin Chimbalanga during one of the outreach meetings.
Human wildlife conflicts
One issue that has been a concern around Thuma, Dedza - Salima Forest reserves is the issue of human wildlife conflicts. The resultant effect has been loss of crops and property for surrounding communities.
As a way of sustaining good relations between communities and the reserve management. A solar powered fence was constructed on the Salima side of the reserve. This is now a deterrent to wildlife species like elephants which used to move out of the reserve, to wreak havoc in surrounding areas. The fence has also reduced cases of illegal activities, more importantly secured communities’ lives, crops and property.
Communities have been warned to leave handling of stray elephants to problem animal control staff. This will prevent accidents happening that led to loss of lives.
Sustainable resource utilisation
As part of enhancing sustainable resource utilisation surrounding communities have been harvesting thatch grass from the reserve. This is one key ecosystem service entitled to neighbouring villages. This is contributing to enhanced good community partnership between local people and WAG.
This is an opportunity for us, says one woman during the exercise. “As you know thatch grass is scare these days. So free head loads to cover our roofs at home is such a great opportunity,” explained one of the villagers in an interview.
Other initiatives WAG has been involved include gravity fed irrigation, beekeeping, tree planting, chicken rearing and goat pass on programme. All these are aimed to improve good working relations with surrounding communities.
However, WAG management has expressed concern on the continued negative reports citing incorrect statistics that are not verified and factually incorrect about developments taking place within the Thuma, Dedza -Salima Forest Reserves.
UN decade on ecosystem restoration
As the world population increases experts have predicted that there is mounting pressure on forest resources as land for arable cultivation continue to diminish. This has led to what used to be furrow areas with potential for grass to disappear. No wonder, United Nations is championing a crusade on the decade for ecosystem restoration.
"We are facing a triple planetary crisis: climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution—land is at the centre of all three." UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mahommed said.
As we enter the @UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, "we must work together to reconnect people and nature by raising our ambition on #LandRestoration."