Malawi, located in Southern Africa, has a total surface area of 119,140 square kilometres of which 20 per cent is water. According to the 1987 population census, the population of Malawi was 8.0 million people, with an average growth rate of 3.2 per cent
The country is divided into three administrative regions, the Southern Region, the Central Region and the Northern Region. Rapid population growth has created severe land pressure in the Southern and Central Regions, where deforestation caused by expansion of agriculture land and the supply of poles and woodfuel is reported to be high.
Woodfuel accounts for about 93 per cent of the total energy used in the country. Due to the high share of woodfuel in the energy balance of Malawi, efforts have been initiated to sustain woodfuel production.
The main woodfuel technologies used include establishment of rural woodfuel projects, of large-scale plantations, government and individual tree nurseries, demonstration woodlots combined with research, individual tree-planting programmes, conservation of natural forests and provision of bonus for surviving plants.
1. The Rural Fuelwood Project
The first government project to address the problem of woodfuel scarcity in Malawi, the Rural Fuelwood Project, was started in 1976. It was funded by the Government of Malawi with additional funds from a British Government grant. The main objective of the project was to establish plantations for woodfuel and poles production.
To facilitate selection of appropriate tree species, the country was divided into eight silvicultural zones. Successfully growing species in each zone were surveyed, documented and disseminated to extension workers. Research on suitable woodfuel species continued as a routine forestry activity.
In addition, another project, the Rural Fuelwood and Poles Research Project was also started. The long-term objective of the project was to provide the basic silvicultural information in order to promote rural afforestation for the sustained production of woodfuel and poles and to provide shade, fodder and soil improvement. It was financed by the Government of Malawi and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada, which provided a grant of $ Can 500,000.
A total of 93 experimental plots were established at 73 sites in seven silvicultural zones. Of these, 48 sites were on communal lands used for grazing or denuded hill slopes, 20 on individual farmer's land and the remaining five in government forest reserves, as a safety measure against losses on the other sites.
Communal lands for establishing the trial plots were obtained through negotiations with chiefs and village headmen. Land in individual farms was obtained through negotiation with farmers, involving both wife and husband.
Paid labour was used for establishing and protecting the trial plots with some assistance from the community and individuals. The end-products of the trees belonged to those who had provided land, but they were not allowed to cut the trees without prior approval of forestry officers.
The project gave the following positive results:
• Support and land for tree-growing were obtained from the community and individual farmers because they had been consulted.
2. The Malawi Wood Energy Project
The first large-scale woodfuel project in Malawi was the Wood Energy Project, which was started in 1979 with a World Bank loan of $US10 million, and expanded in December 1986 with another World Bank loan of $US 16.7 million. The main objective of the Project was to establish and develop a sustainable wood production programme to meet the current and future demands for woodfuel and construction poles, while conserving and ameliorating the natural forests and the environment. It aimed at increasing woodfuel production through government and private initiatives, enhance the economic utilization of woodfuels through the promotion of energy-efficient technologies, and improving natural ecosystems by offering efficient protection and management of the indigenous forests.
In the first phase, a total of 88 central-government nurseries were established by the end of 1988 which provided seedlings for establishing large-scale woodfuel plantations as well as for selling to farmers at a subsidized price.
By that time, a total of 15,000 ha of woodfuel plantations had been established by the Forestry Department using paid labour. The plantations were established close to urban centres, mainly in Lilongwe and Blantyre cities, with the main objective of providing woodfuel at affordable prices to urban low-income groups.
However, the first phase of the project proved to be a failure as, inspite of heavy subsidies, few farmers could afford the purchase of seedlings. Secondly, most of the farmers who planted trees indicated that their main objective was to produce poles for sale and for house construction and not for woodfuel. As long as free woodfuel was available from customary land forests, people did not feel compelled to plant trees except for sale.
The government woodfuel plantations under the monoculture production system proved to be very expensive, technically and financially. Yields were low for most plantations: a mean annual increment of 4.6 m3 per ha per annum was obtained against a planned increment of 10 m3/ha/annum at a rotation of seven years. The plantations supplied less than 1 per cent of the wood consumed hence their contributions were insignificant.
These observations tend to suggest that large-scale plantations run by governments, might not be the best option for woodfuel production. On the other hand, tree-planting by the private sector, NGOs and the people themselves in participatory efforts appeared to be the most cost-effective way of growing woodfuel. However, the method required a catalytic support from the Government, through extension services and formulation of policies and laws which would promote and protect the interest of individual tree growers.
Wood from indigenous forests was regarded as a free commodity. To put a value to the wood, a pricing policy of woodfuel from indigenous forests was introduced, mainly to cover the cost of re-establishment of the trees (Nkaonja, 1990).
Lessons learned from the first phase of the project and those collected by a special unit on social aspects related to woodfuel production were utilized in the implementation of phase two of the project started in 1987. The main differences between the two phases were:
• Less emphasis was placed in the second phase on large-scale government plantations and the main emphasis was directed towards tree-growing by the private sector on a participatory and sustainable system. The role of the Government and other funding agencies was limited to catalytic support.
3. The Blantyre City Woodfuel Plantation
The first phase of the Blantyre City Woodfuel Plantation Project was started in 1986 and was completed in 1991. It was funded by Norway with a grant of $US6,540,000. The main objective of the project was to manage an area of 65,000 ha of natural forest for the sustainable supply of woodfuel and poles. To fulfil the objective, woodfuel plantations were established in areas with low biomass potential, while management of existing natural woodlands was intensified (SADCC Forestry Sector, 1988; Chiyenda et al, 1989). By the end of 1991, a total of 6350 ha of woodfuel plantation was already established, mainly with eucalyptus species. However, the average productivity per hectare is reported to have been lower than predicted In addition, the Forestry Division had no comprehensive plan on how to harvest and manage the plantation on a sustainable basis (SADCC Energy Sector, 1992a). NORAD, therefore, provided further financial and technical assistance to work out a system of harvesting and sustaining the project, based on local resources. Establishment of the plantations provided employment to over 4000 workers of whom 20 per cent were women.
4. Individual tree-planting programmes
The National Tree Planting Day Programme. The Programme was started in 1976 with the main objective of intensifying individual tree-growing. It is commemorated annually on 21 December, which is a public holiday for tree-planting. The average annual number of trees planted by this Programme is about 25 million (SADCC Energy Sector, 1992a).
The Carlsberg Brewery Company Tree Planting Programme. The company sponsors two tree seedlings for each bottle top of Carlsberg beer collected by tree growers. Through this system, the company supported the planting of 4 million trees in 1988 and 7 million trees in 1989. Although current figures are not available, the company's contributions to tree-growing is reported to be expanding progressively every year (Nkaonja, 1990).
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