Counteracting the extremely high deforestation rates in Nkhata Bay North, Malawi through planting 250,000 trees throughout the region and engaging the whole community in building environmental conservation awareness of the importance and care of trees.
The deforestation rate in Malawi is among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa with over 120,000 acres of indigenous trees lost every year. This situation is reflected in Nkhata Bay North with deforestation increasing mainly as a result of charcoal production and poor farming practices. Such pressures upon natural resources have resulted in widespread environmental damage as a result of the soil erosion, flooding and biodiversity loss.
Adding climate change into the equation creates a perfect storm scenario whereby rising temperatures and increasingly erratic weather conditions put ever-greater pressures upon already vulnerable subsistence farmers. A very stark example of this impact was seen in 2012 when one of the main rivers that feeds the gravity fed water system in Nkhata Bay North ran dry. This was primarily as a result of deforestation of the rivers catchment basin and reduced rainfall.
This project aims to counter these trends through enabling large-scale community-led reforestation involving the planting of 250,000 trees throughout Nkhata Bay North. Tree planting will be facilitated from a village level, from a household level and also through engagement with schools.
At a village level this effort will involve the establishment of 12 community tree nurseries, the training of community members to raise and out-plant tree seedlings and the establishment of 12 Village Forest Management Committees responsible for looking after the reforested areas and spreading conservation awareness throughout their communities. This project will have the ability to reach around 30,000 people.
At a household level the project will train 500 farmers in organic agroforestry techniques to allow them to grow more fruit producing trees as well as integrating other beneficial tree species into their farming systems. Once established, trees are far hardier to erratic climate conditions than crops and can help give farmers a huge degree of resilience in the face of such patterns.
From these 500 farmers, 27 lead farmer groups will be established to help provide a community support structure for participating beneficiaries. Temwa will develop this lead farmer network with the aim of enabling the spread of best practice among all farmers and allowing techniques to be refined to best suit local conditions. Such indigenous knowledge development, we believe, is essential to long term sustainability as it allows agroforestry to develop in harmony with local ecosystems, building resilience into farming practises in the face of the long term impacts of climate chance.
At a school level, 38 schools will be involved in the project and at each school Conservation Clubs will be established. These clubs will be trained in managing tree nurseries, planting out and caring for trees and they will each be supported to establish their own tree nurseries. These nurseries, along with the village nurseries and Temwa’s own nursery, will raise all of the 250,000 trees to be planted as part of this project. The Conservation Clubs will also be responsible for disseminating information and awareness about environmental conservation.
Trees for Life microsite: www.temwa.org/treesforlife
PROJECT UPDATE DECEMBER 2013
This phase of the project combined the regeneration of woodland areas with community education on the care and importance of trees, with increased community engagement activities. Initiatives such as; the establishment of school conservation clubs, setting up of Village Natural Resource Management Committees and training of Lead Farmers, to work as extension officers in their communities, has enabled the project to become increasingly community led.
A particular achievement in regards to community mobilization, education and conservation activities has been the establishing 18 Village Natural Resource Management Committees (VNRMCs), which far exceeded proposal target of 12. Temwa has worked with 180 members of these committees, providing training in the establishment and management of tree nurseries; this supported the establishment of 14 community nurseries. Training of all 18 VNRMCs has been conducted in partnership with the District Forestry Office. The objective for training was to strengthen the committees and build capacity in planning and implementation of forest activities in their respective areas in line with Malawi forestry policy. Participants have been briefed on Malawi’s National Forest Policy and the concept of participatory forest management. Each VNRMC has also been trained on how to draw up a community action plan for the entire year. The plan is an on-going process and involves a structured and repeatable set of community activities to be done against a timeline.
Each committee was encouraged to consult local leaders in identifying land for communal woodlots to avoid conflicts. In addition, for the reforestation program, the members were advised to identify land village forest areas (VFA). The VNRMCs were also briefed on best practices in relation to tree seedling production, ground preparation for out planting and woodlot establishment and management. All 18 VNRMCs have now developed a fully enforceable participatory forest management regime is established that is created and managed by local communities according to their own vision of conservation.
The project also worked with 500 farmers, offering them training in agro-forestry farming methods. This training was incredibly successful and conducted in partnership with the District Forestry Office and the District Agriculture Office. It not only introduces environmentally friendly farming techniques, but access to improved household food security. Combining this with the wider forestry initiatives proved incredibly successful, with trained farmers asking for trees for planting on their homestead.
Tree planting did not reach the target which was given in the first proposal, due to Temwa not raising the needed £25,000. However, this target was adjusted to 200,000 in 2013. At the beginning of 2013, there were 251,500 seeds which were being raised in tree nurseries. Of these seeds 206, 388 were planted out, as 45,112 did not germinate. There have been some significant challenges in relation to raising tree seedlings in nurseries including goats eating seedlings, which is a consistent problem despite nurseries being fenced. There was also a water crisis in part of our catchment area caused by one of the major rivers drying up for the first time in living memory. This lead to some germinated seedlings drying up as they could not be watered. It also lead to some seeds being planted later than usual which has resulted in then not being mature enough for out-planting. Despite these challenges, we still hit our revised target of planting 200,000 trees.
Through such community-led activities the project reached 17,500 people in the region of Nkhata Bay North.