The youth in Mzimba are expected to plant trees and regenerate a total of 1,767 hectares of bare lands in different areas across the district between February and June this year in an effort to restore forest cover in the district.
This will be made possible through the government initiative aimed at engaging youths to actively participate in tree planting activities and management of the environment, the Malawi Youth Forest Restoration Programme (MYFRP).
In the 2018/19 national budget, the government allocated MK5 billion for young people to work in groups, planting trees and taking care of the trees as a way of restoring forest cover and reducing youth unemployment that the country is currently experiencing.
About MK60 million has been allocated for Mzimba, of which MK24 million is for seedlings, MK30 million for wages and labour, and MK6 million for sensitization meetings.
In Mzimba, according to a forest landscape assessment, there are over 2000 hectares of bare land requiring tree planting, and 9,000 hectares requiring natural regeneration and reclamation of the trees which have been lost.
And Mzimba District Forestry Officer Lifred Banda told Capital FM that to contribute towards reducing bare lands in the district; they expect to work with a number of youth clubs based on the area each exercise will be taking place.
“In Mzimba we have so many youth clubs but for this exercise we have selected them based on the area the exercise is taking place, so for tree planting we are involving about 23 clubs and for natural regeneration management we are involving 25 youth clubs,” Banda said.
He added, “With the clubs we will be working with, for tree planting we are targeting 200 hectares which is going to be planted with both exotic as well as indigenous trees and for natural regeneration we are talking of 1,567 hectares and these include bare hills and some other lands just staying idle.”
The program which will run from February to June for this year, and expected to run for a similar period in the coming three years, is expected to benefit both the youths and the district as a whole according to Banda.
“In Malawi we have the problem of unemployment, most of the youth are idle, so the government wanted to engage them so that they benefit economically. In addition, youths are going to benefit in the sense that they are going to be empowered in terms of skills of tree planting and tree management which most of the youths do not have,” he said.
“As a district, the benefit is the increase in forestry cover because with tree planting and natural regeneration, we are going to cover areas which are bear so it means by the end of this programme we will have the forest cover increased,” Banda said.
He added, “And at the same time, we have bare lands and hills which are going to be regenerated and most of the bare hills are sources of rivers so it means we are going to boost the water flow once those hills have been regenerated which means the problem of water in the future will not be an issue in the district.”
During the period from February to June, young people working on the program will be paid and for sustainability purposes after June, Banda said they will link youth clubs to existing structures so that the trees planted and those regenerated can continue to be taken care of outside the project period.
“There is a deliberate initiative in this program where we are going to use the already existing structures, the Village Natural Resources Management Committees (VNRMCs). We want to take the VNRMCs on board so that they incorporate the youth and we believe if the youth are linked, they will be able to take care of the trees outside the paying period,” he said.
“At the same time, there are NGOs implementing climate change projects, so we will try to link youth clubs with these projects that are in their localities so that we can find areas of collaboration in terms of how we can work for trees that are going to be planted to grow sustainably,” Banda said.
Mzimba District Youth Officer Samuel Gondwe said as the district youth office they will provide technical support to the youth clubs and do the monitoring as a way of ensuring that the program is a success.
“This is an opportunity and as a district we want youths targeted to be role models to a number of youth clubs which are not in the program, so the office is there to do the monitoring and provide the technical support to ensure that the program benefit the youths,” Gondwe said.
Gondwe said to ensure that the money is safe and well utilized according to the intended purposes, as an office they will automatically employ some guidelines so that youths could check each other at community level.
“Youth clubs already have the constitution, they have the treasure, they are well organised but we will make sure that we add some of the guidelines. We have the privilege that some clubs already have bank accounts, but we may encourage all other clubs to open an account for the safety of the money,” he said.
“We will also look to initiate additional activities like village savings and loans and doing a joint business as a club so that there will be multiplication of resources, so as an office we will engage the youth to decide what activities they can do to promote their economic base,” Gondwe said.