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4.0 Demands made upon forests

Forests play an important role in providing basic human needs such as fuelwood, food, fodder, pharmaceuticals, employment, income and foreign exchange, hence contributing to socio-economic development. As an integral component of the biosphere, forests help to stabilise natural systems such as carbon cycle, contribute to biological diversity, provide habitat for fauna and flora. Forests also help in maintaining air, water and soil quality, influence biochemical processes, regulate run-off and groundwater, control soil erosion, reduce downstream sedimentation and incidence of flash flooding. Forests are therefore also very important in providing watershed protection and enhancing water resources.

Forests are becoming focal points for national and international interests. These interests often compete with each other. Demands made upon forests are increasing and becoming more complex.

4.1 Forest services

Forest provides a wide range of non-consumptive services. These services include ecological, economic social and cultural services. The diversity of goods and services demanded from forests mean that management solutions are often complex. For much of the rural communities, these services make considerable contribution towards the rural livelihood.

Both natural and man-made forests play an important role in providing basic human needs such as fuel, food, fodder, pharmaceuticals, employment, income and foreign exchange, hence contributing to socio-economic development. As an integral component of the biosphere, forests help to stabilise natural systems such as biological diversity, provide habitat for fauna and flora. Apart from these, forests also help in maintaining air, water and soil quality, influence biochemical processes, regulate run-off and groundwater, control soil erosion, reduce downstream sedimentation and incidence of flash flooding. Forests are therefore very important in providing watershed protection and enhancing water resources.

Forest services can be categorised into two namely those for which a formal market exists (such as clean water, ecotourism and hunting) and those functions that are mostly intangible and sold through markets such as cultural or spiritual values.

4.1.1 Social-cultural roles and nature-based ecotourism

The common cultural value of trees in Malawi is associated with traditional burial grounds scattered all over the country. These wooded areas are also used for cultural practises such as secret societies. Every village has elaborate rules and regulation regarding care, use and maintenance of tree cover. The survival of such woodland remnants under increasing fuelwood pressure is evidence of the effectiveness of traditional institution to deal with woodland management issues.

More and more, forests are serving as destination for ecotourism and recreation. Ecoturism is a growing industry in Malawi with increasing potential because of the diversity of forest vegetation type that are present. There is concern about the amount of benefits that accrue to the local communities. In one community in Monkey Bay, tour operators are dealing with this problem by sharing responsibilities and benefits with local communities. In this arrangement, communities manage forest resources and provide security for tourists while tour operators attract tourist and provide accommodation and various services. Such arrangement has the potential of ensuring that local communities and local environments benefit from revenue brought in by ecotourism.

4.1.2 Agriculture services of trees and forest

Benefits to crop production resulting from tree-crop interaction are a major non-marketed benefit that trees offer to humanity. Trees support agriculture production by replenishing degraded lands, recycling nutrients, maintaining soil structures, contributing to water cycles and protecting watersheds.

Trees and forests provide food for both wildlife and domestic animals. In some forest reserves, controlled grazing is practiced under license in order to control grazing and prevent overgrazing. Grazing provides mutual benefits for trees and animals. Grazing forests reduces the risk of forest fire while at the same, animal manure provide nutrients to trees.

4.1.3 Carbon sequestration

One of the roles of forests that are gaining ground is the potential for forests as carbon sinks. This potential offers opportunity for developing countries to get economic return from forests through carbon trading. It is estimated that developing countries could get more money from carbon trading than they get from development assistance (FAO, 1998). The driving force behind carbon trading is that for developing countries that are sources of carbon dioxide, carbon reduction through actions within the country is more expensive than reducing carbon emissions in developing countries (FAO, 1998).

Although the opportunity for carbon offset is available, there is no project either being developed or being implemented at the moment in the country. The potential however is there for conserving existing carbon sinks in protected areas and increasing protected areas through further development of protected areas. There is also potential for planting more trees especially in agricultural lands under agroforestry crop production system.

4.1.4 Conservation of wildlife habitat and biological diversity values

There are two main objectives for maintaining protected area is to provide habitat for wildlife and to conserve biological resources. To meet this needs, a wide range of ecosystems ranging from wetlands to woodlands have been protected in national parks and wildlife reserves. National parks and game reserves comprise an estimated 0.98 million hectares, which is 19 % of total land area, which is higher than the global average of 6 % (FAO, 1998). There are 5 National Parks and 4 Game Reserves located through out the country.

With increasing population, it will be difficult in future to increase the area of protected forests for wildlife management due to pressure for agriculture production and food security.

Wildlife reserve areas are a home for some endemic species and great biodiversity. The overall biodiversity resources place the country in a position to benefit from recent upsurge in biodiversity prospecting. So far, Malawi has not benefited from this potential source of revenue. There is potential to benefit from private sector opportunity to capture revenues from biodiversity while respecting the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Sales of seeds and prospecting rights in forests that may yield valuable drugs of pharmaceutical value are some of the promising ways of tapping on biodiversity potential. The challenge will remain how to ensure that the benefits of biodiversity accrue to the people who originally allowed Government to establish protected areas.

Equally challenging is how to benefit from biological biodiversity while ensuring the sustainability of the resource.


4.2 Non-wood forest products (NWFP)

Increasing attention is now being focused on NWFP as sources of alternative or complementary sources of income. The major constraints remain inadequate information on utilisation, management and marketing of NWFPs. Some of the common NTFP are as follows:

4.2.1 Cane furniture Production and Other Crafts Products

Forests are source of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). These include edible mushroom, thatching grass, game, fruits, honey, insects, etc. Most of NTFPs are consumed or traded locally by households. These skip the national accounts though they constitute valuable resources and have a commercial value. Some of these products have potential on the international markets as well. These products are Cane furniture, mats, tables, chairs, toys and baskets). It is estimated that 26, 162 tonnes of cane furniture and other craft products are produced annually.

4.1.2 Ornamentals (flowers)

Table 8. Ornamentals and their value

Production Area/City





in MK

Tropex Nursery

Lilongwe City Assembly Nursery

Blantyre City Assembly Nursery

Nzuzu City Assembly Nursery

Zomba Municipal Assembly Nursery

Lusangadzi Nursery (Mzuzu)

Smallholder Enterprises (Production)


















Forests are also a source of ornamental flowers, plants, shrubs and leaves of commercial value. Some of these NTFPs are already being exported to other countries such as America, Western Europe, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The commercial production of flowers is mainly common in most of the major cities and holiday resorts, for instance Tropex at Club Makokola in Mangochi, all the city assemblies and small-scale enterprises. Some ornamentals are also sold on the domestic market quantities and values of ornamentals are shown on table 8.


4.2.3 Fruit Juice Processing

One way of promoting sustainable management of indigenous trees is to make them a source of revenue without destroying them. Fruit juice production in Mwanza District is one success story. From fruits that are produced annually, fruit juice is being produced by a community which is benefiting financially form this venture and therefore is an incentive for communities to protect this sustainable source of income.

Kamwamba Fruit Juice Processing Company (Project) in Mwanza District, produces more than 10 000 Cartons of value added juices per annum from indigenous fruits as indicated in the table 8 below. The revenue raised is used to contribute towards the welfare of local communities in the surrounding areas. These communities are also involved in rearing of guinea fowls and production honey for commercial production. These as well are part of forestry contribution towards the GDP/GNP

Table 9. Summary of Fruit Juice Produced and Revenue Raised by local Communities from (Malambe)/ Adansonia digitata and (Bwemba) /Tamarindus indica for the Period 1998 2000








14 177 (212,655kg)

MK186 077.00


8 450 (126,750kg)

MK195 425.00


4.2.4 Mushrooms

Miombo woodlands, which are a dominant woodlands through Malawi are a home for over 30 edible mushrooms (Ngulube,2000). Mushrooms are an important source of food and income for rural communities, throughout the country. These are collected before the first crops mature in the rain season. The habitat for mushrooms is however threatened by deforestation and establishment of exotic species.

Mushrooms are one of the most important NTFP coming close to fuelwood collection. The majority of mushrooms are collected in the months of February and March every year. Mushroom collection is mainly done by women and sold along the main roads. Estimates from Machinga showed that as much as US$ 100 worth of mushroom can be sold on one selling point during the one rain season (Ngulube, 2000).

The potential for revenue collection from miombo woodlands is high and revenues play important role in food security of the people in the proximity of forests. Future prospects for mushroom collection and marketing is bright although there is the ever-present threat of deforestation and growing of exotic trees that interfere with mushroom habitat.

4.2.5 Bamboos, palms, reeds and grass

A variety of products are derived from bamboos (Oxytenanthera abyssinica), palms (Raph ia farifera) and reeds (Phragmites mauritania). Bamboos are used for weaving baskets, granaries, chairs, beds, mats and shelves. Reeds are used for making mats, fence making, granary making, making doors and baskets. Raphia farifera is used for making chairs, tables, shelves and toys. All these products have a commercial value and provide supplementary income for communities. In many cases, there are middle people who buy these products at wholesale price and bring them either to the urban markets or to tourist attraction centre to sale.

Grass is an important NTFP used for thatching and fencing homesteads and gardens. Grass may come from forest or it may be obtained from fallows. Grass is also a commercial entity for both rural communities and urban dwellers who us it mostly for fencing.



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