Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

9.0 Policies and Institutions

The International environment within which Malawi manage forestry sector has under gone changes over the last two decades. The changes are still taking place. New themes that are now influencing forestry sector are privatisation, globalisation of economies, decentralisation and liberalisation of trade. Forestry has a tradition of having diverse stakeholders nationally and internationally. These stakeholders have become more visible and vocal and are demanding a greater role in shaping the forestry sector. Many of the international influences are associated with the United Nation Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Key post UNCED changes are confirmation of trends already toward people-oriented development and greater environmental responsibility in forestry development. UNCED has created a challenge for Governments to reconcile national priorities with global priorities, of industrial demands with community needs, of preservation with diversified management and forest use (FAO, 2000).

There have been changes including deregulation, devolution of political authority to local governments, expanding role of private sector and civil society. There have also been increasing awareness of environmental issues such as biodiversity, the threat of global climate change and the threat of desertification. Forestry sector is influenced also by policies of others sectors. For example policies on Energy, Agriculture, Land, Environment and Local Government The sector has consequently become multi-displinary in nature. All these factors have prepared a stage for change in both policies and institutions dealing with the forestry sector.

The forest policy of 1996 is a departure from the traditional forest approach which emphasised forest protection to the present policy that emphasis multi-stakeholder participation including local communities. The new policy also recognised the role of the private sector not only in utilisation of forest but also in the management of the resource. Through the National Forest Programme (NFP) Malawi Government through a highly consultative process with all stakeholders has identified the key themes affecting forestry in Malawi, identified priority actions to be undertaken and also identified key roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders (NFP, 2000).

The changes in policy have also included institutional change. Traditionally, forestry institutions have concentrated on government forestry departments and agencies. Since many parties external to forestry department have significant influence on the sector, institutional change has to be examined from a broader perspective although Forestry Department remains the institution with vested interest in drawing attention to the needs and potentials of the sector.

As a result of the change in Forest Policy, the focus of Forest Department has also changed. For example, planning has taken a prominent role in the preparation of NFP. In this process, orientation has shifted from being prescriptive to being more consultative. With the Local Government decentralisation policy, government role will be:

to establish conditions conducive to forestry development through appropriate policies, laws and regulations,

anticipate, identify and priotise goals and,

to promote their achievement and provide or develop support services such as forest training and forest research.

There are two key institutional changes that are underway as the result of the change in forest policy namely industrial plantations management and community management of forest and tree resources.

9.1 Industrial Plantation management

Industrial plantations has been dominated by government for decades. It is now accepted that economic activities in plantations can run more effectively if done by the private sector and that removal of government interventions can release the sector to be driven by profits. The commercial sector however isnot oriented to non-commercial goods and services. There is therefore room for partnership with the private sector concentrating on production of marketed forest products while government concentrates on socially and environmentally oriented outputs.

Forest Department is currently consulting the private sector in order to encourage private sector participation in managing forest plantations. Plans are also underway to compile the necessary data on the status of the plantation and their potential.


9.2 Community management of forest and tree resources

There are two key meeting that are associated with the change in institutional approach to managing forest (FAO, 2000). These are World Forestry Congress of 1978 held in Indonesia under the theme " Forests for People" and the FAO World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in 1979 adopted the "peasants charter". The central perception in these new approaches is that people work better if they have a stake in the outcome and when they are involved in setting the agendas for their own lives. The two events ushered in the age of people’s participation in rural development.

The new forest policy incorporates these concepts and the forest extension services is undergoing changes to adopt people centred approaches and initiatives. Over 4000 out of 25,000 villages now have Village Natural Resource Management Committees have been established to oversee forest management in their areas. The establishment of VNRMC trend is on the increase.

A general concern in Forest Department is inadequate financing for carrying out Forest Department mandate effectively, inadequate implementation of policies and regulations, inappropriate institutional structure to undertake the new roles and responsibilities and lack of experience in operating under the new institutional arrangement. These deficiencies need to be addressed if Forestry Department is to play the new demanding role effectively.


Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page