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11.0 The outlook of forestry

This chapter provides an outlook of forests and trees in Malawi in the year 2020. It is recognised that there will always be uncertainties associated with the key factors that will affect supply and demand. For example, there is uncertainty about population growth rates, economic growth and technological development. The presented outlook is therefore an indicator of likely future trends. The outlook also provides a basis for dialogue on what choices to make now in order to achieve a desirable forestry outcome in the future.

11.1 Outlook for the demands placed on forests

11.1.1 Outlook for services of forests

There are two scenarios that will assist us look into the future of forests in the country. The first scenario would result if deforestation and forest degradation continued without collective measures. The result will be environmental hazards, erosion of biological biodiversity, deterioration of wildlife habitat and degradation of water quality and quantity.

The second possible scenario is more positive one marked by greater control of deforestation and forest degradation, with expanding forest area and planted trees outside forests. In this scenario, there would be greater regional and international cooperation and collaboration in the areas of shared water management, cross-border forest resources for global benefits such as biodiversity management and mitigation of climate change. Key factors that will determine the future of forests will include:

Recognition and appreciation of commercial potential for non-timber goods and services and the dangers of ignoring environmental services. Creation of public and political awareness of social and environmental services will help ensure that forests are ascribed their true value.

Development of effective valuation methods for pricing forest services in order to include benefits and costs of forest services in both policy decisions and investment analysis. Effectively capturing of the value of forest services in order to demonstrate their usefulness is a key challenge.

Balancing the provision of commercial benefits with social and environmental services.

Mobilisation of investment in favour of forest-provided services. The challenge is to develop a sustainable market for forest service where the beneficiaries share the cost of sustaining the services through for example contributions or a form of tax.

Mainstreaming of forests services in the forests management policy and action plans.


11.1.2 Outlook for Non-Timber Forest Products

NTFP are both socially and economically important for people living near natural forests. Over 20 NTFP have been identified in Malawi, the major ones being fuelwood, fruits and mushrooms (FRIM, 2000). Some of the NTFP are consumed by the communities and do not enter the market, which makes quantification difficult. NTFP constitute a very significant source of income for communities living in the neighbourhood of both plantation and natural forests.

The outlook of NTFP will be determined by several key developments some of which are:

Increasing commercialisation of NTFP resulting in large-scale exploitation and developing markets, locally, nationally and internationally.

A shift from local consumption of NTFP to marketing of NTFP as key alternative source of income.

Mainstreaming of NTFP in sustainable forests management planning.

Research in the sustainable management of NTFP and development of appropriate strategies for implementation.

11.1.3 Outlook for timber plantation forests wood-based products

The wood processing industry consumes sawlogs and peeler logs. At present, there is sustainable wood supply for the next two decades at the present level of consumption. The present consumption rate is using up only 33% of the sustainable supply. The potential for more wood can be archived by restocking the current plantations and implementing effective forest management. The potential for external market is however clouded by the dominance of the South African forests industry in the region.

The quality of wood has been affected by management problems related to inadequate operational funds.

The forecaste for peeler logs is rather uncertain because there hasnot been any significant planting over the last decade. Since the plantation rotation is 25 to 30 years, there will be no peer logs in year 2000. If planting resumed today, peer logs could be ready for harvesting no earlier than 2025. There will therefore be need for restructuring the wood industry to adapt to low diameter tree and to panel products like particle boards or chipboards in place of plywood. Alternatively, with the liberalisation of trade and the SADC Trade Protocol, such products will more likely be imported from South Africa.

For long-term local supply of sawlogs, there is need to resume planting in timber plantation now and maintain the momentum annually. Alongside replanting, there is need to identify sustainable source of finances to manage forest plantations.

11.2 Outlook for forest resources and land use

11.2.1 Outlook for the area of natural resources

Area of natural forests over the years has remained unchanged, with the exception of forest reserves that have continued to grow in number. Over the years there has been no significant change caused by pressure for crop production and settlements.

There is indication that pressure for land will increase over the next two decades due to increasing population. This pressure will originate from people living in the neighbourhood of forests.

The future of forest lands will be determined by the ability of planners to provide adequate benefits from forests than they can get from clearing forests for crop production. Collaborative forest management is being used to promote communities to participate in sustainable forest management by sharing costs and benefits. This approach has promising prospects for meeting both local needs and global interests of biodiversity conservation and mitigation of climate change. There is also potential for communities to make income from collaborative ecotourism whereby tour operators and local communities work out mechanisms for sharing responsibilities and benefits.

Maintaining the balance between local demands and national or global interest will be the major challenge in the next two decades. Any policy decision made on the management of these resources must mainstream local community needs.

There are also some natural forests on customary land and on leasehold estates. Forests on customary land have been subjected to uncontrolled mining for sale as firewood or for opening up of agriculture fields mainly to grow tobacco. Introduction of local institutions to manage forest resources is happening but the impact isnot yet adequate to control destruction of forests. The capacity of local institutions needs to be built up quickly if customary land is to be saved.

On estate land, forests have been mostly preserved because the estates are getting trees from customary land for tobacco curing, Some have also grown their own trees although very few are self-sufficient in woodfuel. The challenge is provide incentives for estates to manage forests in such a way that it becomes a significant source of income. There is room for innovative partnerships with neighbouring communities whereby there will be sharing of costs and benefits.

With the tobacco industry threatened by anti-smoking lobby and falling tobacco prices, there is potential for the large estate area being turned into forest if there is adequate market potential for wood. In this connection government needs to review wood pricing policy. There is also need for aggressive extension targeting estate owners. For effectiveness, this must be preceded by consultative meetings between Forestry Department and estate owners to identify areas of cooperation and partnership that will make a positive impact and promote better management of forests on estates.

Wood prices set by Government have been administratively determined rather than set by supply and demand. The wood prices from the main wood producer underestimate the value of wood and therefore fail to reflect increasing scarcity of wood products. Low wood prices actually promote over-exploitation, inefficiency in wood processing and doesnot encourage tree planting and forests management by the public or private sector.

Rather than set wood prices, there is need to let supply and demand dictate wood prices. Regulation maybe necessary to curb excessive pricing tendencies often characteristic of monopolistic markets.


11.2.2 Outlook for the plantation area

There hasnot been significant expansion of plantation forests for both industrial and fuelwood and poles plantations. In the case of poles and fuelwood plantations, they have actually reduced in area, especially the plantations that were handed over to local councils to manage.

There is no indication that plantation forestry will increase in area in the medium term. For timber plantation, the current wood is under-utilised and poorly managed. In the medium term, the prudent course of action is to bring the existing plantation under proper management and develop a market for wood products.

For poles and fuelwood plantation of significant area, there will be problems to get land that isnot being earmarked for crop production. With current wood prices set low by government, no investor would be attracted to invest in forestry.

Although the demand for wood fuel is high and increasing, wood is likely to come from farms and existing plantations. The key factor in increasing plantation is is a conducive pricing policy that reflects the true cost of wood fuel. With wood fuel as the major source of energy now and in the next two decades, government must stop subsidising wood prices and let market forces set the right price for wood.

11.1.3 Outlook for trees outside forests

There have always been trees outside forests around homesteads and in farms supplying multiple products and good. With increasing agroforestry practices using tree species as a means of improving soil fertility, there will be increase in number of trees on the farm.

Annually Forestry Department through the extension services and National Tree Planting Week campaign are promoting tree planting and tree management for multiple purposes. Tree survival assessments show that up to 60% of the planted trees are surviving the first 2 years, which is the critical period for planted trees (Chirambo, 1999). Over 40 million tree seedlings are being planted every year.

The key factors that will drive the planting of more trees on farm are a conducive pricing policy and increasing pressure for woodfuel.



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