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12. Implications of the forest outlook and choices

The Forestry sector has a tremendous potential to contribute to Malawi economy in many ways. Forestry Industry can become a major contributor to economic development through foreign trade and employment creation. Policies aimed at addressing social needs can help provide basic needs of rural communities and policies aimed at environmental services can reap ecological benefits. Achieving a balance among economic, social and environmental objectives is a complex process. Advancing the three objectives simultaneously requires calls for greater skill, technology, improved management approaches and institutional reform (FAO, 2000).

The dilemma facing the forestry sector is that while government is calling for forest conservation, the majority of the people are demanding more forest exploitation. There are also parties interested more in ecological goals alongside poor people who exploit forest for survival. The challenge for policy markers is to balance these opposing views and perspectives.

Policy choices now will influence the availability of goods and services in the future. Some policies lie within the forestry sector. Other policy choices however lie outside forestry sector although they have significant impact of forestry sector. There are still other policies that require joint decision making with related sectors. The implication of this is that there is need for greater co-ordination, consultation and collaboration with relevant sectors and various stakeholders.

In order to promote sustainable supply of forest goods and services in the future, the agenda for policy will have to include the following:

Policy makers will need to review the effectiveness and practicality of policies affecting supply and demand of forest goods and services, forest resources pricing, access to forest goods and services and the contribution of forestry to the local and national development.

Scientists and technologist need to develop affordable ways of process products from trees outside forests, increase efficiency of raw material conversion into finished products, and identify effective incentives to promote forest development towards sustainable development.

Market specialists should work towards influencing consumption patterns towards products from diverse sources and small dimension trees from trees outside forests.

Forestry planners to develop effective information systems to capture relevant data in support of informed decision-making and modelling.

Major options for promoting sustainable supply of forests goods and services in the future are:

Increasing plantation forest production: There is potential for increasing forest production by either establishing more plantation or improving forest management in present plantation. The major problem forest plantation has been forest fire which have destroyed about 30 % of the plantation forest and inadequate resources for carrying out forest operations. In short term, the priority is to bring into proper management the existing forest plantations before new areas are put to more plantations.

Improve efficiency in forest harvesting and wood processing: Significant gains can be made by improving harvesting and processing efficiency. This would increase the output out of the same raw materials. This would improve the profit margins and at the same time have environmental benefits if efficient use of raw materials leads to reduced harvesting. Current conversion rate is about 50 %. The main reason for lower conversion efficiency is related to technology that is geared to use large-diameter logs. Technology that can process small-diameter logs will have a dual benefit of increasing conversion rates and also widening the raw material base to include trees outside forests.

Encourage structural change in wood-processing industry: The wood industry is presently geared towards production of sawn timber and plywood, which is heavily dependent on large-diameter logs. Large-diameter logs are declining and the industry will have to switch to substitute panel product that donot require large-diameter logs such as particleboard. This change is inevitable because the cheap large diameter trees will no longer be available while at the same time, there will be smaller diameter trees available both in forests plantation and outside forests. The dimension of trees outside forests create an opportunity for parternerships between local communities and private sector, a partnership that has the potential of enhancing income of local communities and also at the same promoting tree growing and making it financially viable, which is a powerful self-sustaining incentive for growing trees.

Increase the area of natural forest in protected areas: There are potential areas that could be brought under forest management in the country. Although there is growing pressure for agricultural production, there are area which are environmentally fragile and areas that are not suitable for crop production that could be brought under forest management. Those areas unsuitable for crop production are often suitable for animal husbandry, with the forest environment providing necessary food for the animals. At present, there are about 100,000 hectares (Mgawamadzi, 2000) of areas already identified as potential for forest reserves. Over the years, there has been little progress towards bringing these areas under forest protection. One of the key factors has been financing of the process of bring an area under forest management. The process of consultation with local leaders, surveying and mapping of the area and demarcation of the boundary is long and costly. Creation of new natural forest areas should proceed with speed because with passage of time, consent from local leaders will became more difficult to obtain as pressure for land for crop production increases.

Increase the potential for supplying forest products from non-forest areas: The current trend is the devolution of forest management responsibilities away from central government to local communities and private individuals. This has been done through forestry policy review and local government policy review. The benefits include availability of the resource close to the rural people and the potential for better management of resources knowing that they benefits will accrue to them. This will also diversify the sources of forest and tree resources and in turn might stimulate the development of small-scale rural enterprises and independent livelihoods.Government can promote this process through pricing policy that makes tree growing worthwhile, by restructuring forestry services, by developing conducive policies.


12.1 Implications of choices for the regional co-operation

The changes that will take place in Malawi have implications on collaborative choices and cooperation at regional level. National policies will be influenced by regional and global factors. Malawi being the coordinator of forestry sector, there will be need for Malawi not only take into account international opinion in forestry policy formulation but also to provide leadership in the SADC region.

The following areas will therefore require particular attention on international, regional and sub-regional level.

12.1.1 Developing and refining trade regimes

Trade will play a crucial role in boasting national economies for many SADC member states and also in alleviating environmental and social pressures. With calls for liberalisation, international forest products certification, establishment of common markets and trade protocols, SADC region will need to develop trade policies the seek to satisfy by the national aspirations without sacrificing the regional and international goals.

12.1.2 Sustainable forest management

Countries are already involved in the process of establishing mutually acceptable criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. For countries with similar forest types, for example miombo woodlands, there is great scope for collaboration and information sharing under the SADC umbrella. Looking into issues of forest protection under high population density might provide valuable insights.

12.1.3 Watershed management

There are rivers within the SADC region that cross borders. Effective management of such rivers and their watershed might require joint action by concerned nations to ensure that policies are put in place in such a way that down stream countries can obtain water without unrealistic burdens on the upstream countries. A mechanism may be necessary to ensure that there is dialogue on policies, responsibility and benefit sharing.


12.1.4 Information sharing

Globalisation calls for market information and cooperation among regional countries in order to attract development aid or investment. Cooperation in the process of improving forestry and related sectors information is vital for the development of the region. Establishing effective information sharing mechanisms will remain an important part of policy agenda. The developments in Information Technology will greatly facilitate this process. The challenge however is for the member states to continuously collect, analyse and share information.


12.1.5 Education and training

It is not possible for one country to provide specialised training in every area, considering the diversity of specialisation in forestry sector. Establishment of centres of excellence within he region will provide an opportunity for cost effective allocation of training resources, promote information sharing and improve specialisation and networking.

At the moment there are several such centres already such as Forest Industry College in Zimbabwe, which is responsible for forest industrial training, Botswana College of Agriculture that has the responsibility of promoting extension training and University of Zimbabwe that is responsible for curriculum development.

12.1.6 Research

Considerable progress can be achieved in the region through collaboration in transfer of research and technology. There are a number of institutions within the region and beyond the region involved in forest research. Collaboration remains rather weak. Particular promising areas of research are in the area of technologies for assessing trees outside forests, urban forestry, management of selected species of importance, technologies for mainstreaming wood fuel as a commercial fuel, domestication and management of high potential NTFP.



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