Whilst on a recent site visit to Malawi, I saw first hand the impacts of fuelwood stress, compounding the need for projects that reduce requirement for fuelwood.
Having hiked up Michiru Mountain, through its wooded slopes and montane grasslands, I could see back across Blantyre, Malawi’s second largest city. Looking away from the city, villages were sparse, the an open grassland covering much of the horizon. As I sat on the peak, I noticed the sound of chopping. Concentrating, it wasn’t just a single sound but a combination echoing from the valley below.
Upon inspection, I noticed at least twelve different charcoal production camps, most occupied by one or two individuals at various stages of production, whether that be stoking their fires, or bagging the coals for sale.
My guide explained that this was Forest Department land and that these charcoal producers were doing so illegally. The Forest Department knew of this activity but was unable to prevent it due to lack of funds. In this area there were clear signs of degradation and erosion and the trees are removed, as well as a high risk of encroachment into the Michiru Mountain Conservation Area, which provides refuge for Hyena, Hyrax, Baboon, and many birds, reptiles, and insect species. Further encroachment may lead to greater human-wildlife conflict, expatriation of key species from the local area, and a lost of tourism based income for the local community.