Malawi Approves Fisheries and Forestry Policies

The well-being of Malawians and Malawi’s economy depend on the well-being of the country’s natural resources. Fisheries generate jobs for 400,000 people and livelihoods for 2 million Malawians, and fish provides up to 40 % of the protein consumed in the whole country.  However, the pressures of overfishing are being exacerbated by shorter rainy seasons as a result of climate change, which reduces water levels in the country’s lakes and disrupts fish breeding and nursery sites.

Forest resources contribute to 6.1% of the country’s GDP and solid fuels (fuel wood and charcoal) meet 98.7% of the total energy needs of the country. The dependence on solid fuels has led to high rates of deforestation, respiratory diseases from indoor air pollution and increased workloads for women who now have to walk further distances to collect firewood. To turn this trajectory around, the Government of Malawi in June 2016 adopted new sector policies for Fisheries and Aquaculture as well as Forestry that better links issues of environmental sustainability, livelihoods and poverty reduction.

The UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) has worked with the Government of Malawi to ensure that the revised policies include mechanisms for community benefit sharing and community based natural resource management. During the drafting process of the policies, PEI supported the Government to undertake local consultations. During these outreach efforts, a local district leader observed that if natural resources were managed by the communities in collaboration with the government and under the guidance of a strong legal and policy framework, illegal charcoal and timber production could be reduced and poverty alleviated.

The revised forestry policy further notes that the contribution of forestry to GDP are subsumed under agriculture and do not take into account the value of non-wood forest products, processed timber or the informal trade in fuel wood and charcoal. As a result, the potential of the forestry sector to contribute to poverty reduction is significantly underestimated. This is in line with the findings of the PEI Economic Valuation Report on Sustainable Natural Resources Use in Malawi. To address this issue Objective 5 of the revised policy aim to ‘Promote the development of initiatives for adequate and sustainable short, medium and long term financing mechanisms for the forestry sector and its contribution to GDP.’

The President of Malawi, Peter Mutharika, highlighted that ‘the implementation of these policies will be part of our victory in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’ back in November 2015 when he called for the approval of the policies in the Presidents opening speech of the 46th Session of Parliament.

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