Linking National Forest Programmes and Poverty Reduction Strategies

Linking National Forest Programmes and Poverty Reduction Strategies

A discussion on forestry policy and poverty alleviation in Malawi

Approximately 52.4% of Malawi’s population lives below the poverty line and 85% of all inhabitants reside in rural areas. The economy is dominated by agriculture which makes up about one-third of GDP and 80% of export revenues. Population growth in Malawi is one of the highest in Southern Africa but estimated average life expectancy is about 39 years, largely due to HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Poverty is of central concern to government as it addresses the challenges associated with developing a market economy, improving education, tackling environmental problems, arresting the spread of HIV/AIDS, and tightening fiscal discipline. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy is the country’s current five-year plan (2006-2011) to achieve socio-economic growth and development

Malawi’s National Forestry Programme highlights the link between forest degradation and poverty, notes that women and children suffer the most from fuel wood shortages, and confirms a chronic imbalance in the supply and demand of forest products. In this regard, the policy provides the basis for communities to conserve and sustainably use forest resources, including trees on farms, to support livelihoods and reduce poverty.

The authors argue that:

  • the series of frequent government re-organizations have diverted efforts and resources away from programme implementation and service delivery, in addition to creating uncertainty in an administration already suffering from scarce human and financial capital
  • although the 20 Forestry Department remains with the same ministry subsequent to the latest shuffle in May 2007, this responsibility is not reflected in the change in name to the Ministry of Energy and Mining
  • the omission further lowers the sector’s profile not only within the government hierarchy but also in the eyes of the public at large and provides yet another reason for the Forestry Department to forge stronger partnerships with relevant NGOs and line ministries, in addition to central institutions.
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