Solving Deforestation, Protecting and Managing Key Water Catchments in Malawi Using Smart Public and Private Partnerships

  •  Kenneth A. Wiyo    
  •  Lameck Fiwa    
  •  Weston Mwase    


Deforestation, habitat loss and forest degradation are the most critical issues facing Malawi today driven by higher population growth. Deforestation in water catchments has a direct link to the blackouts of the state-owned power producing company (Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi, ESCOM) and to the inadequate water supply by the semi-public Water Boards, both in dry and wet seasons due to sedimentation and low flows in the rivers. As a result, water and power utilities, private sector and communities are all severely affected by the impacts of deforestation. To solve deforestation in Malawi, the country requires a multi-sectoral integrated approach through creation of smart partnerships between public, semi-public and private sectors to support community-based afforestation and forest regeneration programmes. It is proposed that Malawi Reforestation and Environmental Protection Authority (MAREPA) be established through an Act of Parliament to collect funds and finance afforestation and forest regeneration activities. A small non-prohibitive tax (administrative levy) on selected key products, such as water, beer, electricity, sugar, tea, coffee, and tobacco, could be introduced to finance the MAREPA fund. This will be achieved through Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), where a smart partnership among government, semi-public water and power utilities, private sector, development partners, and civil society would be paying for services rendered through conservation of forest resources which in turn reduces sedimentation in key water catchments. The ecosystem services could include carbon sequestration, water protection for consumption and hydroelectric power generation, biodiversity conservation, and natural landscape preservation. The proposed MAREPA can provide a way to finance sustainably afforestation and forest regeneration programmes instead of various stakeholders independently tackling deforestation in Malawi without coordination. A multi-sectorial taskforce could be formed to carefully review the feasibility of MAREPA and set a regulatory framework and a tax regime to cover annual funding needs for Malawi’s afforestation and forest regeneration aims.

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