Malawi — United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) this week signed a US$2.7 million pact with government to fight environmental degradation, which Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe said was threatening food security.
Speaking after the signing ceremony in Lilongwe, Gondwe said in the 1950s and 1960s, Malawi used to grow maize and other crops without fertiliser and the country was food sufficient.
This is not the case now. We have to spend a lot of money to buy fertiliser in order to be food sufficient. Environmental degradation has invaded so much that our soils cannot support our livelihood, said Gondwe.
Gondwe said in those days, there were huge reserves of forestry and there were many trees but all this has changed, adding that people have resorted to cutting down mango trees to cure their tobacco.
There was no time when the country had no fish, we had the largest number of fish in our lake, of all types, but now the fish is extinct because of environmental degradation, he said, underscoring the importance of environmental programmes in the country. The UNDP has funded the programme through the Poverty and Environmental Initiative-Malawi.
Gondwe said there was need to strengthen inclusion of elements related to environment in every government programme or project, adding that in 50 years time, the country would not be able to produce food even after fertiliser application if the environment was unchecked.
He, therefore, said although the money would not address all problems of environmental degradation, UNDP has sounded an SOS, which need to be heeded to check against problem.
The environment project would be coordinated by Ministry of Economic Planning and Development and deputy minister responsible Roy Chizimba said it was pleasing that the signing ceremony coincided with the tree planting season.
The tree planting season encourages Malawians to plant more trees and this year, government has set aside over 60,000 seedlings for free distribution to people to plant in their respective areas.
President Bingu wa Mutharika, during the inauguration of the week in Lilongwe, decried bushfires as a threat to the environment and officials at Chikangawa Forest Reserve said the forest needs K800 million to check bushfires and replace burnt trees.
Speaking during the signing ceremony Thursday, acting UNDP resident representative Ram Shankar said the poverty environment initiative programme was aimed at helping Malawi to reduce the economic and social costs of environmental degradation.
He said this would be done through supporting accelerated implementation of environmental objectives in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) and by enhancing integration of environmentally sustainable natural resource use into the MGDS, sector plans and budgets.
It also aims to mobilise additional resources for investing in sustainable use of natural resources in, for example, combating soil erosion, deforestation and water pollution, he said.
He said Poverty and Environment Initiative-Malawi and in the other 10 countries in Africa, focuses on the environment as an asset to be used sustainably to maintain social and economic benefits environmental natural resources generate.