Malawi has a relatively new forestry policy enshrined in the 1997 Forest Act and the 1998 National Forest Programme (NFP), which espouses a community forest management approach predicated on the idea that local people need to be given authority to manage resources on which their livelihoods depend in order to preserve them. This paper examines early experience in the effectiveness of this policy, as revealed by secondary materials and livelihoods research undertaken by the LADDER project in Dedza District in 2001. Some key findings of the field research are as follows. First, the policy changes have had no significant impact where there have been limited forest resources, and where communities have always had control, under a traditional set-up, over their own areas of woodland. For the policy changes to have an impact in such communities, active promotion of forest rehabilitation is required so that there is a dynamically improving resource over which communities can exercise actively their new management rights. Second, the new policy seems to have had little effect on the differential access to forest resources that in reality characterises village society. The research found that now, as before, there is a strong correlation between relative wealth and income and ease of access to available forest resources. Third, the new policy, certainly so far, fails to address issues related to advice available to communities on forestry matters, and previous problems with obtaining forestry extension advice persist.
Kayambazinthu, D.; Locke, C. Forest Management and Diverse Livelihoods in Malawi. (2002) 34 pp. [LADDER Working Paper No.24]