Written by: Atusaye Mwalwanda and Natasha Kandulu.

One of the biggest environmental challenges in Malawi is deforestation, and tree planting is a long-term solution to fight deforestration and conserve the environment to prevent manmade disasters. Each year Malawi launches at the national level the tree planting season during the start of rainy season with the aim to build a responsible citizenry that cares for trees and forests for the sustenance of present and future. Afterwards, the launch is conducted at regional and district levels. This year, the tree planting season theme is healthy trees, forests, economy and people.

In Malawi deforestation continues to be a problem exacerbated with the rapid population growth. According to the Malawi population census, (2018) Mzuzu city has over 49 565 households. Hence, schools, community members, individual households and organization are all encouraged and targeted to take part in the tree planting season this year and thereafter.

In Mzuzu the launch was organized by the Mzuzu City Council and held at Sonda primary school on 28th January, 2022. The guest of honor was the Mzuzu City Mayor, His Worship Counsellor Gift Desire Nyirenda. There were representatives from different institution that included: Member of Parliament, Luke International, Department of Security, Department of Forestry, Department of Wildlife, Department of Education, traditional leaders and the media. Three hundred seedlings were planted on launch day led by the Mayor and a total of 800 seedlings are expected to be planted at Sonda Primary school. The remaining 1200 trees will be distributed to other Primary schools for planting as a way to empower the future generation on the importance of trees. Luke International, along with other partners including the Water Board, Action for Sustainable Development, Mzuzu University, the Red Cross and the Botanic Garden, came together to support this year’s tree planting launch in Mzuzu.

During the launch, the Chairperson of Sonda school on behalf of the school, community members and traditional leaders emphasized that the school is not surrounded with trees, and this poses a threat to destruction of blocks and iron sheets during heavy winds. He highlighted that in collaboration with the pupils, community members, traditional leaders, they will make sure to take care of the trees planted at the school school and asked for the availability of more seedlings to be planted. To show commitment of the tree planting season, pupils at Sonda school through their activities such as poem, drama, and songs highlighted the importance of trees – that they provide shelter, protection and food – and the need to replace trees that have been cut down in most schools and communities.

During the launch, the Country Representative of Luke International Rebecca Mtegha Kaunda highlighted the benefits of trees in support with what pupils underlined in their activities that trees provide shelter, protection and food. The Country Representative continued by highlighting that research has shown that trees play a critical role in children attention and performance. Hence, she encouraged tree planting exercise to continue in different schools so that when pupils are out of classrooms during breaktime, breath in outside air from the trees to improve their mind and thinking capacity to increase performance rate. Lastly, the Country Representative pointed out the joint commitment to take care of the newly planted trees so that they can continue to beautify our nation and ensure the green city of Mzuzu does not fade.

The Mayor further stressed that while Mzuzu city is known as the green city, but the status will shortly fade if deforestation continues without replacing the trees. Due to the weather privileged of Mzuzu city which is mostly wet and has a prolonged rainy season, the Mayor, therefore, added that individuals, stakeholders and other investors should invest in environmental management. Apart from planting tree the Mayor also underlined to be mindful of issues of waste management (plastic and solid waste).  The Mayor commended Luke International and all stakeholders for the support towards the event and encouraged other institutions to come in supporting the tree planting activities.

In conclusion, the Mzuzu tree planting season has been launched and individuals, schools, community members, traditional leaders and organization have been asked to work together to accomplish 22,000 and over trees targeted to be planted in Mzuzu this year with the aim to prevent disasters, conserve the environment and fight climate change.

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