To explore ways to restore the landscape around Mount Mulanje —including the area’s natural forests—and to sustain a profitable tea industry along with other enterprises, IDH is currently fundraising to ensure that a Mulanje Landscape Initiative can be implemented sustainably and at scale.
Although the launch of the programme was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, some initial activities have already taken place. IDH and several other stakeholders have established pilot projects in three areas of the district (Lichenya, Likhubula and Ruo Pilot) to test out various models that will eventually be scaled up across the whole district beginning in 2021. The pilots build on some interventions implemented as part of Pillar 5 of the Malawi Tea 2020 programme, which focused on creating an energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable tea industry.
In Lichenya, Eastern Produce Malawi, a leading tea producer, donated 5, 490 seedlings of indigenous trees, which were planted in March 2020 in individual private plots, communal land, school surroundings and private forests. Minimini Tea Estate donated two tons of manure to fertilise the seedlings. In addition, MMCT donated two watering cans and 1000 plastic tubes to Chanunkha Primary School, one of the recipients of the seedlings. So far, all the trees planted in private forests have survived, spurring programme staff to engage these forest owners to train community members on best practices. Overall, 90% of the seedlings have survived, an encouraging start.
For the pilot in Likhubula, the IDH team in Malawi, in partnership with Gateway Lodge, have been holding a series of meetings with chiefs within the targeted areas to get their buy-in. As a result of the meetings, the chiefs have organised and mobilised their community members to actively participate in the project. So far, six chiefs have committed to support a pact of zero charcoal production and to engage in seedling production. The chiefs who have been actively involved collectively govern a population of about 10 000 people and 1 600 households.
In Ruo, smallholder farmers who are part of the Sukambizi Association Trust (SAT) planted 7,700 indigenous tree seedlings with support from Taylors of Harrogate, Lujeri Estates Ltd, and Fairtrade. SAT has been working with forestry experts from MMCT, WeForest, and Water Witness to plant trees at schools, homesteads, tea fields, and empty fields. SAT has also initiated planting of the endangered cedar at the foot of the mountain with support from WeForest. SAT has also planted two woodlots as demonstration plots to increase knowledge of tree planting among farmers.
In addition, 2,500 farmers in Ruo have fully adopted the use of solar lights, thanks to a revolving fund of €10,000 established by SAT for this purpose. And, with support from Sainsbury, 200 families were connected to hydropower electricity at a total cost of US$108,000. Sainsbury has also donated eight boreholes to the community to assist with a portable water campaign led by SAT. Finally, to help farmers diversify their income and promote environmental management, the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) has provided 25 beehives.