Monjeza forest sits alongside the community of Madisi, and is part of the Dowa highland in central Malawi. It was once home to an abundance of wildlife. Nowadays, although the 30-kilometre reserve is still home to over 300 hyenas, many bushbucks and a range of endangered species, it is sadly not the place it once was.
Overpopulation, overdependence on natural resources and overgrazing by domesticated animals have led to deforestation and contributed to the loss of Monjeza’s magnificent reserve.
But all is not lost. The youth of Madisi are taking matters in hand. Over the past two years, the Madisi Youth Club, assisted by FutureLife-Now! youth facilitator, Isaac Dyson, embarked on a project to protect the Monjeza Forest Reserve.
The club is ensuring that the youth have a leading role in taking responsibility and creating solutions for issues that affect their community and the country at large.
An innovative approach, centred on community stakeholders’ involvement, is helping to reverse this negative trend. Supported by FutureLife-Now!, Madisi Youth Club mobilized community members – including village headmen, parents, assistant forest officers and community development officers – to protect Monjeza forest.
In September, all 72 Madisi Youth Club members, plus two group village headmen and 15 parent representatives constructed fire breaks to protect the forest from bush and wildfires. It took over a week to complete the tough work that left the youth club members exhausted but happy.
“We are motivated to protect Monjeza forest through constructing fire breaks and raising awareness of the negative impact of the wanton cutting down of trees in the forest,’’ says Antony Issa, Madisi Youth Club’s chairperson. The youth club has also raised awareness of the importance of preserving Monjeza’s natural forest. “This has built our capacity, self-confidence and empowered us to be leaders in our communities,” added Issa.
“We have been working with the FutureLife-Now! programme for three years now, and among other issues, we have been empowered to address climate change through protecting the physical environment.”
For his part, Anderson Chapuma, a group village headman, is grateful for the work of the Madisi Youth Club. “These young people enlightened us on the importance of protecting our natural forests. Together with other local leaders, we will make sure the Monjeza forest regains its lost glory,” he said.
“We have put proper measures in place to prevent people from cutting down trees carelessly. We will also make sure villagers are involved in the management of the forest.”
Currently, with involvement of all stakeholders that benefit from it, the community is ensuring that Monjeza forest regains its lost glory.