Malawi has pledged to restore 4.5 million hectares of land by 2030, in contribution to such restoration initiatives as AFR100 and the Bonn Challenge.
“But we are still far away from achieving that, and one of key barriers is lack of trained personnel,” says Steve Makungwa, a professor of forestry at Lilongwe University. “So we saw capacity building is a key.”
And this is exactly the first mission of GLFx Lilongwe: to train Malawians on how to properly help restore landscapes, no matter what sector they’re in.
Makungwa, who serves as the GLFx chapter coordinator and knowledge specialist, became interested in forest and landscape restoration (FLR) after having first studied agriculture and sees it as a social process connecting a host of different players. After hearing about GLFx through a colleague while working on a similar FLR capacity-building project with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), which now serves as the chapter’s partner, Makungwa decided to join GLFx in order to reach more individuals with the information they need to contribute to Malawi’s restoration success.
“I was so excited,” he recalls of when he first heard of GLFx. “It was exactly what I’d been looking for. We want to form a platform where all stakeholders can meet, share experiences, learn from one another and connect with each other, so we can achieve something tangible by the end of the day.”
The stakeholders to be targeted in the chapter’s first capacity building project are split into three categories: policymakers, who will be trained on how to create enabling environments for local people to carry out restoration; front-line staff, on how to teach farmers the mechanics of FLR; and the farmers themselves, on how they can co-develop FLR with technicians through things like mentorship programs and season-long collaborations.
Makungwa co-leads the chapter with Tembo Chanyenga, the chapter’s events coordinator, and Nameka Katumbi, its Community Manager. They together launched GLFx Malawi in October 2020 internationally and will have their first local launch event on 19 May.
As part of the first project, 20 hectares will be restored – a solid starting block for many more thereafter in prioritized landscapes, including threatened forest reserves and protected areas, riparian landscapes, and agricultural landscapes that can better contribute to food security and biomass energy.
“We have to have information flow so people see the value of joining this initiative, and once more people are engaged, it will bring other new opportunities,” he says. “Then we can define more specific time and hectare targets.”