Capacity Building for FLR implementation in Malawi

6 min read 

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and its local partner the Centre for Applied Systems Analysis (CASA) implemented a three-year project (Sept 2019-Aug 2022) to develop capacities on forest landscape restoration (FLR) in Malawi. The project’s aim was to scale up FLR through developing a critical mass of well-trained practitioners. It was funded by the Audemars-Watkins Foundation  and additional financial contributions were provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, as well as in-kind contributions by CASA. 

More about the project background here

How did the project affect matters in Malawi? 

The project trained and mentored 50 FLR facilitators. Some have already been recruited by existing FLR projects in Malawi. For example, for the Alliance for Restoration of Forest Landscapes and Ecosystems in Africa (AREECA) program led by FAO in Mpira Dam, Ntcheu District. CASA was also asked to offer a tailor-made training for this program. The participants came from government and non-governmental organizations, traditional leaders, and farmers.

Farmers planted 28,000 trees with the help of FLR facilitators around their houses and farmlands during the 2021/2022 planting season. Trees were planted in alleys, hedgerows, understorey and live fences. This was equivalent to 16 ha of land restored (the size of around 22 soccer fields). Likewise, the students in the three schools planted a total of 5,700 trees around their school yards (1.6 ha).

A village forest area was identified together with a women group and the village head as a source of sustainable firewood for kilning ceramic cookstoves. The course participants facilitated an inventory, which showed that the area did not have the adequate quantities needed. So, the group looked for other sources of firewood, which included purchase from private owners and from the government managed forest plantations. In addition, women were encouraged and supplied with tree seedlings to grow individual woodlots around their houses.

In total 4,241 ceramic cookstoves were distributed and are now in use by households. People also received information on best practices in the care and use of these cookstoves. Water supply was one of the barriers to sustain the production of the ceramic cookstoves. Women walked long distances in search of water. So, the project engaged a local contractor to drill and supply a hand-held water pump.

In Lilongwe, the project established an FLR learning site for riverine restoration in Lingadzi. This site provides an opportunity for people to face a real case of restoration of degraded riverine in Malawi and gain on the ground experience. Different stakeholders including the Minister and Deputy Minister of the Local Government, youth groups, school students and participants of many nature-based workshops have visited the site. Native trees were planted on the 24-hectare site in2021. A survival assessment from August 2022 showed that the tree seedlings planted earlier in the year had a survival rate of 82%, significantly higher than the national average (53%).

Additionally, the FLR Practitioners’ Guide was translated into a vernacular language (Chichewa). This will add to the uptake by many local farmers and other practitioners.

The Lilongwe Chapter of the Global Landscapes Forum (GLFx Lilongwe) was also established. This is a knowledge-led platform, which offers a space to connect people, share knowledge and skills, learn from each other, and act together toward building resilient landscapes. For example, the Interfaith Landscape Alliance (ILA) connects the religious and faith leaders to use their moral authority to influence local actions on FLR in Malawi.

At the African level, the project made tremendous contributions to design elements of restoration education curriculum for universities and colleges through the Pan-African Restoration Education Network. This will be a blueprint curriculum for transformative restoration education in Africa supporting the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

How it all came together 

The project consisted of three phases. Before the training, a site in Kasungu District was identified in consultation with the Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change. These activities were facilitated by the Jesuit Centre for Ecology and Development, a faith-based organization, which also identified and selected the participants with the guidance from the Kasungu District Council. The selected practitioners included different backgrounds such as agriculture, forestry, lands, land resources, environment, water, irrigation, parks and wildlife, community services and social welfare. 

Next seven local experts with expertise in forestry, agriculture, governance, communications, and economics/financing were identified from the academia, research institutes, and practitioners to facilitate the workshops and provide mentorship. Then together with CASA and IUFRO’s Special Programme for Development of Capacities (IUFRO-SPDC), they discussed the FLR Practitioner’s Guide. The learning modules were tailored to the Malawian context using their knowledge, expertise and experiences in the region. 

During the first five days, participants learned about FLR principles, governance aspects, and the project management cycle as a fundamental framework for designing FLR projects at the Bunda Campus, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The following sessions focused on the implementation modalities of FLR, including technical aspects of restoration, monitoring of restoration areas, communicating different aspects of FLR with stakeholders, and exploring different financing mechanisms for FLR activities on the ground. 

Following the workshops, participants actively engaged in hands-on mentoring in the field. The mentorship programme was designed to develop skills to assist in running multi-stakeholder platforms for restoration planning, implementation, as well as monitoring of outcomes. Four sites provided opportunities to put into practice restoration activities: farmland restoration, restoration of degraded school premises, promotion of production and household use of energy saving ceramic cookstoves for cooking and heating, and riverine restoration.

  • Center for Applied Systems Analysis, CASA
    CASA is a locally registered, independent and non-partisan knowledge centre. They implemented the project activities in partnership with the Forestry Department at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). CASA was created in 2017 to advance evidence-based knowledge and innovativeness in a rapidly changing environment. CASA has at hand a wide range of expertise in all specializations related to managing trees and forests, and to restoring landscapes in order to enhance environmental and social benefits. This is done through promoting research excellence and piloting new technologies and innovations in sustainable land use and livelihood in order to support their scalability.
    Want to learn more? Visit the GLFx Lilongwe chapter.