What is deforestation and why is it a problem?

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Deforestation is the purposeful clearing of forested land.

 

Historically, this applies to indigenous, native forests.

When it applies to pine or another tree that is grown agriculturally, it is called harvesting and the two should not be confused. In Malawi, all pine were grown as a crop for the timber industry, as people need wood to build with. It could be better managed, but the loss of the pine is not deforestation.

Malawi suffers from extremely high levels of deforestation driven by poverty and low electricity supplies. As people migrate from rural areas to urban areas, where there is little to no access to electricity and so their main recourse is charcoal as this is the most widely available fuel for cooking.

Sadly, most of the charcoal that people buy is illegally made charcoal. Charcoal crudely and inefficiently made in situ, wherever the trees have been cut, in basic mud kilns. The ratio of wood to charcoal is roughly 100 tonnes of wood for 6 tonnes of charcoal so only 6% is made into charcoal and 94 tonnes of tree are wasted. That is SHOCKING inefficient.

And the charcoal is made predominantly from brachesteggia woodland. These are hardwoods and would have covered most of Malawi. These forests have been and continue to be cut at alarming rates. All Malawi's hills are being steadily deforested and that is a HUGE loss to the health of the neighbouring communities, ecosystems and biodiversity

But if your trade is illegal, there is little room to improve, and as the need for charcoal is so great, there is no incentive to stop. Except that Malawi is running out of trees to make charcoal out of.

Sustainable charcoal is available (www.afribam.com, www.kawandama-hills/charcoal  and others who make briquettes) but these are not as widely used as it should be. 

And the cost of the equipment to cook with LPG is too high for most, even though once they have the equipment, the cost of the LPG is on a par with charcoal. 

And yes it is a fossil fuel, but one has to pick ones battles and right now, deforestation is number 1.

And if you are wondering if really having no trees would be such a huge issue...

If there are no trees, there will most likely be no water.... 

And THAT is a huge problem!