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A fairly lengthy 2021 to 2022 TREEZ report

TREEZ: The Reforestation of the Environment and Ecosystem of Zomba Registered in Malawi 14887 Report for 2021 & 2022

TREEZ Background

TREEZ (The Reforestation of the Environment and Ecosystem of Zomba) was set up by the owner/directors of Zomba Forest Lodge, as a small community charity , based on and around Zomba Plateau, Malawi. Since its inception, TREEZ has been working with local communities and the Forestry Department to help reforest and restore the water catchments areas of the south western slopes of Zomba Plateau Forest Reserve and has since expanded its aims to both preserve and protect forests, woodlands and water catchments, but increasingly, to help build resilience in the local communities and teach them more sustainable uses of the natural resources available.


Malawi, has a mostly rural population and has lost 85% of its trees in the last 30 years. At current rates of population growth and deforestation, by 2030 it is estimated that there will no longer be enough biofuel to sustain the needs of the population. The reason being that over 90% of the population rely on wood or charcoal for domestic use (cooking/heating) and increasingly, for burning bricks for house building.

Uncontrolled bushfires in the dry season systematically prevent areas from naturally regenerating while impoverishing the soil, increasing soil erosion and threatening the water sources.

The lack of available fuelwood sources within the communities forces community members to walk great distances in order to provide enough wood for their domestic use. The excessive cutting of trees leads to mass deforestation which in turn leads to desertification as the soils are consistently degraded and the water sources depleted, which in turn increases poverty levels within the communities.


To reverse the negative fuelwood loop:

TREEZ is already involved with the restoration and protection of over 250 hectares of land around Zomba Forest Lodge. This includes the 30 hectares that our community conservation groups and sports teams are responsible for.

The wider area has not been formally granted to TREEZ as yet but a proposal is with the government and we hope for positive feedback in the near future.

This area was formally a pine plantation but after it was logged, it was allowed to naturally regenerate and is now home to a diverse number of trees including pine and eucalyptus, but also macaranga capensis, tremor orientalis, brachystegia, julbernardia, bersama, myrianthus, syzygium, podocarpus etc. In turn, the increase in biodiversity has led to an increase in mammal species with civets, duiker and hyena being the most noticeable.

Protection and preservation:

TREEZ has an increasing number of conservation groups and sports teams responsible for planting and maintaining specific areas of trees. In 2021 and 2022, Chigwandembo, The Hyena Rocks group, Mountain Shielders, Nankunda Mountain Club, Back to Jesus Choir and most recently the Umodzi Youth Group have all joined our ranks and have been allocated areas of responsibility spanning 100+ hectares, especially those in water catchment areas.

Each of these groups will receive a cash incentive to protect and maintain their areas and will be monitored through drone imagery in order to ascertain increase of tree + shrub cover.

Happy Hammers, Nankhunda and Berries football and netball teams received their annual sponsorship amount, which was spent primarily on new kit, transport to away games and pre-game preparation.

Nankhunda Transformation, Hyena Rocks Group, Maguba Choir and Nsanama groups counted over 28,000 trees and have banked over $5,500 for their efforts.

How successful is natural regeneration compared to simple tree-planting? The photo on the left shows members of the Happy Hammers sports club clearing land in January 2020. The photo on the right shows the same area at the end of 2022. On the basis of these photos and several other plots around Zomba Forest Lodge, TREEZ shows that natural regeneration is an excellent and badly needed strategy, especially in areas of mountainous terrain where extensive slopes have been cleared of trees. However, to be fully successful this type of regeneration requires regular clearance of weeds, probably 3 times a year. This requires much labour & community participation, but it also offers villagers the opportunity for additional income in what is a semi-subsistence economy. There is also the need for spot-planting to introduce and care for slow-growing indigenous species to create greater biodiversity in the new forests. TREEZ considers that there are two other elements necessary if this type of natural regeneration is to succeed in the African context. One is that government authorities need to shift from a traditional timber-extractive approach to forestry to a policy which considers the long-term value of forests in terms of carbon capture potential, greater biodiversity [a tourism asset], and security of water supplies. The other requirement is that local communities have stakeholder ‘ownership’ of the forest, to be developed for their benefit.

Annual fire prevention exercises are carried out by each of the groups in order to protect their areas and each member being responsible for assisting in the event of a fire, this includes mainly the clearing of firebreaks around each groups’ area (see picture below of Nankhunda football and netball team above, and Hyena rocks group below them)

In 2021, we suffered one major fire (due to someone setting fire to the bush in order to catch guinea fowl!!!) Sadly the fire was lit late in the evening on an extremely windy day which made tackling the fire nearly impossible. As the winds abated on the 3rd day, the teams were able to control the fire but the damage caused was extensive. In 2022, the same area suffered 3 fires, but each one was spotted early and the team members very quick to get to the areas and control the fires so there was much less damage caused. Sadly, we believe that the fires were lit by a rival “environmental’ group who would like to plant pine and blue gum rather than allow and encourage the rewilding of the area. We are working on a peace agreement there 

As always, a large segment of the budget is spent on 4 patrols to help protect those same areas. There are 2 morning teams and 2 afternoon teams, working on the 2 different sides of the slopes. These patrols are invaluable in preventing fires spreading into the forested areas as the patrol teams ensure that the farmers burn their maize stubble responsibly. The patrols are active from August up to the onset of the rains and not only provide fire protection to the Plateau, but also represents valuable income for all the conservation group members who take turns in patrolling.

Environmental Awareness:

As part of all the groups responsibility is Environmental Awareness. This is most successfully carried out by the sports teams who are able to gather large groups of community members for the games and thus able to pass on messages about the dangers of fires spreading and the illegal and excessive cutting of trees as well as instructions on how to gather firewood more sustainably.

Additionally, TREEZ continues to sponsor the Bright Dreamers, a local hip-hop band whose lead singer is also a gifted song writer and behind 5 songs carrying environmental awareness messages. TREEZ has paid for these songs to be recorded in a professional studio. TREEZ also pays for their transport for them to be able to perform at various events, including the Run4Reforestation 2022 (see picture below), but also more recently at the International Day for Mountains in Zomba, organized and hosted by the Malawi Government.

The Run4Reforestation:

The 4th annual Run4Reforestation was held on Saturday 9th September 2022 and attracted over 160 runners and many more visitors to the event. The 5km remained unchanged as the circuit tool the participants around the Mulunguzi reservoir but the first 5km of the 10km route was changed to show runners the reforestation efforts taking place on the Plateau through the Department of Forestry. The 21km route was changed completely to encompass the south western slopes and the Enchanted Forest to show the participants the work that TREEZ is carrying out on that side.

The changes were welcomed and even the severe slope to get to the ridge was appreciated for the beauty of the trail and the views once on the ridge.

Sadly, fewer runners than planned attended the event due to the fuel shortages that persisted for the ensuing weeks, but despite the smaller than expected turnout, we got very good feedback for the courses, the artisan market, the amazing raffle prizes and the general organization of the event.

Zomba Tour Guide Association (ZTGA):

The ZTGA comprises 14 members, all based on the Plateau and licensed tour guides. TREEZ has sponsored the Association for over 5 years, normally in the form of fertiliser for work. The idea is that in exchange for fertiliser and seed, the ZTGA carries out trail clearing, litter picking and the creation and maintenance of tree seedling nurseries on the Plateau.

As the Zomba Plateau is officially a government Forest Reserve, no tree can be planted whose seeds have not been harvested and grown on the Plateau itself, however TREEZ was made aware that other pine tree (pinus patella) seedlings, grown for timber, no other nurseries existed on the Plateau so TREEZ made this a priority. In the last 3 years, the Southern Region Water Board, the hotel, Sunbird Ku Chawe and the Department of Forestry itself have all purchased or been donated tree seedlings from these nurseries. The ZTGA continue their good work and continue to take pride in guiding visitors on the Plateau.

Building resilience within the communities

Belvedere Trust:

In 2021 to 2022, TREEZ was incredibly lucky to meet an unexpected benefactor who allowed us to try out some ideas that we felt would be beneficial to the communities while removing some of the burden on the forest:

o The provision of bamboo for fuelwood, building and potential income:

We were able to provide 5 bamboo seedlings to 500 community members, both on the South Western slopes of the Plateau (where we are situated) and in the Kasonga valley, an area which is sorely deprived. Beneficiaries were encouraged to plant the seedlings in the vicinity of their homes so that they could be watered more regularly and therefore grow faster, thus providing the members with fuel wood for their homes and possibly extra to sell and to build with. Many beneficiaries however chose to plant them in their fields but as far as we have seen, are not necessarily worse off for being so far from home. Having checked on them, the bamboo average a 60% survival rate. As this is the first year, it is not unexpectedly low but we hope for better in the years to come.

o Permaculture training

Another idea that was made possible was the training of interested conservation group members in the techniques of permaculture. We organized 2 different types of training. The first one took place at Zomba Forest Lodge, using the lodge gardens as training area as we were concerned that participants would not be willing to take a risk with their own land. We therefore invited 10 of the most eager conservationists to take part as a reward for their hard work. The training was carried out by the Permaculture Paradise Institute, based outside of Lilongwe, and took place over 5 days. The training was both theoretical and practical and as far as we could ascertain, very happily received.

Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. As arable land is becoming more and more scarce, TREEZ would like to empower the communities by teaching them techniques that would make the best use of the land immediately available around their homes. This entails the capture and use of grey water, creating run-off water channels, creating planting beds to capture that water, planting edible plants according to ‘companion planting’ teachings. In the first training, participants, learned the theory of permaculture and how to apply it in their own gardens (they each drew a plan of their gardens – see photo on the left). Each participant was also given seedlings and seed to plant in their own plots back home photo on right) In the second part of the training, the teachings were brought to each of the participants land in turn where the theory was supposed to be applied.

When TREEZ assessed the work that participants had carried out in their own front gardens however, few had really implemented their lessons. We put this down to the difficulty in remembering the information and the ability to understand how the knowledge can be applied to their own plots.

We therefore followed this up with a communal visit to EcoLODgy, a permaculture training centre in Bvumbwe. This was a 3 day introduction to the principle of permaculture, to be able to see what a permaculture garden looks like, once it is mature. All participants came back energized and motivated to do more.

We then invited an EcoLODgy team to come and train the participants in-situ so that each participant could have tailor made instructions as to how to carry out the work. The theoretical work was carried out in group (see picture on the left: making an A-frame to follow contour lines) then in each other’s gardens (picture on right). The work started off well but sadly, the weather was unseasonably dry which made any planting impractical which then delayed the remainder of the implementation as we then had to wait for the next rainy season to plant. The preparation of the soil for the next planting season was supposed to be supervised by EcoLODgy but despite TREEZ requesting their return on multiple occasions, EcoLODgy has not been forthcoming. This was also a new activity for the EcoLODgy team and maybe the ramifications of working on a site in a different location were not fully taken into account. Despite the setbacks, TREEZ believes that permaculture techniques would be beneficial to the communities and when successful, can be scaled up.

o Fuel efficient stoves:

Finally, as part of our new ideas, we wanted to be able to provide more fuel-efficient stoves to community members as it transpired that over 50% of the groups cooked on the 3 stones, which use much more wood (and responsible for a huge number of childhood burn accidents) so we partnered with United Purpose to provide Mbaula stoves with a large portion of the stoves going to the Kasonga Valley where 90% of the members had no other means of cooking. This partnership is mainly financial as TREEZ provides the money for the stove, which would otherwise have had to be purchased by the individual, with each beneficiary carrying out a day’s worth of environmental work in lieu of payment.

Sustainable Global Gardens:

TREEZ was also approached by Sustainable Global Gardens (SGG) who were interested in the work that we were carrying out within the communities. SGG believed they could help the communities further by linking TREEZ with an agricultural organization called TIYENI ( Tiyeni is an organization, specializing in the Deep Bed Farming technique, a method which if used appropriately, can increase the yield of the crop significantly.

The Tiyeni programme is planned to span 3 year and carry out the following activities:

· Encouraging and facilitating the creation of community woodlots

· Teaching interested community members how to make the best of the agroforestry trees and encouraging them to pass on the messages to others

· Facilitating the provision of agroforestry trees for individual family purposes

· Encouraging and facilitating the creation of forest gardens and the dissemination of these teachings to the wider communities

We therefore sent a small group of conservation group members to Mulanje to visit a Tiyeni group there, and once again, our group returned hugely excited! TIYENI then came to carry out a training a group of 20 farmers within the community here, as well as follow-up visits. The original idea is that a new group can be trained each year and that that each farmer can train others however the work is very energy intensive and the yields not as high as hoped.

We believe that this training is indeed helpful (already one of the members who was trained has trained his own conservation group members and have developed their own Tiyeni plot) but it will take longer than planned for the numbers of farmers to be scaled.

The basic feature of Tiyeni farming is a much deeper turning over of soil than is traditionally practised in Malawi. The tilled soil is then arranged into a series of ridges and shallow ditches which follow the contours lines. This system breaks the sub-soil hardpan to improve root penetration, and also reduces surface runoff and soil erosion. The ditches improve on-site water retention and availability of water for crop growth. It is not surprising that this improves harvest yields and also encourages a greater variety of crops to be grown. Here [see above] are farmers from Nankhunda being trained in Tiyeni deepbed farming. How successful is this method? It is difficult to be precise about this based on evidence from Nankhunda village as the locality suffered from both failure of the rains and then cyclone damage after the training. However, the Tiyeni plots visited had much healthier maize than their neighbours [see below right]. In our opinion the main limitation of this training was that only 20 farmers followed this training course, when there is a need for thousands to be trained.

SGG have also provided funds to protect and replant an extra area of the Zomba slopes. The designated area was the Hyena Rocks area which will be counted in the 2022/23 counting season.

Moving forward, SGG have shown interest in working with the community groups on sustainable kitchen gardens, a variation on the Tiyeni method but with an emphasis on growing a variety of fruit and vegetables while incorporating fruit and agroforestry trees within the vegetable garden rather than planting maize which is generally grown in the main field.

SGG also proposed a new avenue in terms of tree counting: following the already successful model of survival rate payments, to provide payment for trees within community areas, on private land; whether that be on farmland or in the many copses (rocky outcrops within fields) to ensure that those areas are protected. The hope is that these trees can be utilized for carbon offsetting, a concept that TREEZ is very excited about.


Jonas Beyard, the chief TREEZ community coordinator and general right man to all things TREEZ, who has been working with TREEZ from the beginning, was made an official employee in 2021. He is responsible for managing the various conservation groups and communication between TREEZ, traditional authorities and the communities. He remains chairman of the Zomba Tour Guide Association and continues to visitors on tours around Zomba.

Aaron Linje assists Jonas with his responsibilities with an emphasis on the Malacamu communities while Kennedy Chimseu helps Jonas with the Nankhunda side.

TREEZ is also proud to sponsor Aaron as he expressed the interest in taking his Malawi School Certificate Exams. Aaron has completed one year and has one more year left. We believe Aaron will be an even greater asset for his community and for TREEZ once he completes his studies, as well as an inspiration for his peers.


TREEZ and the Department of Forestry have worked hand in hand from the start with TREEZ assisting the Department of Forestry with logistical support as and when necessary; this is often in the form of man power, but also fuel and in some cases vehicle parts for their water browsers, invaluable vehicles for tackling bush fires.

TREEZ also hires out other trucks or vehicles when needed, for the transport of bamboo for example, or for carrying the Bright Dreamers band to the recording studio.


In terms of spending, the sports teams sponsorship and the conservation groups overlap in both tree planting & environmental protection with the fire prevention activities

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