The youth club that saved a forest

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Much like throughout Malawi, deforestation is rife in Phalombe – a district in the southern region of Malawi. In Chingazi village, people were cutting down trees in the Michesi Mountain for charcoal and firewood at an alarming rate.

Worryingly, this negatively impacted the water catchment area and was causing water wells to dry up.

The 30 members at Chingazi youth club noticed the problems caused by deforestation – and they decided to take action. Back in 2015, when the group was first formed, they bought 3,000 tree seedlings and planted them on Michesi Mountain. Unfortunately, though, only 700 trees survived because the youth club lacked both the skills in tree management and the tools to care for the trees, such as shovels, watering canes and wheelbarrows.

In 2016, the youth club asked the District Forest Office for training and tools for tree management, who in turn approached United Purpose for assistance. Together, they trained all 30 members of the youth club and United Purpose provided 4,000 tree seedlings, two watering cans, two shovels and a wheelbarrow.

The youth club planted the 4,000 seedlings in the same place they had previously. But this time, an amazing 3,997 seedlings survived. The trees have now grown and the water catchment site is recovering.

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“Since we planted the trees two years ago, we have seen many improvements to the environment – the water levels in Nachimba River are high once again and there is also vegetative cover on the mountain because of the trees we planted,’’ said Charles Goodson, chair of the youth club.

In order to protect the trees on the mountain, the youth club engaged the village chief and community members to make by-laws to ban deforestation. These by-laws include banning people from entering the mountain forest without permission and also banning domestic animals, such as goats and cattle, from grazing on the mountain.

The members of the youth club all have different responsibilities for caring for the forest, such as taking it in turns to water the trees. They are also keen to continue actively involving the chief and the wider community with the tree planting.

“In five years to come, I expect to have a thick forest on the Michesi mountain and am very delighted by what the Chingozi youth club has achieved in bringing the Michesi mountain forest back to life,” said the chief of Chingazi village.


United Purpose was able to achieve this with Australian Government support. Through this Australian Government-funded project, United Purpose is providing safe water to 54,000 people in Phalombe district, supporting 200 villages to end the practice of open defecation and building the capacity of communities and local government to sustain these interventions and drive future water, sanitation and hygiene developments.