Photo Credit: Carl Bruessow

The Mulanje Cedar Ecological Restoration Project


Conservation Problem

Mulanje Cedar (Widdringtonia whytei), is one of the endemic tree species of Mount Mulanje Forest Reserve.

Mulanje cedar is highly sought after by local communities and the general construction industry in Malawi for its aromatic, termite and fungal resistant wood, making it more vulnerable to exploitation. It constitutes an important livelihood source for many rural communities around the reserve, especially wood carvers and timber sawyers and merchants. Natural regeneration of cedar in the wild is difficult and requires human intervention of a sort.

Many of the species endemic to the Mount Mulanje Forest Reserve are dependent on the cedar forest habitats. However, the forests have seen a steady decline over the past few decades owing to the continuous reduced capacities by the government management authority to address conservation threats which include wildfire, illegal logging, invasive alien plant species and climate change.

Project Activities

Past conservation actions have largely involved annual maintenance of old firebreaks -of which there was a 600km network. It also included prescribed burning and fire fighting as well as research into the ecology of the Mulanje cedar for a PhD and MSc and regulating resource utilization. Finally seedling propagation and enrichment planting involved an annual average 39,000 seedlings.

This project seeks to implement a consensus built cedar management plan that guides priority setting and coordination of appropriate conservation and restoration actions to sustain the populations of the Mulanje cedar and ensure its sustainable utilization.

The project delineates core cedar forest areas for priority protection and research, extends restorative action to consolidate a number of smaller isolated cedar clusters for greater ecological integrity, and will "plant out" approximately 500,000 seedlings annually to consolidate these areas into more cohesive forests.

Project Outcomes

The outcomes sought by this project include:

  • A cedar management plan effectively rolled out to guide the stakeholders to implement action around a set of key objectives.
  • Ecological restoration action increased to protect priority cedar forests and enable the consolidation of isolated cedar clusters for greater ecological integrity.
  • One million seedlings planted out to link isolated cedar clusters into consolidation zones and enrich the priority cloud forests.
  • A small-scale harvesting regime established for regulated community pit-sawyers to produce timber from dead-standing trees to be available to the local craft-makers.

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