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Your Excellency the First Lady of the Republic of Malawi, Madame

Gertrude Mutharika,

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I feel greatly honoured to deliver a keynote address on this auspicious

occasion of the 2015 Congressional International Conservation Gala (ICCG).
First of all, allow me to thank the organizers of this event for identifying as a
theme international conservation. It is a known fact, that some parts of the
world, are on the verge of losing most of the natural resources that sustain us,
and hence the need for all of us, to work together, in ensuring that this state of
affairs is reversed. It is in this context that, I agree with what former US
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, that the conservation of natural
resources is the fundamental problem, unless we solve that problem, it will
avail us little to solve all other.
Secondly, I am grateful that I have been accorded this opportunity, to share
my thoughts on this important topic of conservation. As I do so, I will focus by
way of example, on our experiences in Malawi.
Before I do so, please allow me to make a brief personal statement. This is the
first time I am addressing a predominantly American audience since I assumed
the Malawi Presidency in June 2014. I first arrived in this country some fifty
years ago as an exile fleeing from political oppression in my native country.
This country embraced me. I received my graduate education in this country
and for the next forty years rose to the position of chaired professor of law at
one of your local leading universities. I want to thank this country for
embracing me at a very difficult time in my life. After I retired in 2009, I
returned to Malawi where for the next five years I served in our national
Parliament, held three cabinet portfolios and in 2014 successfully run for the
presidency of Malawi.

Mr. Chairman
Malawi has a population of about 17 million, and our economy is agro-based.
We have a diverse natural resource base, and if properly managed, these
resources will provide a sustainable socio-economic contribution to the
development of the country. However, the competing needs for a growing
population, industrial development, physical infrastructure and wildlife, are
putting extreme pressure on the protection of the environment and the ecology.
There is alarming degradation of the environment, causing significant loss of
soil fertility, soil erosion, serious deforestation, water depletion, pollution and
loss of biodiversity.
This is one of the contributing factors, to the worst flood in history that hit the
country, in January 2015, which led to the death of 200 people, and
displacement of 230,000 people, as well as destruction of infrastructure, such
as bridges. It also affected our crop production. I had to declare 15 of the
countrys 28 districts as disaster areas. Let me take this opportunity, to thank
Governments, and other good Samaritans, both local and foreign, who assisted
This is why, my government, has put the conservation of natural resources, as
one of its priority areas. We are aware that our life and economy, depend on
these resources. And if we do not take good care of these resources,
generations to come, will suffer the consequences such as the flood we
Mr. Chairman,
The depletion of natural resources, is a concern for sustainable development,
as it has the ability to degrade current environments, but also the potential to
impact the needs of future generations. As I indicated earlier, Malawis high
population density is a crucial factor in the significant human pressure on

biological resources and protected areas. And as the human population

increases, the pressure to over-harvest forest and biodiversity resources, and to
convert land for cultivation, will increase. This is why addressing conservation
issues, and sustainable use of natural resources, in the face of rapid
population growth, is one of Malawis greatest challenges. This is particularly
relevant to Malawis forest reserves, and the intense pressure for the
production of charcoal from these reserves, to fuel the urban communities.
Fuel efficient measures to address these unsustainable resource uses are
urgently required.
To address this problem, my government, embarked on a community based
conservation drive. We believe that a successful management of natural
resources should engage the people who are affected, and in so doing they can
participate in setting or changing rules, that can protect the environment.
These efforts seek to find ways of strengthening community engagement and
benefit sharing from the management of national parks and forest reserves.
Progress in recent years has been impressive - for example, the Department of
Forestry, is expanding the use of Participatory Forest Management, as an
approach, for engaging local communities in the management of forest
reserves, and importantly, in sharing the benefits from such management. This
approach has been supported by the World Bank in the Shire River Basin
Management Program. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife has
introduced a financial mechanism that enables benefit sharing of revenues,
from the parks (for example from concession and gate fees) with local






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conservation areas. The Department is also working with communities to

reduce human wildlife conflicts, and support development initiatives, around a
number of protected areas. The development of nature-based tourism which
accounts for a substantial share of Malawis tourism sector, offers real
opportunities of bringing benefits for local communities, living in and around
key biodiversity-rich landscapes.

Mr. Chairman
Another problem which will require concerted effort within our region, and the
world over, is that of endangered species. Malawi has not been spared from
crime against wildlife and we are losing a lot of wildlife due to poaching and
illegal wildlife trade. For instance, Malawis elephant population has declined
from 4,000 to 2,000 in the past fifteen (15) years due to poaching and illegal
ivory trade.
Let me take this opportunity, to applaud the international community, for
intensifying the ban on the ivory trade. As a signatory to the Arusha
Declaration on Wildlife crime, we will continue to work with our neighbors
through the existing mechanisms to ensure that fauna and flora are protected
and conserved for sustainable development.
Mr. Chairman.
I would like to assure this gathering that in Malawi, we will carefully preserve
our natural resources consisting of the land itself, lakes, rivers, forestry,
wildlife, fish and minerals. It is my Governments priority that, the effective
exploitation of these resources should provide a boost to our development
efforts. We look forward to the partnership between ICCF and Malawi
Parliament as it will assist in educating the nation on the value of conservation
and natural resources for achieving our national development goals.

I thank you all for your attention.