Malawi’s national tree – the Mulanje cedar (Widdringtonia whytei) – occurs naturally only in the Mulanje Mountain Biosphere Reserve. It is estimated that cedar forest cover has declined by 37% in the last 28 years, the main causes being over-exploitation and fire.
Mulanje Cedar is a high value timber tree. The steep decline in populations has resulted in a loss of income for communities living around the mountain, increased soil erosion and floods due to rapid water run-off from the mountain during rainy seasons.
The tree is now Critically Endangered and at risk of extinction in its natural habitat if action is not taken soon.
View up to Mulanje Mountain
This project will generate new knowledge about Mulanje Cedar, deliver biodiversity benefits and livelihood benefits, by restoring populations of Mulanje Cedar on Mulanje Mountain and generating alternative sustainable income sources for local people currently relying on harvesting timber from Mulanje Cedar.
The project is jointly led by the Global Trees Campaign, Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust and the Forestry Research Institute of Malawi, and will work closely with local communities and officials.
Ten community nurseries will be set up around Mulanje Mountain and training in nursery management and enterprise development provided to at least 150 people.
Working with international conifer conservation experts, including from Bedgebury Pinetum in the UK, horticultural protocols for Mulanje Cedar will be improved. This will increase survival and growth rates in the nursery, ensuring high production of healthy Mulanje Cedar seedlings.
The optimal growing conditions for Mulanje Cedar will be identified. This will determine the best places for planting Mulanje Cedar on Mulanje Mountain, dependent on climatic and edaphic conditions and fire risk, to ensure high survival rates.
Suitable locations for planting Mulanje Cedar elsewhere in Malawi will also be identified, as a result of planting trials set up in 10 sites across Malawi.
A publicity campaign will highlight the value of maintaining healthy populations of Mulanje Cedar on Mulanje Mountain to surrounding villages. The campaign will also promote Mulanje Cedar as a commercial timber species, generating demand for seedlings to supply a new national market for Mulanje Cedar seedlings.
Official launch of the project, Mulanje, June 2016
By the end of the project, nurseries will generate a sustainable income from the sale of Mulanje Cedar seedlings. This will reduce the need to exploit remaining stands of the tree on the mountain, resulting in benefits to the species as well as improved livelihoods of local communities.
This project is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) Darwin Initiative. Read more about the launch of this project here.
Follow project progress on Twitter #SaveOurCedar