Justice in the forests: Malawi

Article, 07 April 2011

This short film, entitled 'Burning issues', looks at charcoal production in Malawi and presents the case for community managed forests.

'Burning issues: the problem of charcoal' details how the Forest Learning Governance Group (FGLG) team in Malawi put the charcoal issue on the map as the country's third largest industry and brought government together with charcoal producers in search of more sustainable and pro-poor policy solutions.

Charcoal is one of Malawi's biggest industries. It provides livelihoods for more than 45,000 people, supplies the energy needs to more than 85 per cent of Malawian households, but 60 per cent of that charcoal comes from the country's forest reserves and its production is destroying its forests.

In an effort to control the industry, the government drafted the Forest Act of 1997, which only allows charcoal to be produced under license. But so far, this policy is proving ineffective.

Burning issues explores the nature of the problem with charcoal - its production – which has such devastating environmental impacts. It presents the case for community managed forests as a possible solution to charcoal production – and that legalisation and management can make it a sustainable source of green energy as well as reducing poverty at the community level. 

And it shows how by bringing the issue out in the open with a public debate, including multiple stakeholders, can have tremendous results for policy and behavioural change.

Other films in the series

Justice in the forests: VietnamJustice in the forests: Vietnam


Justice in the forests: UgandaJustice in the forests: Uganda


Justice in the forests: GhanaJustice in the forests: Ghana


These films have been produced by IIED and Dominic Elliot with the financial assistance of the European Union (EU) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The contents of these films are the responsibility of IIED and can under no circumstances by regarded as reflecting the position of the EU or DFID.


James Mayers (james.mayers@iied.org), director, IIED's Natural Resources research group

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