By Amy Simpson
Early Friday morning, June 14th to be exact, we hit the road to go to Lukwe lodge, an eco-friendly site on the top of a mountain near Livingstonia. As we drove along we passed massive areas of clear-cut forests. Looking out the window, in some areas you could literally count the number of trees still standing in the landscape on your hands and toes, but the number of half burnt stumps in the distance were countless. Seeing the amount of clear-cut wasn’t necessarily shocking because I am well aware that the same occurs back home, but it still was somewhat depressing. The only difference between here and back home is that back home in many places the clear-cutters leave a line of trees alongside the road to try and hide it from us. Instead, along the road side in Malawi, what I saw were people sitting beside the logs and cut timbre that was for sale.
Seeing them beside what looked to be the last few trees for sale got me thinking about what they would do once they have sold it all. What would be their next source of income? Some areas were replanted with pine trees, which grow relatively quickly, I imagine, but what will they do while they wait for it to happen? I am assuming that they will have to move elsewhere. The wood shack kind of structures that were built around them did not seem like permanent establishments either. So where will they move? To another forested area where they will do the same and have to move again in time or will they try and find a completely new source of income?
Sitting in the bus for hours provides one with lots and lots of time to think about many things, so my mind then wandered to questioning how they divide up the forested land. How do they know whose tree is whose? Do they invest and buy sectors of the land or do they find wooded areas and have a free for all situation occur? My assumption is that they most likely have some sort of organization but then again I could be wrong. Just to clarify this is not to pass judgement on how they are going about in the forestry industry here, I don’t think it would be just to do so because I do not know enough about it nor do I fully understand their living situation.
A few hours later to get up to the top of the mountain which was lovely and still forested. We drove up the scariest road I have ever been on. The road was narrow, steep and bumpy. It seemed more like a cleared rock path than an actual road and on the side of it was a steep cliff which at times, was only inches away from the wheels of the bus. Luckily we had a talented driver. Anyhow, we made it up safely to Lukwe. The environment was such a contrast to the clear-cut landscape we were driving through only hours before. The owner designed the site trying to be as eco-friendly and self-sustainable as possible. For example; by eating fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables straight from the gardens, running on solar power and using natural building materials for the structures. The view from the cliff-side balcony was breathtaking. The next day, we hiked up to nearby waterfalls and up even higher to Livingstonia. On Sunday it was back to Makupo, which is beginning to feel like a home away from home.