Forestry development must be focused on strategies to create employment, generate cash, improve production of tree products, conserve habitat and biodiversity, improve soil and water conservation contributing towards agricultural productivity, improved health and education. These products and tree services call for the maintenance of a well-directed research, development and extension programme. FRIM's operations are organised following a programme-based structure.  This approach enables a more focused response to problem-oriented research, particularly research designed to address key issues of poverty alleviation, sustainable resource use and environmental conservation. FRIM’s research and development activities are implemented through the following four core strategy areas: Each strategy area (research programme), led by a co-ordinator, comprises several research projects. To increase stakeholder involvement in research planning, design and implementation, each strategy area has a co-ordinating committee made up of research users and experts to monitor research progress and plan future work. Each committee meets biannually. For effective management of the research programme, FRIM has a SISTEM+ database which is used as an operational tool for management systems.

1. Indigenous woodland management

Malawi is mostly covered by miombo woodlands, which are poor in commercial timber species but provide many products, which underpin rural life in addition to variable service functions. Increased land pressure has resulted in extensive clearance and severe degradation of the miombo woodlands. Repeated late burning has compounded the problem. Since miombo woodlands are the major sources of non-timber forest products (NTFP) and intangible benefits, they cannot be managed effectively centrally. Devolution of control to communities implies enabling technical support, definition of limits and monitoring sustainable stewardship. The process is one of co-operation, rural communities must therefore receive benefits as quickly as possible without compromising sustainability. The research challenge is to assist development of simple woodland management systems, which sustainably provide NTFPs and timber products while ensuring soil, water and biodiversity conservation. FRIM has developed an active research programme in indigenous woodland management aimed at maximising socio-economic benefits through co-management of existing resources. The current research focuses on: productivity, and utilization; ecology and reproductive biology, silvicultural and community based management systems of the miombo woodlands.

2. Trees on farm

The role and potential of agroforestry as a development vehicle in Malawi has largely not been fulfilled. It is therefore imperative that research should be focused on generation of appropriate, science-based technologies of wide applicability or improvement of the existing traditional practices – especially under resource-poor conditions and in smallholder farming systems. There is a range of well-established traditional agroforestry practices in Malawi which have the potential to contribute significantly to the alleviation of rural poverty through amelioration of the environment, improved nutrition and the production of non timber and timber products. FRIM’s major focus in this respect is the development of improved management guidelines for existing traditional agroforestry practices, domestication of indigenous fruit trees for incorporation into smallholder farming systems and development of an integrated pest management scheme for agroforestry species.

3. Plantations

The plantation sector has dominated forestry in Malawi for the last four decades. There is now a substantial softwood plantation resource and extensive estate plantings. Softwood plantations are of great importance in terms of economic development and in employment generation. Continued genetic improvement of softwood and hardwood plantation species offers considerable opportunities for increased productivity and economic development. Estate plantings provide vital fuel for the tea and tobacco industries, which earn some 80% of foreign exchange. Estate self-sufficiency in fuel and tree products is an important goal. Urban fuelwood supplies also draw increasingly on plantation technology. Scope exists for smallholders to contribute to both these aims given appropriate technologies. Research in Plantations forestry focuses at improving management and productivity of plantations. Priority research activities are: improving the supply of high quality propagation material, productivity and stand dynamics, diversifying plantation species, pest and disease control, harvesting and wood utilization.

4. Seed and tree improvement

The quality of seed used in tree planting is a critical factor in the success of achieving any tree planting programme objectives. The Malawi National Forestry Policy calls for “promotion and improvement of the supply of high quality and improved tree seed”. The purpose of this strategy area is thus to optimise the quantity of good quality seed of both indigenous and exotic tree species for plantations and agroforestry programmes in Malawi. This therefore calls for a well-designed tree improvement and seed production and management programme. The research focus is on genetic improvement of important plantation and agroforestry species, establishment and management of seed production areas, identification and certification of in-situ seed collection areas for indigenous species and studies in seed technology.

The National Tree Seed Centre (NTSC) is responsible for supplying improved tree seed of various species for all types of tree planting activities in Malawi.
Copyright:  Malawi SDNP