Sinda District Council chairperson Michael Phiri says traditional leaders in the area need to take more responsibility in sensitizing their subjects against cutting down trees, which is causing high rates of deforestation.

Officiating a one-day workshop for traditional leaders in Sinda, Tuesday, under the theme: “Window of Hope in Sustainable Environmental Management,” Phiri said it was sad that Eastern and Southern Province were experiencing high rates of deforestation.

He challenged traditional leaders in the area to reverse the trend of deforestation, which is characterized by rampant tree-cutting and bush burning.

He told the traditional leaders, who were comprised of village headmen and indunas, that the deforestation rate is being championed by themselves, and that they are failing to take responsibility measures towards protecting the environment.

“As leaders, we have not done much in protecting the environment because we have seen trees being cut carelessly and we are very quiet to which in some cases we are also the culprits in deforestation. I have travelled in almost all the provinces and I have observed that, here in Eastern and Southern Province, we have high rate of deforestation. You can’t see much trees in these two areas and I would say we, as leaders, we have not done much because in some cases, we are the ones cutting down these trees,” Phiri complained.

He explained that as long deforestation is not controlled, the damage would affect future generations who will be negatively impacted by climate change.

“Deforestation will affect us and the incoming generation negatively such that we will have big ditches because of soil erosion, poor rainfall pattern and poverty levels will rise. If you see trees, then it’s a grave yard and soon even the same grave yards will be encroached soon,” Phiri cautioned.

He has challenged traditional leaders to establish stiff punishment that would be applied to culprits who are contributing to high rates of deforestation.

And Sinda District Commissioner Paradious Sakala, who was one of the facilitators of the workshop, asked traditional leaders to use the powers vested in them.

“As Sinda, we are about 180,000 people to which our major survival skill is agriculture, but [for] the same agriculture to be effective, we depend on good rainfall pattern, which has now become undependable because of what you and me we have done to nature. Now, we decided to call you leaders because you are the custodians of various communities to which you have the weapon of power to transform our communities, both in good and bad ways. Already, things are not okay in our areas concerning the environment, and we are here so that we put our heads together to see how we can revamp our destroyed environment with the deforestation systems, which in most cases are done carelessly,” Sakala explained.

“I believe we have a leadership problem in Sinda communities because in most cases, it’s us, the leaders, who seem not to know what we are supposed to do or what is our role is because we are very passive to the level where we fear our subjects than our subjects being respectful to us. A good leader should provide a vision to the people so that they are aware of what should be attained or achieved, but as long as a leader has no vision, then everything will be in shambles.”

He also took advantage to advise traditional leaders against bad morals or behavioural patterns, such as abusive language, drunkenness and dishonesty.

Community Market for Conservation (COMACO) officer Isaac Soko asked traditional leaders to partner with them to see how various communities can benefit from its activities.

“We shed tears when we see how our forest, environment has been destroyed, wasted by ourselves through the cutting down of trees, which has strongly affected every benefit that we deserve from the environment. We, therefore, want to join hands with you so that we see how we can replant trees in our communities and other activities that can revamp environment,” lamented Soko, who also appealed to participants to get engaged in bee hive keeping to source money other than charcoal burning.

The traditional leaders in attendance comprised of village headmen and indunas for the four chiefs in the area namely: Kathumba, Kawaza, Nyanje and Mbangombe.