The training comes barely a week after a pickup belonging to the department of forestry was smashed by charcoal vendors in Lilongwe as it attempted to carry charcoal confiscated from vendors where one forest ranger was severely injured in the process.
According to the director of forestry in the ministry of natural resources Dr Clement Chilima, the training gives hope that they will be able to protect forests, confiscate illegal forest products like firewood and charcoal and prosecute offenders.
“Sadly when vendors and illegal forest encroachers are brought before the court of law, many are given small fines due to lack of knowledge on the side of rangers on how they can tactfully testify when in the dock but this is set to change with the intensive training 70 rangers are undergoing at the Malawi College of Forestry and Wildlife in Dedza,” explained Dr Chilima.
He said government plans to have almost 30 rangers or more per region depending on the availability of funds.
“You know these are civil servants, so we are doing this exercise in bits because we also need approval from other authorities. But if given a chance we would have thousands.” added Chilima.
He emphasized that the coming in of the armed rangers is not in any way a departure from the agreement they have had with the Malawi defense force-MDF. “MDF soldiers are still there and producing wonders. But we really need to have people to understudy them because we can’t rely on them forever,” he said.
The training of the rangers covers skills on the use of guns, community engagement as well as prosecution tactics of offenders.
The training of the new rangers brings to almost 100 the number of forest rangers in the country.