By Bester Kayaye
In an effort to enhance visibility of Malawi’s mountains on the global tourism network, government says it is set to commemorate this year’s International Mountain Day (IMD) on December 11, 2021 on Zomba plateau, one of the country’s source of inspiration.
Zomba plateau is a unique wilderness standing one foot in the city of Zomba (Malawi’s former capital city) and the other in the remote part of Zomba district. It attracts varying levels of visitors because of its fresh, clean air, diverse landscape and rich biodiversity.
Macpherson Nthara, the Chief Land Resource and Conservation Officer in the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources, says the commemoration to be cerebrated under the theme: “Sustainable Mountain Tourism – A Call for Action Towards the 2030 Agenda for Mountains” is aimed at promoting and supporting long-lasting initiatives for sustainable mountain conservation and development in Malawi.
The event, which is being coordinated by the World Mountain Partnership, will be led by a taskforce of local stakeholders drawn from the ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources, Tourism, Culture and Wildlife.
“Mountains are an integral part of the tourism sector in Malawi considering that a number of tourist attraction sites in Malawi are located on mountains,” says Nthara who explained the country’s intention to promote the economic sustainability of mountains and the tourism industry as a whole.
“Mountains host a wide range of ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, rivers and wetlands. These contain a wide range of biodiversity which is a vital source of food, medicine and for tourism,” he observes but is also quick to note that despite their importance, mountains have received little attention in national discussions focusing on the environmental and developmental issues.
The Zomba massif is touted for its cedar, pine and cypress plantations as well as the wild vegetation, fresh water streams, tumbling waterfalls and still lake-like dams.
Visitors enjoy scenic viewpoints, hiking, trekking and walking where they may have the chance to encounter or catch a sight of wildlife including leopards, giant butterflies, baboons as well as have specular time enjoying the unique birdlife and trout fishing
Nthara stresses the need for the country to recognize the ecosystems services provided by mountains and intensify efforts aimed at conserving them whilst implementing a localized agenda of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to which Malawi is part of.
As part of increasing awareness on the importance of mountains for the health of the planet and well-being of billions of people, activities lined up for the day include hiking trips, tree planting exercises, press briefings and a panel discussion on “Sustainable Mountain Tourism’’ where experts in tourism and environmental sectors will talk on the need to safeguard mountain ecosystems and will highlight the tourism potential in mountains.