I welcome you to this Press Briefing. I would like, through you Members of the Press, to inform the nation on the high level of encroachments on Forest Reserves.
Government has observed with great concern that almost all the four hundred and seventy-three (473) Forest Reserves are encroached and people are conducting various activities within the Protected Forest Areas. Settlements, cultivation and mining are some of the activities observed.
You may want to know that Forest Reserves, whether National Forests, Local Forests or Botanical Reserves are declared as such for specific reasons.
Please note that all land in Forest Reserves shall be used for:
i. the security of forest resources;
ii. conservation and protection of ecosystems, particularly land, wildlife and water supplies of strategic importance;
iii. improved forest resource management and sustainable utilisation of forest resources at both national and local level; and
iv. the management of major water catchments and headwaters; and
v. meeting the social, cultural and economic needs of the local community.
I want to take this opportunity to warn all those individuals or entities that have encroached on Forest Reserves and are conducting various activities without a permit or license issued by the Forestry Department that they are doing so against the provisions of the Forests Act of 2015.
I therefore direct that such activities must immediately stop. All those who will ignore this directive will face the full force of the Law.
In this regard, I hereby direct the Director of Forestry to serve eviction notices to all those who have encroached on the Forest reserves to move out immediately. For those that are cultivating various crops, they should be directed to move out after harvesting their crops of the current growing season.
This is a national issue. Regardless of political affiliation and status all must take heed of this timely warning as My Ministry shall not spare anyone.
The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources will collaborate with other Government Agencies to ensure that this directive is adhered to.
I also want to take this opportunity to inform the nation that I will soon be issuing a Community Forest Management Statutory Instrument in the first quarter of 2018. This will allow local communities to participate in sustainable forest management.
The Ministry is working with Cooperating Partners, particularly the Government of Finland, Global Environmental Facility and United States Agency for International Development, to establish about forty thousand (40,000) hectares as Community Forests in Muchinga, Northwestern and Central Provinces.
This is in line with the Seventh National Development Plan (2016-2021) focusing on an integrated approach to development without leaving anyone behind.
I thank you and God Bless.