Research Highlights: Most of Malawi’s land area has been deforested; however, expansive indigenous forests remain in the remote Misuku Hills in Malawi’s northern region. Despite its conservation potential, this region of Malawi has been overlooked in forestry conservation research. Background and Objectives: The Misuku Hills is one the most floristically diverse regions in Malawi, but this region is facing similar pressures and forestry policy enforcement challenges that drive deforestation of other regions. This study therefore addresses the questions: What are the forestry policy challenges and opportunities for forest conservation in Malawi? What conservation activities are taking place in the Misuku Hills in support of these policies? What ecosystem services are residents using that are in need of protection? Materials and Methods: A comprehensive inventory and review of the national forest policies and current programs in the Misuku Hills region was compiled through document reviews and communications with governmental and non-governmental stakeholders. A Photovoice exercise was conducted with residents of Chikutu village to create an inventory of resident-identified ecosystem services. Results: While there is an impressive array of policies in place to protect the forests of Malawi, there is little institutionalization or enforcement of these policies. There have been funded conservation programs in the Misuku Hills, but these have been limited to the areas surrounding the three small public forest reserves. The Photovoice exercise revealed that residents rely on an abundance of forest ecosystem services to support their livelihoods, including food, medicine, and timber products. Conclusions: The challenges to conserving forests and their ecosystem services are being met at a local level in a variety of creative ways in the Misuku Hills (e.g., tree planting, beekeeping) that could be used as community-based models for other areas in Africa and elsewhere, where people depend directly on these services to meet daily needs.
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