Letter from Mzuzu, Malawi


A few weeks ago, jacarandas were in full bloom in Malawi, reminding everyone of the beauty that once adorned the main street when it was bathed in jacaranda purple. In 2018, many cities across Malawi decided to significantly reduce the number of jacarandas lining their streets. Reflecting on the few that remain, people often express sadness over the loss and the apparent lack of concern for these trees. However, both sentiments are misguided. Firstly, at 60 years old, a jacaranda is actually in its prime and didn’t need to be cut down. Secondly, people do care deeply: they mourn the loss of these trees and fondly recall how they enriched the town with their shade and vibrant colors.

Mzuzu Highway
Mzuzu – once known as the ‘Green City of Malawi’

This sentiment is particularly strong in Mzuzu, where a petition was swiftly presented to the city council following the removal of 50 healthy trees. The message was clear: “These trees were not yours to cut down, but to care for.” And the city listened. They replanted the jacarandas. While the new trees are still young and small, some have already bloomed bravely and unexpectedly. These young trees have withstood numerous challenges, including demonstrations where they were deliberately spared. This shows that people genuinely care and yearn for Mzuzu to regain its former verdant and colorful glory – not just in purple from jacarandas, but also in red from flame trees, yellow from cassias, and, most importantly, in abundant green – for the once Green City to be green again!

In the coming weeks, we plan to delve deeper into the topics of “city trees,” “urban and peri-urban forests,” and green spaces. There is both a need and space for these discussions. People deserve to live in green spaces, not only because they appreciate them, but also because of the numerous benefits they bring.


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