Nkwichi Blog

The Trees of Lake Malawi

A glue for binding. A prophylaxis against hair-loss. Bark string. A cure for an upset stomach. Elias, one of Nkwichi’s inimitable local guides, reeled off a list of uses and properties of some of the local trees as we passed through the pristine savannah woodland, all with exotic-sounding names such as Kachamira (Fever Pod Tree), Mlombwa (African Teak) and Mpingu (African Blackwood).

Roots, bark, sap, leaves – so many uses from so many parts of the trees. There’s even a protection against asthma, when combining the sap of one tree with the root of another. This is something that’s so often missed when highlighting conservation in Africa. Many people discuss the environment as if it was solely there to support the wonderful wildlife of the continent, forgetting that it can be just as necessary for Africa’s most prolific fauna, its people, and offers a wealth of potential healthcare and practical help.

As the heat of the day intensified we made our way down the hillside to a nearby dry river bed. Resting from the exertions, both mental and physical, I thought of one of the simplest benefits of so many surrounding trees and one enjoyed by beasts and men throughout the ages – a welcome rest in the shade.