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On the front lines of Climate Change in Malawi

15 November 2019

Climate change is already a harsh reality in Malawi. Trócaire is supporting local communities to adapt and cope with the extreme and unpredictable weather. 2FM DJ Keith Walsh visited a water project to see how new water pumps have provided safe clean water to families on the frontlines.

Fastino Kimwendo, 58, shows 2fm DJ Keith Walsh the unprotected water source the village were using before they got the pump.  Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Fastino Kimwendo, 58, shows 2fm DJ Keith Walsh the unprotected water source the village were using before they got the pump. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.


‘This is climate change. The weather has got windier and more unpredictable. Life is very stressful here now,’ says Fastino Kimwendo, 58.
 
Fastino’s village in Zomba and his country, Malawi, are unquestionably on the frontlines of climate change, bearing the brunt of floods and droughts.
 
On the night of March 8, 2019 when Cyclone Idai hit, Fastino says, ‘we ran to upper areas to escape. We then registered in temporary camps.’
 
The villagers received support from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Programme Malawi (CCPM) when the cyclone hit. The CCPM is administered by SCIAF and is being implemented by Trócaire, in partnership with eight local partners. They received blankets, buckets, sweet potato, cassava, and maize seeds. 
 
The Cyclone destroyed many of their crops and livestock and damaged their homes. In Malawi, over 850,000 people were affected by the Cyclone and nearly 87,000 people had to leave their homes.
 
Fastino says 'our crops were washed away during the floods.' Fastino has four children, a son and three daughters, his oldest son is twenty years old. He says, 'at the time of the floods, the water was up to my shoulders. We used boats to get the kids to the camp.'

A dried up Lake - the stark face of Climate Change

There are several boats in the community because it is just a few miles from Lake Chilwa. It is here that we see the flip side of climate change. The increase in temperature in Malawi has led to a frequent drying out of Lake Chilwa, once a great source of food and jobs for people in this area.
 
Climate change in Malawi has led to an increase in extreme, intense rainfall and flooding and an increase in hot days and dry periods. The country is currently on track for five degrees of global warming this century without a radical reduction in carbon emissions. This will be catastrophic for the people of Malawi. The vast majority of households here are headed by small farmers who depend on reliable rainfall and fertile soils to get by.  Malawi’s own carbon emissions are eighty times less than Ireland’s.

Fresh water gives hope in a grim year

Chrisy Kimwendo from Chilipaine, Zomba, Malawi. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Chrissy Kimwendo from Chilipaine, Zomba, Malawi. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Chrissy Kimwendo and her friend Gilda Nasiyaya lost their houses during Cyclone Idai. We visited their village at a time when they finally had something to celebrate in what has been a harrowing year. Chrissy says, ‘here the village had a problem with water. We were travelling a very long distance. When people were facing this challenge, we dug this unprotected well and used this water for domestic work, drinking and cooking and whatever. And this was unprotected and goats and livestock were also using this water.

Gilda Nasiyaya using the new water pump in her village in Zomba Malawi installed with the support of Trócaire by CADECOM. Photo: Alan Whelan / Trócaire

Gilda Nasiyaya using the new water pump in her village in Zomba Malawi installed with the support of Trócaire by CADECOM. Photo: Alan Whelan / Trócaire.

Chrisy Kimwendo from Chilipaine, Zomba, Malawi uses the village's new water pump. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Chrissy Kimwendo from Chilipaine, Zomba, Malawi uses the village's new water pump. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

'We didn’t have any other option, but with CADECOM coming in, we asked them to provide these water pumps and they decided on it and we were very happy.'

Left to Right: Chrisy Kimwendo , Pyson Gomani, Catherine Jasten,    Esitile, Usanje , Malita Chikanyowa, Fastino Kimwendo, Gilda Nasiyaya, and Chafles Baulen,  community members in Zomba Malawi have suffered through flooding and drought this year. Picture

Left to Right: Chrisy Kimwendo , Pyson Gomani, Catherine Jasten, Esitile, Usanje , Malita Chikanyowa, Fastino Kimwendo, Gilda Nasiyaya, and Chafles Baulen, community members in Zomba Malawi have suffered through flooding and drought this year. Pictured celebrating the installation of a new water pump. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire

Trócaire partner CADECOM Zomba installed this new water source just three weeks before we visited in September. It is already having a big impact on the community. 'We are more happy because we are using safe water and it’s a short distance so it takes less time to come here' says Chrissy. 'We have more time and we use this water for our crops. I have planted vegetables, chinese cabbage, and onions.'

Fastino Kimwendo is the chairman of the village committee for this project. Through Trócaire's project, he and two others have been trained in how to fix the well. 'This project has changed our lives' says Fastino. 

Fastino Kimwendo, 58, Chairman of the village committee for the water pump project in Chilipaine, Zomba, Malawi. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Fastino Kimwendo, 58, Chairman of the village committee for the water pump project in Chilipaine, Zomba, Malawi. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.


Water projects like this can transform the lives of whole communities, like here in Malawi.

RTE 2FM DJ Keith Walsh with community members in Zomba Malawi who have suffered through flooding and drought this year. Pictured celebrating the installation of a new water pump. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire

RTE 2FM DJ Keith Walsh with community members in Zomba Malawi who have suffered through flooding and drought this year. Pictured celebrating the installation of a new water pump. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Keith Walsh with Kingsile. Community members in this village in Zomba have received a new water pump. Photo: Alan Whelan / Trócaire.

RTE 2FM DJ Keith Walsh with Kingsile. Community members in this village in Zomba have received a new water pump. Photo: Alan Whelan / Trócaire.

This Christmas, you can give the Gift of Water for €100/£85 and your Gift will go to providing water pumps, irrigation, water conservation and recycling facilities to some of the world's poorest communities.