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Climate change

How Impoverished Communities in Malawi are Taking on Climate Change

Climate-induced droughts are wreaking havoc in Africa’s poorest nations where the impact of rising global temperatures is felt the most. In the last 36 years Malawi alone has experienced eight major droughts, affecting over 24 million people. For many, the current drought exacerbated by rising temperatures, is the worst on record.

Malawi is in one of the regions in the world most affected by climate change but one of those regions which has contributed to it least. The recurrent nature of extreme weather events such as drought and flooding make recovery difficult for communities who are already living hand-to-mouth.

Through the Climate Challenge Programme Malawi (CCPM), a Scottish Government funded programme, the Scottish Catholic international Aid Fund (SCIAF) and Trócaire and partners  are supporting and empowering Malawians to take the necessary action to reduce the devastating impacts of climate change and create more sustainable ways of living.

In Balaka district, in southern Malawi, small-scale farmers have started to adopt more viable agricultural practices such as agroecology to help them adapt to impacts of climate change, which has threatened their livelihoods and the ability to grow enough food to feed their families.

Madalena Mangadzuwa (45) is among 750 farmers who have benefited from agroecology training provided through Trócaire and our partner on the CCPM, Eagles Relief and Development Programme (Eagles). “The whole family depends on me for food and everything. Before we joined Eagles and Trócaire’s CCPM programme, our family used to experience food shortages every year after the harvest,” Madalena says.

Climate change has made farming harder in Malawi but for the past three years, Madalena and her family have increased their maize production from 300 Kgs to 550 Kgs through agroecological farming practices.

“The maize in the mulched field is not wilting and has good growth compared to other neighbouring fields with a conventional farming systemBy diversifying our maize farming with cow peas, sweet potatoes and pigeon peas this year, we are again expecting to be food secure this year and have income from the sale of surplus pigeon peas despite the dry spell that has hit our area badly.”

“Just imagine the past 15 years I have been farming without the knowledge of agroecology, I have really missed a lot,” she concludes.

The majority of rural communities in Malawi are experiencing ongoing food shortages due to the extreme weather conditions. According to the World Bank, average temperatures in Malawi have increased by an average rate of 0.21°C per decade. Sustainable farming is helping farmers like Madalena increase their crop productivity as well as growing their resilience to the effects of climate change. As a result of implementing changes to the way she farms, her family won’t go hungry after the harvest despite the extremely dry weather.

Solar panels are generating electricity and income in Malawi

Residents in rural parts of Malawi often face energy supply issues and access to cheap and clean electricity is limited as most are not connected to the public electricity grid (note: only about 10 % of households in Malawi have access to electricity). Working directly with communities in partnership with Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD), Trócaire as part of the Climate Challenge Programme Malawi (CCPM) installed two solar kiosks in the villages of Lodi and Msoma in Machinga district in southern Malawi. The solar kiosk is a shared facility which is owned and run by the communities themselves. The profits are banked by the ‘village savings and loans’ committee and this money is used to pay for running costs and maintenance of the solar kiosk.

The solar kiosks have had a transformative effect on the two villages and currently power a barber shop, a small grocery shop, a study hall and a small cinema where locals can go to watch football games. At a cost of $6,000 USD per solar kiosk, an entire village of over 50 households is benefitting from their new electricity portal.

Jam Jamus, Lodi’s Village Chief, said the success of the solar kiosk is only the start: “We want the business to grow so that this village becomes the place people come to from all around when they need something. We are building new shops that will sell fish and vegetables and we want to become a main trading centre for all the nearby villages.”

Florence Katusi, a member of the committee, said she has made 60.000 Malawian Kwacha ($79, more than three times the average monthly income) thanks to her involvement in selling doughnuts and drinks. “It works because we work as a team, we decide what to do. With the kiosk, we are all leaders in the group and we need to branch out like this. Climate change has made farming harder so we can’t depend on the harvest alone.”

The frequency of climate-related crises in Malawi is increasing and is a serious threat to the long-term prosperity of the country. Eighty-four per cent of Malawians are currently living in rural areas and are farmers by trade and without the support of initiatives like the Climate Challenge Programme Malawi, many would not be equipped with the necessary skills to survive the harsh reality of global climate change.

About Climate Challenge Programme Malawi (CCPM)

The CCPM is an integrated programme of climate related community-based activities with a focus on food, water, and energy. CCPM’s goal is to improve community resilience to current and future climate change effects by developing and implementing community led adaptation strategies and measures that will improve agricultural production and rural livelihoods through connections between food, water and energy. Trócaire in close collaboration with partner organisations, Catholic Development Commission (CADECOM) National Office, Mangochi and Zomba, Circle for Integrated Community Development (CICOD), Civil Society Network on Climate Change (CISONECC), Churches Action, Relief and Development (CARD) and Eagles Relief and Development Programme (EAGLES)is implementing the Climate Challenge Programme Malawi (CCPM) in Balaka, Chikwawa, Machinga and Zomba districts, with financial support from the Scottish Government through the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).

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