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Climate change effects batter Malawi

It may not be an apocalypse yet but climate change is exacting such a deadly toll on this nation that Malawi’s efforts to get out of poverty are in real jeopardy, evidence shows.

From agriculture to health, energy to environment, from housing to rural development, transport to education, not a single sector of national development is safe from the wrecking climate change – directly or indirectly.

And the climate change bow is letting go its bloody arrows so hard on ordinary populations of the country.

Patuma Pichesi, 73, a rice farmer in Ntaja area along the Lake Chilwa plains, has watched climate change savage the face of her area and destroy human lives in her community.

When she was a girl, she said, Lake Chilwa “came to us”, meaning the lake’s waters swathed through the plains to her village, making rice farming easier and more productive.

“[But] in the past 40 years, we have been following the lake instead. Now we can’t run after it anymore because the lake has receded too much,” she said from her home in Suwedi Village, Traditional Authority Sitola in Machinga. As a result, her piece of land where she has been growing rice for over 30 years now is not well watered.

This has led to her annual rice harvest dwindling from between 25 and 30 bags of 50 kilogrammes each to eight or 12 bags as of the past five growing seasons.

And when rains fail, which she said happens frequently these days, the harvest is distressful.

Now she cannot afford to sell what she harvests or she risks keeping his family of six orphaned grandchildren hungry very early in the year.

This also means she has to look elsewhere for money with which to meet other requirements for the household, including supplementary food to see the family through to the next growing season.

That is proving hard, she said.

“Who can employ an old woman like me? And what work would I look for?” she said, looking at this reporter rather bleakly.

“If the situation continues like this, I feel sorry for my grandchildren,” she told The Sunday Times in December.

And as El-Nino threatens, the pall which climate change is casting on this nation is hard to ignore.

Climate scientists predict dire weather patterns around the world as a result of El-Nino, a phenomenon associated with climate change.

Already, Southern Africa is suffering the worst drought in many years. Last year, Tanzania shut down two of its power stations due to low water levels, BBC reported.

In Malawi, Escom is struggling to ensure reliable electricity supply.

It attributes this to low water levels in the Shire River where Escom power stations are located.

For Malawi, the 2016 El-Nino impacts will present a doublebarreled trouble as the country is still struggling to recover from the devastating floods and droughts of last season.

The 2015 floods affected 1.1 million people in 15 districts. They displaced 230,000 people, killed 106 people and damaged 64,000 hectares of crop fields.

According to the Malawi 2015 Floods Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), the floods exacted damages and losses estimated at $335 million.

The housing sector suffered the highest damage at $136.4 million.

The damage for the agriculture sector was calculated at the cost $54.4 million.

The PDNA report pegged losses in the transport and water and sanitation at $50.4 million and US$18.9 million, respectively.

It estimated the cost of reconstruction needs to be over $494 million.

Addressing the nation on December 29 on disasters, President Peter Mutharika sounded a stark warning that climate change is “the biggest threat of our time.”

“It is real and it is here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future. Climate change threatens our ability to feed ourselves, to remain healthy and safe from extreme weather and to manage the natural resources that support our economies,” he said.

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