By Watipaso Mzungu:
Two decades ago, Emmanuel Manda-Mithi used to harvest over 50 kilogramme bags of maize per growing season on his piece of land in Matola- Kampaliro Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kaluluma, in Kasungu District.
That is no longer the case as he yields an average of six or seven bags on the same piece of land.
“I struggle to provide adequate food and nutrition for my 10-member family,” he says.
Manda-Mithi is one of the smallholder farmers grappling with adverse effects of climate change in Malawi.
Climate change has disrupted food availability, reduced access to food, and affected food quality, agricultural and weather experts say.
Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) head of programmes, Alfred Kambwiri, notes that climate change in Malawi has seriously affected agricultural production and productivity, affecting food and nutrition security of the majority of Malawians, including the economy.
Kambwiri emphasises that agriculture remains the mainstay of Malawi’s economy, contributing significantly to employment, economic growth, export earnings, poverty reduction and food security.
The industry also plays a critical role in ensuring sustainable use of natural resources.
“However, Malawi, just like other sub-Saharan African countries, has been particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts through a combination of exposure and low adaptive capacity.
Additionally, the rural poor, which makes up over 80 percent of smallholder farmers, are the least able to adapt to climate change,”
He warns that without action, climate change will impact nutrition through decreased food quantity and access, decreased dietary diversity and decreased food nutritional content.
National Engagement Strategy chairperson, Dickens Mahwayo, states that adverse effects of climate change are becoming more frequent, variable and intense as they are exacerbated by climatic shocks like droughts, flash floods, hurricanes and cyclones.
However, Mahwayo fears that the country is not doing enough to mitigate these effects.
“It is evident that in all efforts, there are missing links in this interconnected drive. The efforts seem to be uniquely undermined by concurrent negative impacts of not having harmonised policies with special emphasis on climate compatible development and green economy, hence it is one of the unmet needs as far as sustainable development change is concerned,” he explains.
Mahwayo cites the National Adaptation Programs of Action, Climate Change Communications Strategies, National Disaster Risk Management policy and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions as some instruments and interventions government and other stakeholders have failed to utilise in tackling climate change.
“Furthermore, these policy instruments and interventions do not talk to each other. The other challenge is lack of participatory research and demonstration, delayed policy implementation and financing, poor approach, planning and investment, which have left out smallholder farmers in efforts to mitigate effects of climate change,” he narrates.
Save the Children Malawi Senior Manager responsible for advocacy and communications, Edith Tsilizani, agrees that climate change poses a serious threat to agricultural production, leading to increasing prevalence of nutrition insecurity in a country.
Tsilizani observes that when there is adverse climate change, crops will not do well, resulting in poor harvest.
“And when there is poor harvest, prices of foodstuffs rise to levels that poor families cannot manage. This leads to malnutrition at household as well as national level,” she explains.
Tsilizani, therefore, encourages farmers to seek extension services in an effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.