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On climate change

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Climate change remains a global concern and for valid reasons; the devastating events on the world are apparent and escalating alarmingly. If not tactfully handled, it will result in a more devastating catastrophe than we are prepared to fathom and, as a country, we have not been spared.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 states that the world needs to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts key words being ‘urgent action’. Naturally, Malawi has joined the fight against climate change following the drastic effects the phenomenon has already had on the country in recent years.

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Erratic weather patterns and recurrent floods have wreaked havoc in the country the past few years, leading to growing panic over food security and economic stability, considering that the country’s economy is largely agro-based. As we are speaking, we have different weather patterns every other week; ‘June in October’, ‘December in April’ are some of the new terms that have come about because of climate change.

Climate change is real. It should not be taken as one of those projects that are nicely decorated on paper with a pompous launch, and a few weeks down the line, conveniently shelved as life goes back to business as usual.

One obstacle to the development needs around climate change apparent in Malawi is that funds everywhere – be it the public or private sector – continuously find their way into people’s deep pockets. Greed has triumphed over the quest to build our nation. Worse, nobody seems to care.

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The country is plagued by a serious moral and leadership vacuum at every level. This vacuum is threatening to bring our nation to its knees. Leadership in the country seems to be more interested in their own pockets instead of the welfare of the constituents and the country at large

Considering the pathetic state the country is in, this is an alarming development. The greed is leaving us ill-equipped to tackle the enormous challenges posed by climate change.

Looking at Malawi

At the grassroots level, Malawi, as a country, needs to aggressively rectify the current challenges related to climate change while developing insurance and security for the future.

Let us take, for instance, the devastating floods in the past few years, especially in the Shire Valley. The question now is: Are people in the Shire Valley ready for the rainy season? Or should we expect that taxpayers’ money is again going to be used to rescue people from the same places they have been rescued from before? Isn’t this a painfully continuous but avoidable vicious cycle?

With the current food insecurity, are farmers waiting to plant this year using the same methods and same varieties as of 20 decades ago, miraculously hoping the rains will fall in a pattern they long stopped following? Are we still going to rely on the same staple food? Or are we going to revolutionise our palates to survive? Food security is a survival issue and those that adapt to change are the ones that survive.

O n n a t u r a l resources, are we waiting for trees to magically replenish themselves? Are we still hoping for a miracle to clean up our streams and rivers? The natural streams in our cities that would have added value to our natural cycles are now toxin-infested.

We talk about alternative energy sources but how available is solar energy to the average Malawian? How many Malawians can sustainably and safely use cooking gas in their homes?

Implementing SDG 13

In Malawi, we have a lot of well-meaning organisations and equally well-meaning government ministries. The challenge always comes in in terms of implementation and thorough monitoring and evaluation and quality control.

On the other hand, the powers-that be have to appreciate the need for aggressive civic education on change. We can have all the best projects, insights and plans for the country but without civic education progress will be elusive.

Some of the targets under SDG 13 are to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries; to integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning; and to improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.

Civic education is especially important in a country such as Malawi where the majority of people live below the poverty line and many are illiterate. The rural masses have limited access to information and limited understanding of available information calling for continued efforts to include them in comprehensive information channels.

The fight against climate change needs to be a fight that is ingrained in our everyday value systems if we are to achieve meaningful success in this regard.

I rest my case.

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