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Surviving pangs of climate change

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By Jarson Malowa:

CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECT—Floods

Battered left, right and centre, the people of Zomba have had enough of climate change.

The sense of desperation is prevalent in the areas of village heads Mateketa and Muhiliri, where the ground is bare and open to weather extremes.

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When it is sunny, the ground literally burns, killing crops and other fragile living things.

On a windy day, the little that remains of trees turns this or that side, without any trees to shield them from extreme winds.

When it rains, there are no shields to keep the soil in place.

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Faced with these realities, Mateketa and Muhilili’s subjects have been searching for answers.

Those who are educated have searched in the books. Those who have been to other countries have tried to recall long-lost experiences in the hope that, perhaps, they would find something that resembles a solution.

“With little success,” Mateketa says.

The traditional leader says answers to local problems cannot be found abroad.

“In fact, we found the solution to extreme weather conditions ourselves. The solution is in the form of a resource we take for granted: trees. Yes, trees. Trees can save us from weather extremes such as extreme sunlight, heavy rains, extreme winds. Trees solve just about problem,” Mateketa says.

In fact, subjects of Mateketa and Muhilili have been planting trees for the past 10 years, which has taught them that planting trees is one thing; taking care of them, a completely different thing.

It all begun when, in 2006, they were tipped by agriculture extension workers and facilitators on how to plant trees and take care of them.

This came after stakeholders observed that climate change was beginning to bite the areas in question.

Fifty-three-year-old Lonnex Mitambo is one of the people who have found a new pleasure in planting trees.

“We lost a lot of trees to charcoal sellers and construction houses at one point in time, and we were beginning to suffer the consequences. At the point of our desperation, agriculture extension workers came and taught us ways of beating climate change,” he says.

Fortunately, children in the area have joined the cause.

Among other things, community members have established woodlots, where they plant tree seedlings.

“We have a nursery at Phiri la Afisi, where 10,000 trees we planted recently are flourishing. We want to mitigate the impact of climate change,” Mitambo says.

Just like Mitambo, 33-year-old Size Bwanaisa joined the cause, albeit five years ago, and is reaping the benefits.

“I have benefitted from the initiative, which is a component of the Adapt Plan initiative,” he says.

Forestry assistant officer for traditional authorities (T/As) M’biza and Ngwelero in Zomba, Patrick Makupete, says, since the initiative was introduced to the area, community members have been taking turns in caring for trees.

The initiative does not target tree planting only.

As some people are involved in regeneration initiatives, eight groups have embarked on bee keeping in the area of T/A M’biza in Zomba, thanks, again, to the Adapt Plan Project funded by Global Environmental Facility through the United Nations Development Programme.

The groups earn up to K600,000 every six months after selling honey.

The groups are Matiya, Nambila, Chikomwe, Phiri la Mpanda, Phiri la Afisi, Mlangale, Ching’anda and Muonekera.

“We formed nurseries after officials from Adapt Plan offered us beehives, tubes, uniforms, trees and all the necessary equipment used for extracting honey from hives,” says Stoneck Kapate, a member of Matiya Bee-keeping group.

Those who are not interested in bee-keeping and tree planting have an activity they enjoy: fish farming.

By July this year, members of one group generated K362,000 after selling fish.

“If we raise fish, we sell them at different markets and buy food and relish for our families,” says Chimwemwe Phatama, one of the beneficiaries.

Assistant Fisheries Officer under Zomba Agriculture Development Division, Great Munthali, says their goals are being met.

“We train people in many areas because we want them to develop resilience to climate change,” he says.

So long as the beneficiaries do not go back to their old ways of careless felling down of trees, climate change may as well be ready for burial.

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