Faced with the massive effects of climate change, Malawians of all ilk have become diminutive beings, dwarfed by the negative effects of floods, unpredictable rainfall patterns and other calamities, all of which attributed to climate change.
However, Malawians are not suffering in the anonymity of their minds; the calamity that has befallen Malawians has befallen the world, and, for the most part, world players seem to be united in the purpose of alleviating suffering associated with climate change.
Even global powers such as United Kingdom (UK) are no longer treating climate change and its effects on, for instance, farmers in Malawi as a soft-handed conceit not worth their attention.
The goal, apparently, is to ensure that the battle against climate change, which for some time looked like it would end in tragedy for the human race, may, without fail, end in triumph.
It is for this reason that the UK Minister of Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who visited the country from Tuesday to Friday last week, promised continued support to Malawi’s climate adaptation programme being implemented in some parts of the country.
On the second day of her four-day visit to Malawi, the minister, who is also the international Champion for Adaptation and Resilience for Conference of Parties (CoP)26 engaged with community members in Balaka District, where the Promoting Sustainable Partnerships for Empowered Resilience Project is being implemented under UK’s Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change Programme.
‘‘It has been a pleasure to be able to visit the whole area and see the watershed programme that has been going on from the top of the hill and the control measures being followed on the landscape. We promise more support because, honestly, I feel like being in the Garden of Eve to see people having the second crop with all sorts of vegetables which are good for the nutrition of their families. This is good because I have seen how non-governmental organisations, the local council and the hard-working farmers are coming together for the common goal,’’ she said.
Trevelyan also saw elements of climate-smart agriculture at first hand, involving interventions such as solar water pump irrigation, land restoration and village savings and loan groups.
On his part, World Food Programme (WFP) Malawi Country Director Paul Turnbull said the programme was helping people in surrounding areas achieve household food security.
‘‘This is a very interesting project because it has a community and household aspect. This helps to improve the land and improve the way water runs into the soil and protects the soil, and that has contributed to villages being able to grow vegetables and other crops. Apart from that, it has made the people diversify their diet from the food they are cultivating,’’ Turnbull said.
No wonder, Balaka District Commissioner McDonald Kadammanja has commended WFP, the UK and other players for implementing the programmes in the district.
Malawi is particularly vulnerable to climate change, given its narrow economic base, high dependence on rain-fed agriculture, overreliance on biomass for household energy and weak institutional capacity.
Malawi’s vulnerability to climate change is also exacerbated by high population growth, rapid deforestation and widespread soil erosion.
Eighty one percent of Malawians rely on rain-fed agriculture, which is increasingly risky under changing rainfall patterns and high rates of environmental degradation.
The UK has been helping Malawi to implement effective adaptation and resilience strategies, including through better natural resource management, sustainable livelihoods and disaster risk management; and increasing private sector investment in renewable energy, among other interventions.
As the International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience, Trevelyan lead discussions between national governments, the international community and business on adaptation and resilience.
Her visit to Malawi supports the country’s efforts to lobby for ambitious emissions reduction from developed countries, which are mostly high emitters, and more support and transfer of resources (funds and technology) for adaptation and resilience to Least Developed Countries.
From late 2016 to early 2017, Malawi was hit by El Nino, with prolonged dry spells resulting in one-third of the population being in dire need of food assistance.
More recently, in March 2019, the country was hit by Cyclone Idai, affecting over 800,000 people and causing an estimated $220 million in loss and damages.
Of course, nobody would have avoided the catastrophe that was Cyclone Idai but, at least, some weather phenomena are predictable. This is why the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) is able to offer weather forecasting services.
Understanding the need for weather forecast services, the UK government, through Trevelyan, last week donated state-of-the-art equipment to the department so that it can improve the provision of meteorological services.
Trevelyan handed over the equipment, which DCCMS Director Jolam Nkhokwe described as “the beginning of a new era in the dissemination of weather forecast information”.
The UK minister pledged to continue supporting the department’s operations.
“We continue to ensure that everyone has access to latest information on weather and the donation is our commitment to the same. A robust early warning system is one way of building a nation whose citizenry is resilient to climate change and disasters. As such, weather information is a key element to that,” Trevelyan said.
Forestry and Natural Resources Minister Nancy Tembo was thrilled.
She said the equipment would make Malawi better placed to share accurate information with the rest of the world at a time weather was becoming ever more unpredictable.
“If accurate information on weather is disseminated, it will help those in authority prepare well for eventualities. We thank the UK government for the gesture,” Tembo said.
The UK has, of late, become unrelenting in its quest for global action on climate-related issues.
Just on Monday this week, it called for urgent global action in response to a United Nations report published on August 9 this year. The report indicated that the planet has warmed more than previously estimated.
A statement, which British High Commission Communications Manager Benson Linje issued, indicated that the UK made the following observations from the report: “This latest report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a stark warning from scientists around the world that human activity is damaging the planet at an alarming rate. The report warns that climate change is already affecting every region across the globe and that without urgent action to limit warming, heat waves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and loss of Arctic Sea ice, snow cover and permafrost, will all increase while carbon sinks will become less effective at slowing the growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” the statement reads.
It adds that the report highlights that cutting global emissions, starting immediately, to net zero by mid-century, would give a good chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C in the long-term and help to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was equally in action mood.
He observed that the report made for sobering reading, further indicating that it was clear that the next decade was going to be pivotal to securing the future of the planet.
“We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline. The UK is leading the way, decarbonising our economy faster than any country in the G20 over the last two decades. I hope today’s IPCC report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical CoP26 summit.
“As extreme events are felt across the globe, from wildfires in North America to floods in China, across Europe, India and parts of Africa, and heat waves in Siberia, CoP President Alok Sharma has been negotiating with governments and businesses to increase global climate ambition and take immediate action to help halve global emissions in the next decade and reach net zero emissions by mid-century in order to keep the 1.5C goal set out in the Paris Agreement within reach,” he said.
Johnson indicated that his government was already showing leadership with clear plans to reduce its emissions by 68 percent by 2030 and 78 percent by 2035, leading to net zero by 2050.
“Today, more than 70 percent of the world’s economy is now covered by a net zero target – up from 30 percent when the UK took over the incoming CoP Presidency. May saw the establishment of the first net zero G7, with all countries coming forward with 2030 emission reduction targets that put them on a pathway to reaching this goal by 2050. However, today’s report shows that more action is urgently needed.
“Some progress has been made since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. More than 85 new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions to 2030, representing over 110 parties, have been submitted to set out how countries will cut their emissions and address the climate crisis,” he added.
Surely, the world cannot afford to lose focus for a moment, especially because climate change effects are already on us.
As Tembo— who, in President Lazarus Chakwera’s Cabinet, is the political face of efforts aimed at stemming effects of climate change in Malawi aptly puts it, “time for action is now”.