LILONGWE, Malawi 25th March, 2022 (AEJ) - Malawi has experienced an increase in the frequency, intensity, and magnitude of extreme weather events over the last two decades. The country is particularly vulnerable to floods, droughts, and strong winds associated with tropical cyclones.
Modelling of future climate change scenarios by experts indicate that the country will experience substantive medium and long-term changes to temperature and rainfall patterns, which will further increase the impact of extreme events.
True to climate scientists’ prediction, in January 2022 the country experienced tropical storm ANA which led to a loss of lives and caused large scale devastation to public infrastructure facilities such as roads and bridges, property such as houses and livestock and destruction of power generation equipment.
Low laying Chikwawa district was the hardest hit. The main road was cut-off at three points rendering the two districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje inaccessible. Ferrying goods and provision of services including humanitarian aid to all these districts became impossible.
Chikwawa District Commissioner, Mr. Alie Phiri pleaded with authorities for speedy rehabilitation of the road to facilitate delivery of humanitarian support to people.
The agriculture sector suffered the greatest loss as a result of the cyclone, with devastating impacts on livelihoods. Most smallholder farmers in Malawi are resource poor with very limited capacity to contain shocks arising from climate change effects.
Estimates from the Department of Disaster Management Affairs as of early February showed that a total population of 946,000 people had been affected in the agriculture sector, and the affected included 107,000 farming families, 18,500 livestock keepers. In addition, 115,500 hectares of crops were lost and 51,100 livestock affected.
The three days of continuous rains from January 22nd onwards also resulted in reduced power supply at national level from around 385.8 megawatts down to around 194 megawatts as hydropower generation sites were affected, worsening service delivery in the already challenged sector.
Expert reactions after cyclone ANA
Tawachi Kaseghe, a climate resource specialist of the Weather Chasers Group observed that negative impacts of climate change appear to be on the rise.
“Tropical storm ANA has taught us a lesson as life almost came to a halt in the two affected districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje. Tropical storm ANA audited our adaptation approach and effectiveness as a nation. We were found lacking in our health, roads and other transportation infrastructure, education, housing, settlement and land usage systems as examples” noted Kaseghe with reference to the post cyclone impact. He added that increased access to climate information is critical to help Malawians avert such catastrophes posed by cyclones.
Dr. Katharine Vincent, of Kulima Integrated Development Solutions, and who has been conducting studies on climate adaptation in Malawi, observed that it is future water availability that needs to be carefully considered for agriculture because irrigation is often considered to be the silver bullet to manage low rainfall.
“Conservation agriculture is very effective for managing dry conditions; and nature-based solutions in agriculture, or regenerative agriculture, that considers the health of an ecosystem to be able to grow food, will also enable adaptation efforts” she explained.
According to Vincent the key with all adaptation is to make early decisions. Vincent referred to the recent report of Working Group 2 of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change 6th Assessment Report, which highlights that there is potential for adaptation but that the window for it is rapidly closing with higher temperatures.
Stacia Nordin, a registered dietician at the Never-Ending Food and Permaculture organization called for behavioural change and action among Malawians.
“We need to change our mindsets, systems (designs, plans, policies), and actions behaviours and habits,” Nordin was quick to respond.
“Instead, we need massive biodiversity, revive indigenous resources that are being lost, restore balance and sustainable systems thinking and behaviour in all we do,” she noted as she sounded the alarm.
All three researchers underlined the need to mainstream climate concerns into development.
Mainstreaming climate in development
In June 2021, the World Bank Group announced its new Climate Change Action Plan 2021-2025 that aims to deliver record levels of climate finance to developing countries, help to reduce emissions, strengthen adaptation, and align financial flows with the goals of the Paris Agreement. One of the commitments of the Plan is to implement a new diagnostic tool – the Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR) -- to help countries align climate action and development efforts and absorb new climate-related technologies as they emerge.
For Malawi, the CCDR will help identify risks and opportunities for climate action by the public and the private sectors and inform how the country’s development goals can be achieved without compromising on sustainability.
The CCDR is planned All interested individuals and institutions in the Malawi CCDR process can forward feedback, suggestion and comments to the following email address: email@example.com The CCDR will be validated and official disseminated is expected to be done in September, 2022.
Photos: James Chavula Twitter page and Westone Maganga, Chitsanzo Radio Listening Phalombe