Malawi, like the rest of the world, was once regulated by the sun; everything revolved around the sun- time, animal and plant life.
Time when the earth was an integral part of man, and man a loving part of it. The perfumed flowers were man’s sister; the deer, the horse, the great eagle- his brothers. Humming insects evoked holy memories and experiences in people, just as rocky crests, juices of the meadows, the body heat of the pony and warm worms- all belonged to one family.
Before the famed Dziwe Lankhalamba on Mulanje Mountain turned violent and started swallowing human souls, shining water moved peacefully in such rivers as Linthipe, Shire, Mudi, Lilongwe, and lagoons like Chia without causing floods. The water was not just any other liquid to the then caring people of Malawi- it was the blood of our ancestors.
Mid-day ghostly reflections in the clear waters of the lakes- Lake Malawi, Chiuta, Kazuni and Chilwa- told of memories and forthcoming events in the lives of the people.
The water’s murmur was the voice of our ancestors, and the rivers and lagoons were our brothers and sisters because they quenched our thirst, carried our canoes and fed fish to our children. The Akafula, or Abathwa, the early inhabitants of Malawi, then gave the best treatment to the rivers, the sought of kindness you would give to your only brother or sister.
The earth and its people were connected like blood which unites one family. Whatever befell the earth befell the sons and daughters of earth. It is as simple as that and a web: man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
For a long time, this realization remained the settled conviction of a larger group of people, at least until the formation of independent nation states of people begun to take effect because, not long after, things went haywire.
Take language vocabulary, for instance. It is a fact that the British word ‘scheme’ quickly translates to the American ‘plan’ or ‘proposal’. Yet the two countries were once one, when Britain was an unmistakable colony of the United States of America.
They say the world has conflict built into it; a factor that continues to haunt the modern world.
December 2009 will go down the annals of our world story as a month when world leaders, both from developed and developing countries, as well as experts from different fields, met in Copenhagen, Denmark, under this carpet of on-going confusion, disagreements and conflict. They gathered under the United (?) Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) to draw the way forward on tackling climate change and its associated impacts.
Issues tackled included land use, changes in land use, forestry and rising global temperatures, all manifestations of man made concoctions. Malawi’s president, Bingu wa Mutharika, did not make it to the high level meeting as he wanted to serve the country’s drying foreign currency reserves. Energy, Natural Resources and Environmental Minister Grain Malunga wore his shoes.
However, Mutharika was home talking about climate change. He went to Chiradzulu and planted two trees when the country launched the National Forestry Season on December 15, 2009.
He remembered his good ole days, when the rains honoured their Southern region promises early November, keeping those (promises) for the Central and Northern region for somewhere between late November and early December, respectively. Always, before the word ‘excuse’ crept into the language of the rains.
“The story is different now. We have prolonged dry spells, which have already started affecting districts like Chiradzulu. These are the effects of climate change,” said Mutharika.
Mutharika felt so sorry that, as the children of ‘ancient’ Chiradzulu and Thyolo used to run and bathe in the rains on days like December 15, there was nothing but the sun and a dry spell for children of modern-day Chiradzulu and Thyolo!
Sentiments echoed by Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Principal Secretary, Dr. Denis Kayambazinthu. He bemoaned that climate change was fast becoming part of the warm-heartedness that is Malawi.
“The country has experienced a number of adverse effects of climate change. The most serious have been dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense rainfall, river line floods, flush floods and unpredictable rainfall patterns,” said Kayambazinthu.
The scary part of it, he said, is that these are impacting negatively on food security, water quality, energy and sustainable rural communities’ livelihoods.
Malawi is at a crossroads. Some of the events attributed to climate change include the severe drought conditions of the 1991/92 agriculture season and extreme flood events in 2000/01.
An Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change report reveals that Malawians cut an average 70, 000 trees each year and that, while more trees are planted during the National Forestry Season, only 60 per cent survive.
While climate change and global warming are global phenomena, a US National Environmental Trust report indicates that Malawi is paying an exorbitant price for the activities of rich nations such as USA, China, and Britain. The report says Malawi emits less than a quarter of a million metric tones of carbon equivalent a year, as compared to over 1,500 million tones emitted by the USA in 2002 alone.
Yet, this is no time for finger pointing, enthuses Elina Mkululanga- Head of Public Weather Services in the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services at the Meteorological Services Department.
“We are really seeing the effects of climate change, but this is no time for finger-pointing It’s time to bear responsibility and act,” says Mkululanga.