Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Malawi braces for climate change

MALAWI is said to be adapting well to changes in climatic conditions, thanks to agriculture capacity-building interventions targeting peri-urban communities in Chikhwawa and Mulanje districts, experts have said.

This was observed when University of Malawi’s Natural Resources and Environmental Centre (Narec) took Senior Programme Officer for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC)-Canada, Dr. Evance Kituyi, on a tour of projects the centre has been funding in Chikhwawa and Mulanje district. The trip also included researchers from the University of Dar Salaam’s Institute of Resource Assessment.

Kituyi said he was impressed with how Malawi was responding to the global challenge of climate change by building the capacity of people in peri-urban areas.

“While we all realise that climate change has started to devastate communities the world over, as erratic rains continue to pose food security challenges, it is pleasing that communities in Malawi have started adapting to the phenomenon,” Kituyi said.

Kituyi said countries need to scale-up climate change mitigation interventions to avoid perpetuating resource disparities between the poor and the rich.

Among other interventions focusing on horticulture, Narec has been working with institutions such as Bvumbwe Research Station, a development that has enabled it introduce vegetable crops such as cabbage and onions in Chikhwawa, and winter cropping and vertical gardening in Mulanje.

While community members have been working through farmers’ clubs, some individual farmers have adopted the new technological innovations and have seen their incomes prop up by applying the new methods in their individual plots.

National team leader for Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (ACAA) Peri-Urban Inter-dependence Climate Change Project, Miriam Joshua, said appropriate use of technology, improved knowledge on financial transactions, and introduction of new crops have improved the financial and food security situation at the household level.

“We have built the capacity of farmers in adapting to climate change with the aim of helping them sustain (crop) production and save money. We have targeted peri-urban communities deliberately because we know that most projects target urban areas, and this renders peri-urban communities vulnerableto climate shocks,” Joshua said.

Joshua said, however, that, by improving the amount of disposable income among farmers, the initiative could also stem urban migration, which causes brain-drain in rural areas as sharp minds flock to cities such as Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba.

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