Climate Change affects Malawi's rainfall pattern

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By Raphael Tenthani, PANA Correspondent

Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) - Malawi used to experience the rainy season from October, and throughout the festive season one would appreciate the green vegetation across the country that continuously added beauty to the small African country of 13 million people.

But travelling from one corner to another could be hectic, as most roads become waterlogged due to the rains.

However, things are no longer the same. Over midway into December, Malawi is yet to see the real first rains! Crops are wilting and farmers are losing hope. But what could be the cause of this?

Hastings Maloya, Environmental Education Officer with the Mulanje Mountain Conse rvation Trust (MMCT) - an environment awareness trust - said these are impacts of climate change.

Maloya said deforestation in Malawi, just as is the case in most countries in the sub-Saharan Africa, is on a alarming increase. This is due to the fact that almost 80 per cent of the population is using firewood and charcoal for their cooking. And charcoal is big business but the long-term impact could prove disastrous.

Maloya, who is also the Chairperson for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Environmental Forum, said although the impact might seem small at local level, continuous cutting down of trees and charcoal production, coupled with incessant annual forest fires, are some of the causes of global warming and climate change.

Apart from destruction to our environment, that has resulted in dried up rivers and excessive soil erosion, we are in danger for serious impacts of climate change," he said. "Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, against reduced forest cover, puts Malawi and most African countries in danger"

Maloya said issues of poverty and lack of political will had seen many people venturing into charcoal business, thereby clearing land cover. There has not been a deliberate attempt to reduce the emissions by adapting new technologies such as cooking using energy efficient stoves that are smokeless and affordable.

According to Maloya, Malawi has powerful legislation through its Forestry Act and several environmantal protection policies but lack enforcement. As such few trees are being planted against a wild rate of cutting. And the trees planted also lack supervision and monitoring.

Meanwhile, climate change threatens Africa with catastrophic damage by allowing warming to rise by 2 degrees Celcius globally and therefore by around 3 degrees Celcius on the continent of Africa. It risks the lives and livelihoods of literally hund reds of millions of people, including the people of Malawi.

As the Copenhagen conference rounded off in Denmark, there is need to refocus on the literacy levels of people of Africa. Climate Change, its impacts and adaptation measures maybe be known in developed countries, but the developing countries need education and awareness, analysts said.

"You cannot propose a 'solution' to climate change if the people you are presenting your solution do not understand what you are talking about," said Maloya.

Malawi's leader of delegation to the Copenhagen Summit told delegates Thursday that Malawi "has put in place various policy framework to protect the environment in the wake of drastic climate change".

Blantyre - 20/12/2009

Pan African News Agency
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