Malawi: What climate change means for us - People tell their stories ahead of historic Copenhagen finale

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At the start of the critical final week of international climate change debate in Copenhagen, people living in another of the countries already affected by more extreme weather patterns, Malawi, tell their stories.

Chimwemwe Kalinde lives in the Ntcheu District of Malawi, where unpredictable rainfall has been reducing crop yields in recent years.

"The rains used to come in October, but now they can be as late as November or early December" says the 36-year-old.

Like other women in her community, Chimwemwe has to walk further to collect water, making her more vulnerable to attacks and putting her at risk of being raped and contracting HIV.

Chimwemwe is one of 100 participants who attended a DFID-supported event in Malawi, in September.

Organised by the British Council, it was one of 46 meetings in 39 countries held under the headline World Wide Views on Global Warming -and the biggest ever citizens' consultation on climate change.

Both the Malawi delegation to Copenhagen and Copenhagen conference host, Connie Hedegaard, heard first-hand how climate change is affecting the lives of ordinary Malawian citizens.

Emily Landani, from Salima District, dreads the sporadic, heavy rains which cause flash floods that destroy crops and increase food insecurity in households.

"Flood waters carry water borne diseases, especially diarrhoea," Emily said. "We would like to move to an area that is less prone to floods, but we do not have the resources to do so and worry that another community would not accept us."

For Ronnex Banda, a 43-year-old subsistence farmer from the Kasungu District in central Malawi, lack of rainfall is threatening his family's future.

His crop yields have fallen and he has less food to feed his four children as well as fewer surpluses to sell for profit.

Like Chimwemwe, Ronnex also has to walk further to gather water for his crops, giving him less time for farming and other household chores.

More than 90% of participants at the citizens' meeting in Malawi said they were very concerned about climate change and felt a deal at Copenhagen was crucial.

The UK has supported the Government of Malawi to ensure its voice is heard at the negotiations.

DFID, the British High Commission and the British Council also recently committed £1m over two years to implement a UK action plan on climate change.

In addition to supporting the government of Malawi's national programme for managing climate change, the plan will identify and support communities most vulnerable to climate change.

It will also promote sustainable management of natural resources and help Malawi towards low carbon development.

Key facts

- Around 4,000 citizens across the world gave their views on climate change on 26th September 2009 as part of the World Wide Views initiative. (

- The average amount of CO² emitted per person in Malawi is 0.1 ton, compared to 10.6 tons per person in the UK (

- More than 90% of the population of Malawi rely on rain-fed agriculture for their subsistence. Sixty per cent of these are food insecure on a year round basis. (Oxfam report: "The winds of change: climate change, poverty and the environment in Malawi" June 2009)

- DFID supports the government of Malawi through the input subsidy programme, which has contributed to increased maize production and reduced the number of people who are food insecure. Malawi registered a maize surplus of up to 1.2 million metric tonnes and 378,000 metric tonnes during 2007/08 and 2008/09 consumption period respectively.