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malawi: calling for climate justice

More than 90% of Malawi’s people, most of whom live in resource-poor rural communities, are engaged in subsistence rain-fed agriculture; 60% of them suffer food insecurity for most of the year. Over the last two decades, they have had to contend with increasingly erratic weather, ever more frequent flooding, droughts, and landslides, and rising temperatures. This is pushing them deeper into poverty and exacerbating food crises and malnutrition, as farmers struggle to keep pace with their changing environment.

malawiThese extreme climatic events also bring devastating loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure. This further hinders efforts to eradicate poverty, as communities are constantly engaged in recovering from disasters.


Yet the Malawian government supports the conversion of valuable agricultural land, to sell ‘offsets’ which can be set against the emissions of wealthy northern countries. This could lead to many small-scale farmers losing their land, which would in turn exacerbate food insecurity and hunger, and hit the poorest hardest.


what happened

In 2009, the Center for Environmental Justice, Malawi began to promote the concept of climate justice. The group organized dialogues, interviews and consultations, and a literature review. It helped host meetings of the Malawi Civil Society Network on Climate Change (CISONECC) and local community consultations on pro-poor climate change resilience. These culminated in a people’s national climate change strategy, and priorities for the international climate change negotiations, which were put to the Malawian government. 


Center for Environmental Justice, Malawi also aims to help build climate resilience amongst Malawians, by protecting land needed for people’s crop production, and sustaining community-based livelihoods. The group collected testimonies from communities about the impacts of climate change, which were forwarded to the Klimaforum09 (civil society forum) at UNFCCC COP-15, in Copenhagen in December 2009. It also interviewed communities about the potential impacts of proposed carbon offsetting projects. Published materials included information on climate change in general, and on carbon offsetting. The group also analyzed the activities of an agrofuel company operating in Malawi. 


As a result of all this, community knowledge, attitude and responses to climate change debates improved, and communities engaged much more, suggesting their own alternative solutions. Center for Environmental Justice, Malawi also brought two villagers to a government-organized meeting, and their testimonies alerted the government and policy makers to the fact that Malawi needs diverse responses to climate change, since it has three distinct climatic regions.


Overall, the project enhanced public advocacy on climate justice and pushed Malawi’s government to commit to a holistic and genuinely pro-people approach to climate change. The government has agreed to review its National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) so that it has a multi-faceted approach to mitigation and adaptation. It is anticipated that these policy changes will have a pro-poor position. 


The project also helped prepare Malawian delegates to negotiate for climate change justice and equity at COP-15. 


On a practical basis, Center for Environmental Justice, Malawi also worked with communities in the Karonga district in Northern Malawi, to address flooding through a program of river dredging.


what next?

Center for Environmental Justice, Malawi aims to work with a number of villages to support the development of sustainable climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. 


The group also plans to continue its efforts to raise awareness about climate justice nationally, as most Malawians do not understand the concept yet. It will also maintain its focus on the risks inherent in carbon offsetting, which is a threat to rural livelihoods and sustainable development.


At the national level, the group will push for improved inter-sectoral planning and coordination, the involvement of local communities in decision-making processes, increased institutional capacity to deal with climate change, effective early warning systems, and the implementation of projects to mitigate drought and flooding. The government also needs to support smallholder farmers to grow indigenous crop varieties that are able to withstand floods or droughts. 


with thanks to our funders: the isvara foundation

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