ZOMBA-(MaraviPost)– Malawi is ranked third amongst most vulnerable countries to climate risk as more than 84 percent of its population depend on rain-fed agriculture.
The 2010 Malawi State and Environmental and Outlook Report predicted extreme weather patterns including floods, dry spells, hailstorms which the nation recently experienced resulting into food and water crisis.
In 2015 unprecedented devastating floods affected 1.1 million people, displacing 230,000 and claimed 106 lives in the country.
Many of the family were forced to leave their homes and sought refuge in schools, disrupting education for around 350,000 pupils.
The flood further caused widespread damage to crops, livestock, roads and bridges, costing the country’s General Domestic Product (GDP) about 1.7%.
However, some of the districts which were heavily affected in 2015 by the devastating floods have not fully recovered.
Such districts include Phalombe, Chikhwawa, Nsanje, Salima, Zomba and Kasungu.
With this year’s, 2016/2017 Department of Climate Change and Metrological Services report that La Nina is expected to influence weather patterns over Southern Africa, Malawi inclusive, there is higher probability for torrential rainfalls.
In an effort to reduce the climatic disaster risks, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) intensified ambitious mitigation measures in most flood prone areas with dykes and weirs a head of this year’s rainy season.
The initiative is in line with the disaster risk reduction and the Disaster Risk Management Policy which is in use including early warning systems.
The policy was developed to guide disaster risk management mainstreaming in the country by providing the document strategies that would achieve the long term goals of mitigating disaster losses.
The department is currently working closely with Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBRMs) organization or committees to offset disaster risk management and preparedness.
With financial support from United Nations for Development Program (UNDP), the department has managed linking communities to source funds for climate change mitigation measures and resilient procedures.
The recent media tour which DoDMA in conjunction with Association of Environmental Journalists in Malawi (AEJ) organized in Zomba and Phalombe districts, testified how prepared the communities were as rainy season has just begun.
They have constructed dykes along the rivers to control havoc water flows that usually ransack people’s lives and properties.
The communities have also embarked on tree planting and erecting weirs to store water for inter cropping when dry spells hit the areas.
For instance, Kanjedza CBNRM at Group Village Headman (GVH), Traditional Authority (T.A) Mwambo in Zomba district has built a 66 metre dyke worthy MK6.8 million from UNDP along Likangala River.
Before the dyke was erected, Likangala River used to flood thereby damaging property and crops.
“The dyke has lessened the burden flooding had on us. We have been losing crops, live stocks and other property due to perennial flooding of Likangala River. However, we still need more funding to finish the remaining 60 metre dyke construction along the river.
“Apart from building the dyke, we are into tree planting exercises which over 95,000 trees were planted in the last rainy season with plans to do more in this year’s growing season. We want by 2020 the entire community to be covered with trees”, pledges Evance Mlenga Kanjedza, CBNRM’s Secretary.
DoDMA’s Principal Mitigation Officer Veronica Mhango lauded the resilient and mitigation measures various communities have adopted in coping up with disasters.
Mhango said the department will ensure that projects already implemented in Phalombe and Zomba where dykes and weirs have been constructed are sustainable.
She emphasized also on the media to interpret and disseminate early warning systems timely and meaningfully.
Mhango says plans are in the pipeline for government to develop a National Contingency Plan that aim at responding to disasters in the country.
“DoDMA is implementing these policies while making sure that funds are available in ministries as well as city municipalities so that they become prepared on issues of disasters.
“Apart from long term mitigation measure towards disaster such a flooding, this year, we have also prepositioned stocks; food and non-food items in our regional warehouses to enable us respond in good time, ideally within 48 hours”, assured Mhango.
Charles Mkoka, AEJ Secretary General agrees with Mhango on the need for the media to understand and interpret early warning systems that individuals, communities and organizations threatened by hazards take necessary preparedness measures and act appropriately in sufficient time to reduce the possibility of harm or losses.
“In this way, challenges experienced as a result of disaster will be reduced in a long term and help secure livelihoods”, says Mkoka.