Posts tagged " malawi "

Week 2 Update – Young Leaders in Malawi “How’s it all going?”

March 7th, 2019 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

When speaking to my mother on the phone the other day from Malawi, she asked that inevitable question: “How is it all going?!”

With all that I have seen, heard, learned, done, encountered… over the last couple of weeks, how am I meant to answer?!

Yet, I know that everyone will ask this question when we return from Malawi, and given how amazing this opportunity has been, I really ought to have a good answer!

How is it all going?

We have met many fascinating individuals and been welcomed into people’s homes with wide, open arms. It is true what people said about Malawian hospitality – it is so generous.

The Youth Leaders that we have met are innovative, driven, conscientious and sincere in the actions they are taking in their lives. From starting Environment and Wildlife Groups in local schools, liaising with village chiefs to plant trees to creating bricks from waste plastic, the Malawi Youth Leaders are spreading their message and taking actions in ways that they feel empowered to do so.

We were even lucky enough to meet some of the secondary school students that are part of one of the groups set up by Youth Leader, Ethel. These girls and young women showed determination and confidence that the actions they are taking will make a difference to their Malawi. Excitingly, they feel that gender expectations and pro-environmental behaviours are changing, allowing them to the space to create a more equal and progressive future.

How is it all going?

When I ask anyone – young or old, city or rural dweller, male or female – what their experiences of climate change are, they can tell me straight away. They talk of increased temperatures and limited rains impacting their family’s crops, of unpredictable weather events causing sudden flooding or droughts, and of temperatures being too hot to bear at the height of the season and the impact this has on more vulnerable people in society.

The impacts are immediate and they are causing practices that their families have used for generations to change today.

The people we have met ask “what are people in Scotland doing about climate change?”

I can, and do, talk proudly of the work of the 2050 Climate Group and the actions our Young Leaders are taking, as well as the efforts that organisations and NGOs are making throughout the UK to limit our climate impact.

Nonetheless, I cannot help but consider that the average carbon footprint of a British citizen is around 5.59 metric tons per person, when the average carbon footprint for a Malawian is 0.1 metric ton per person. This is quite different.

If it helps you to picture this via the tool of the ecological footprint, a UK citizen would need 2.8 ‘Earths’ to support their lifestyle, when, on average, a Malawian would need 0.4.

The people we are meeting, who have welcomed us into their homes, have a climate fingerprint compared to our giant boot! Let’s talk about this.

How is it all going?

Understanding the impact that climate change is having in Malawi and on its population, right now, has been completely eye-opening.

Granted, I am certain that any Malawian will tell you that some of the changes have come about due to their way of life. For example, the energy infrastructure is such that for decades people have been cutting down trees to burn for fuel, and as the public transport infrastructure is either poor or non-existent, many people that can drive cars, do. In both Lilongwe and Blantyre, we have sat for up to an hour in traffic jams, with construction sites on both sides widening the road.

Regardless, the numbers above are hard to ignore and in the UK we still drive cars unnecessarily, fly regularly, use energy as though it is endless and consume any food and product that takes our whim.

How is it all going?

So in a world where climate justice is so imbalanced, how do we have an honest and meaningful conversation about ‘How it is all going?’

I am certainly even more confused about this than ever before.

Sometimes, it can be hard to know what we can really do. Climate change is huge and scary, and it is causing so much damage – right now.

But one thing that I am not confused about is the power that young people have.

I know that we can have honest conversations about the actions that young people are taking all around the world. Striking from school, creating businesses, leading campaigns, standing up to governing bodies, being vocal and taking a stand on a subject that is important to us. It is our future and we will demand the change that we want to see.

75% of Malawi’s population are under 35. This puts an amazing amount of power in the hands of the country’s young people. So, with that number in my head, yeah, I think it’s all going pretty well thanks!

– Naomi Arnold

Looking Back on our Malawian Climate Leader’s Visit

March 1st, 2019 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

On January 16, we welcomed our Malawi Climate Leaders Project Coordinator Promise who traveled to Scotland for a 4-week exchange trip with another Malawian youth leader, secondary school teacher Joanna. After six months of collaborating on this partnership project, 2050 Climate Group’s team finally had a chance to meet our Malawian friends and fellow climate change young leaders in person!

During their visit, Promise and Joanna shared the experiences of young Malawians who are already experiencing the devastating effects of climate change on agriculture, livelihoods and water security first hand.

It was an inspirational period, during which we had the opportunity to meet with various sustainability organisations in Scotland, including Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Adaptation Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful and the Sustainable Scotland Network.

Furthermore, we went behind the scenes at Edinburgh Castle and learned about the carbon efficiency measures Historic Environment Scotland is taking to increase the sustainability of our historic sights.

We visited the Glencorse water treatment plant, Loch Lomond National Park, and explored waste management and recycling at Binn Ecofarm. We learned about sustainable investments at Brodies LLP and had an in-house day at BeyondGreen Advisors.

Lastly, Promise and Joanna’s visit provided an excellent moment to exchange experiences of youth engagement in climate action in East Africa with Gaia Education and SCIAF.

Thank you very much to all organisations involved, it was a privilege to share knowledge and experiences and we are very excited to build on connections we have made over the last month and see the directions this project will be taking.

We would like to give a special thank you to the Scottish Government for funding our first international project and providing us with the opportunity to share our progress with Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, Ben Macpherson and Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham.

At this moment, our board member Elizabeth and operational volunteer Naomi are in Malawi exploring the country’s culture and natural environment. Please follow this adventure and meet more of our Malawian young leaders on our Twitter and through their weekly blogpost.

Week 1 Update – The first blog post from our Young Leaders in Malawi

February 28th, 2019 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

The first week of the much-anticipated trip to Malawi has been a whirlwind as Naomi and I try to get our bearings and settle in to a month of life here. For eight months 2050 has been working with colleagues in Malawi on the Malawi Climate Leaders project and it’s been exciting and eye-opening to finally meet them, see more pieces of the project and understand their context much better.

In Scotland we often discuss how we would like for climate change to be a ‘household name’ or a ‘kitchen table conversation’. In Malawi, it’s become very clear very quickly that climate change is a household word, climate change is a ‘kitchen table conversation’ because it is literally impacting what is on the kitchen table.

There is no doubt that people understand that climate change is a problem. There is no denial, there is no scepticism. It is real. It is now. And people are palpably worried about what it is already doing and going to do to their lives.

We have heard stories about how climate change impacts on agriculture are challenging to the communities, as well as stories about scarce electricity during the dry season due to the country’s dependence on hydro-electricity. By scarce, we mean 4 hours per day in the capital city Lilongwe…

We experienced a couple of normal rain storms during our first week, and you can see the impact on roads, infrastructure, and buildings in a matter of minutes. A ‘normal’ rainy season storm would have the same impact on roads and infrastructure as a once-in-ten year storm would have on the infrastructure in Scotland. This is not even to consider the impact of small flooding or extreme weather patterns over time.

When we talk about vulnerability… this is what we mean… on the photo, you can see the only road (or what’s left of it) to the campus of a technical college, where students live and study.


We were with our Project Coordinator, Promise and his friend, who works at this college when we drove over this part of the road. He joked about the road collapsing… I guess this is one way of coping with vulnerability.

It’s easy to think that education and awareness-raising is the silver-bullet… that once people know what is wrong and what they can do, they will come up with solutions. However, when I reflect on what I have learned this last week about the role of young people in Malawi on climate change in the terms we usually use, there is much less need for ‘educate’ and ‘engage’, but instead a much stronger focus on ‘empower’ and ‘lead’.

So far we have had many specific conversations with young people about how they feel about their place in society. In Malawi, 70% of the population is under the age of 30, but in their culture and economy there are not enough opportunities for young people, let alone opportunities to lead. Of the project participants we have spoken with already, this sense of empowerment, leadership and action is what attracted them to this project specifically.

Related to this, we have also discovered that there are lots of organisations that work on young people and climate change, perhaps because of the unique demographic dynamic. But something that Promise and Joanna both reflected on from their experience in Scotland, is that the emphasis on action is not always present. They, and other young leaders, are keen to get this kind of momentum for action going here. This seems to be the unique part of this project’s place in Malawi, as well as in Scotland.