Posts tagged " malawi’s climate leaders "

Youth-led solutions to a 75,000 tonne per year problem

April 9th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

This article blog was written by Andrew Dickie, Project Officer for the Malawi-Scotland Partnership and 2050 Climate Group’s joint ‘Malawi Climate Leaders Project’. The project recruits young leaders across Malawi and invites them to attend regional and skills based workshops in order to engage and equip them with the resources to take action against key climate justice issues. Single-use plastic continues to be a huge problem in Malawi and our young leaders are at the heart of its solution. 

When I arrived in Salima, a bustling coastal town ninety minutes East of Lilongwe, Lake Malawi was already alight with deep auburn and piercing yellows. For locals well acquainted with her golden sunsets, it distracted few eyes as they walked the shoreline on their way home or to the market. For me, an overly eager Masters student from Scotland travelling around the country, I allowed myself to be consumed by the Warm Heart of Africa’s daily spectacle.

I think back to that moment now with an air of melancholy – partly because the current global pandemic has prevented me from returning to Malawi on a scheduled work trip. Yet, Covid-19 aside, that moment in Senga Bay was tainted by the sun’s rays hitting off the water, illuminating thousands of plastic bags that bobbed alongside fishing boats or that lay discarded along the beach.

Since that trip last summer, the Department for Environmental and Rural Affairs has been successful in implementing a ban on single-use plastic bags. Of course, this followed a vicious and long drawn out legal battle against an injunction obtained by largescale plastic manufacturers operating within Malawi and throughout South-East Africa.

Seven months have past since that legislation came into force and manufacturers are still producing single-use plastics, marketplaces continue to package items in thin plastic bags and streets and beaches remain littered.

The lack of political will in Malawi to follow through with this legislation is relatively understandable. Given the country’s unstable political makeup and increasing civic demand for electoral reform, it’s unsurprising that government officials have not prioritised the closing down of single-plastic factories – particularly given that many of the players behind them have the power to influence political discourse.

It’s easy to feel discouraged, but after a morning spent on the phone with some of our young leaders in Malawi, I’m more than optimistic that the country will be able to reduce its single-use plastic consumption through people and community-led initiatives.

One of our Young Leaders, Brenda Mwale, tells me about a series of negotiations and advocacy work she has carried out with many of the big business players in Malawi.

Speaking at a meeting with the United Nations Development Programme, Brenda stresses the importance of pressurising businesses and organisations to reform or implement internal green-focussed policies. Small changes, even such as banning single-use plastic bottles or products at meetings or events, can make an immeasurable difference.

In the South of the country another Young Leader, David Samikwa, blows me away with his ambition to lead an entrepreneur-focussed response to the problem. He maintains that information dissemination is key to the solution.

Working with four other young leaders, David buys brown papers from local retailers and produces paper bags to sell at low-cost to small businesses and community members. He is adamant that through engaging with civil society and educating people on the dangers of continued single-plastic use, alongside providing alternatives, Malawians can and will turn the tables.

Mentors, like Dominic Nyasulu who sits on the project’s steering committee, have provided a platform for our young leaders’ voices to be heard and to learn new skills. It is Dominic’s vision to launch four green centres in Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Blantyre and Zomba to engage and employ young women to be a part of the manufacturing of multi-use bags and information dissemination within communities.

Of course, the situation in Malawi is not a unique one. However, the ambition of our young leaders to drive forward change and lead on their individual and collective action plans is inspiring. It is a stark reminder that this generation, who will be impacted most by climate change, are at the forefront in the fight against it.

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.