Faith leaders in Thyolo have blamed the floods Malawi experienced this year on reckless tree cutting. The floods displaced thousands of households in 15 districts, with vast areas of arable land swept away.
The pastors made the observation in their homilies during interactive prayers organised by the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid)-funded Health Policy Project (HPP) to raise awareness on the need for faith communities to support government calls to reduce the rate at which population is growing in the country.
Sheikh Abdulhakim Ganda said overpopulation has led to the cutting down of trees; hence, the need for couples to reduce the sizes of their families by adopting family planning methods permissible in their faith.
Said Ganda: “The problem is further compounded by our failure to plant trees where we cut. This has resulted in environmental damage on the planet through wanton cutting down of trees, hunting wildlife in reckless manner, causing pollution and creating a host of problems.”
Malamulo Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church resident pastor Luke Limbithu said the increase in the number of people in developing countries, including Malawi, is putting a strain on natural resources.
Limbithu cited the drying up of rivers, conflicts over farmlands and persistent food shortages as some of the indicators that nature is failing to contain human needs.
“We, therefore, need to control childbirths as well as take an active role in the planting of trees,” he urged.
HPP programme adviser responsible for population and family planning, Laston Mteka-Banda, said his organisation decided to work with religious leaders on the project because of the authority they have over their faithful.
He said HPP always encourages faith leaders to cite relevant verses from their holy books when discussing family planning issues so that followers can appreciate the basis for calls to reduce the number of children each couple could have.
“Many religious couples are unable to understand the harmful effects of overpopulation. Again, some beliefs prompt them to avoid family planning measures. It is for this reason that we are working with faith communities to change this mindset,” he said.
HPP, in partnership with Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, is raising awareness in Balaka, Kasungu, Karonga, Lilongwe, Mangochi, Salima and Thyolo, on the dangers of rapid population growth in the districts.
The project further sensitises believers on the need to join forces in combating maternal mortality and promote healthy families through improved timing and spacing of pregnancies.