When experts warned that climate change would adversely affect the livelihoods of poor people in poor, sorry, developing countries, some people did not take the warning seriously.
This decade, countries in Southern Africa have borne the blunt of the effects of climate change as cyclone after cyclone has led to floods which have inundated farmland, swept away crops, livestock, and homes, too. From cyclone Idai to Cyclone Ana and potentially to Cyclone Batsirai (sounds like Basiyao!), Malawi has been gravely affected leading to further impoverishment of the poor.
What have these cyclones taught us?
First, the floods triggered by the cyclones have revealed that our-quick-to occupy homes, built with little or no cement and approved reinforcement, are a danger to our lives. Some houses have lost one wall, two walls, three walls, or completely collapsed. Perimeter fences have collapsed here and there. These houses and fences include those put up by government-approved construction companies. It is time the National Construction Industry Council upped its supervisory and oversight role.
All construction in Malawi must be approved before it starts to ensure standards are strictly followed.
Second, the cyclone-triggered floods have revealed our lack of preparation in the areas of energy. When cyclone Ana hit the Southern Region of Malawi, the electricity generation system and water pumping plants collapsed under the weight of debris. For three days, people in some townships of Blantyre and other places had no electricity and no potable water. The advice from the water board was simple and kaya zanu izo type: “To avert total water shortage, harvest the water from the rains.”
Good advice, but how could we make rain water harvested potable and still avoid cholera? Blantyre Water Board still operates the Mudi Dam. Was it also washed away? Why does Blantyre water Board not have emergency power to pump water? The same questions apply to Egenco and Escom. Why don’t they have emergency supplies of power? Where have the generators gone? And the solar plants so touted recently; where have they gone to?
Imagine if ours was a country in Europe, or Northern Asia, or Northern America, we would have frozen to death?
Third, the failure to provide power and water has revealed that Malawi’s animal farm policies vis-à-vis resource allocation is still in vogue. While the people living in townships, the hard workers, the people that don’t evade tax, and the people that rarely consciously participate in high corruption were denied services, the people in low density areas were enjoying both water and electricity. And they were watching Malawi Flames lose at AFCON. Any wonder the Flames lost a game they should have won?
Fourth, in their speeches our leaders repeated what has already failed. They advised people in low lying and flood prone areas, especially in the Lower Shire Valley to relocate to higher ground. Nice. However, our leaders did not tell the world where these people would move to and whose land up there they would occupy. There is no empty land in Malawi.
Led by leader of delegation, the indomitable, unshakable, Genuine Professor Extraordinary Dr Joyce Befu, MEGA-1, we have argued before, and we will repeat it here today. If we want to relocate the people from the Shire Valley and any other Malawians upland, let us identify the land first, buy it and apportion it to the people that will relocate. An example was already set, in the Kudzigulira Malo Project, when people from Thyolo were relocated to Balaka and Mangochi, where idle farms were purchased for the benefit of the ‘relocatees’. Some families, of courses, returned to their ancestral land because they did not like their new land. If later, such returnees are blamed for not adhering to advice, the accusation would hold water and indeed the ‘relocatee-returnees’ would deserve admonition.
I just want to remind our country that climate change is here and as a country we need to prepare and ready ourselves for the next cyclones, floods, and devastation.