Earlier this year, my country and several others were hit by Tropical Storm Ana. People lost their lives, homes, and livelihood. My country’s power grid is still recovering from this storm almost 5 months later. In Malawi, the area most affected by floods and storms is the Lower Shire valley, this is a low lying area south of the country where the Shire river passes through on its way to meet the Zambezi in Mozambique. Due to being a low lying area, every rainy season the area experiences flooding and people are displaced. However, due to climate change and the resulting heavy rainfalls, the flooding has become severe and so have the implications. It has now become expected to hear of severe flooding in the Lower Shire with no proper plan in place to mitigate this. People debate about this issue all the time, in public spaces, social media and other forums but we are yet to come up with a tangible solution. I argue that all of our current solutions to this problem are band aids that will eventually not hold anymore.
A look at the rest of the world does not offer much solace when it comes to extreme weather events, be it mega snowstorms or heatwaves. The climate is changing and it seems half of us care about this and half of us do not care. There was a climate change report that was released recently by Africa No Filter that was looking at how climate change is perceived across the African continent. I am yet to finish reading the entire report myself and cannot comment much on it at the moment but I found the opening line quite interesting. “In a 2019 Afrobarometer survey of over 45 000 people in 34 African countries, 4 in 10 respondents said they were “not familiar” with the concept of climate change. But the survey revealed a deeper information issue. Only about 28% of Africans were “climate change literate”, in the sense that they also associated climate change with negative changes in weather patterns and recognised that human activity plays a part in these effects.” Clearly, there is a need to work on climate change communication across the continent. The effects of climate change are being felt and seen by almost all of us. I think we are just yet to put a name to the phenomenon and to understand that this is not a short term thing but a long term one.
One thing this report has made clear from the bit I have read is that Africans are not very active in the global climate change discussion. Be that as it may, I find myself leaning more towards what it is that we are doing in our communities to mitigate the effects of climate change. Do we need to be more vocal at the global level? Yes. But let us also make sure we are working in our different communities to find local solutions. A Harvard Climate Change PhD will never know the Lower Shire valley like the woman or man who was born and bred in it.
The climate change report can be downloaded here.