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The impact of climate change in Malawi

'Before, we used to be able to predict the rains by the time of year, and see the signs. Now we can’t.'

Impact of climate change in Malawi

Millions of farmers in Malawi are no longer able to rely on the weather.

The rains are unpredictable; they can come too heavy and all at once. Dry spells ruin crops or stunt the growth of young plants.

Small-scale farmers are clear that they are dealing day in, day out with the impacts of climate change.

Floods and cyclones

Floods and cyclones hit suddenly and grab headlines. The damage they cause can be measured in the numbers of those killed or evacuated. The destruction of homes and livelihoods is clear to see.

Erratic weather patterns and prolonged dry spells sound much less dramatic - but they're quietly wrecking the lives of millions of farmers. 

Text weather forecasts

In southern Malawi, subsistence farmers make up the majority, and every one of them is dependent on the rains for their maize crop to grow.

'You need to plant knowing that it will rain in the next two or three days. If it doesn’t rain when you need it to, you can lose your seed,’ says farmer James Kheri.

UK aid-funded project ECRP (Enhancing Community Resilience Programme) is helping people like James to overcome these new challenges.

  • If it doesn’t rain when you need it to, you can lose your seed.'

Every week, James receives a text message containing local weather forecasts in his mother tongue.

And he passes the message on to the more than 500 households in his community: 'When I get the text message, I write it down on some paper and put it on a tree or in the local shop so people can see it.'

This year, James had a bumper harvest with forty 50kg bags of maize. His father-in-law, who has  a similar-sized field, didn't believe the forecast so he didn’t plant his maize at the same time. He harvested just 15 bags.

Strong scientific evidence

There is strong scientific evidence to show that Malawi suffers the impacts of global climate change caused by human activity.

On 27 September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a new report on the state of the world’s climate.

It says that scientists are now '95% sure' that human activity is causing climate change - up from 90% six years ago.

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