‘I am sitting here in Malawi wishing it would rain’

COP21: This year 2.8 million people in Malawi need food aid due to floods and drought

 

The climate and me: The UN climate change conference, COP21, is currently underway in Paris. Each day over the course of the two-week summit, Irish people living in regions most affected by climate change worldwide will share their observations. 

I am sitting here in Malawi wishing it would rain. I am sure many of you reading this back in Ireland are wishing the exact opposite.

In Malawi the coming of the rains means as much as a warm sunny day in Ireland. Everyone is in better form, everyone makes the most of it. The only difference is that Malawians need the rain to survive - literally.

The rain pattern in Malawi has been changing so much over the past number of years that farmers are confused. I am passing fields every day at the moment that are prepared and waiting to be planted. But the rural farmers tell me that in the past, the planting would be done by now and the rains would have already begun. And they could feel confident that they would be able to feed their families for another year. This is no longer the case.

One day two weeks ago, it did rain for a bit and you could sense the sheer joy and relief everywhere. But then it stopped and hasn’t come back. And after eight years living in Zimbabwe and Malawi I think the heat this year is the worst.

Last year when the rains eventually came in December, it rained more than ever in the history of the country but in the shortest number of days, so there were floods. It never rains but it pours. Houses were destroyed, goats and chickens and cattle were drowned, crops were washed away. Livelihoods were lost to the extent that this year over 2.8 million people in Malawi need food aid.

Recently I travelled to a very drought-ridden part of the country and met a farmer named Sydreck Kanyakwira. He was asked who he thought was to blame for the drought situation and replied “We are the ones to blame. We did not take care of nature. We carelessly cut down the trees for wood. We are the ones to blame so maybe we can be the ones to help.”

If a poor farmer in Malawi, who is trying to eke out a living and feed his family from a small piece of dry land, is willing to admit he is part of the problem, surely that puts it up to all of us. Surely we too, particularly our global leaders, should be able to look more honestly at what we have done to contribute to this global crisis called climate change. And surely we too can be part of the solution, and no longer accept that it is okay for the poorest in our world to bear the brunt of our bad behaviour.

Eithne Brennan works for Trócaire in Malawi.

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