Songani, Malawi … The world is overwhelmed by reports of increased evidence of climate change. Leading causes are too numerous to list, but among them are increased pollution in developed countries, and deforestation in developing countries.
Malawi has experienced devastating weather swings in recent years. On one hand the there has been disruptive flooding. At the other extreme the drying up of lake Chilwa last summer brought negative effects on the national economy. Fishermen could not fish, and this led to reduced income for their families, and influenced the nation as a whole. Some see the increased cases of climate change as partly taking pace due to the critical deforestation of the land. During the rainy season, rivers flood because there is no soil cover to reduce the speed of rainwater. This year hundreds of families were displaced by flooding in many parts of the country. Globally weather-related natural disasters have more than tripled since the 1960s. Every year, these disasters result in over 60 000 deaths. Flooding is increasing in frequency and intensity, and it contaminates freshwater supplies, heightens the risk of water-borne diseases, and creates breeding ground for disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes. Major floods cause drowning, physical injuries, damage to homes and property, and disrupts the supply of medical and health services.
As a remedy to such disasters, people are urged to stay away from riverbanks, and cultivation along riverbanks is discouraged. Additionally communities are encouraged to plant trees along riverbanks and uncultivated land surfaces. Recently, the Malawi President, Mrs. Joyce Banda launched the tree-planting season in Kasungu. She urged all people to plant trees in their areas to reduce the cases of weather related disasters. Following this call, and in an effort to actively involve villagers to plant and manage trees, woodlots and forests, Namikango Mission, along with support from the Malawi Project and its contributors, 24, 000 pairs of shoes have been donated to communities who plant and manage trees in Malawi. These shoes act as incentives to motivate tree planting. It is basically aimed at contributing to sustainable forestry management in order to reduce natural disasters, and improve human life.
Under the “Shoes for Trees” initiative, Namikango Mission in conjunction with the Forestry Department in Zomba, launched the 2013 tree-planting season with a donation of 1,000 pairs of sketcher shoes to Kumanyenga Village in the jurisdiction of Traditional Authority Kuntumanji’s area. This community has a well-established “Village Natural Resources Management Committee” (VNRC), starting operations in 2009. Its basic objective is to lead in the management of reforestation, and control the deforestation at village and community level. The committee has 13 women and 5 men.
Speaking at the function, which was covered by national news media, and attended by senior government officials, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change Management, Hon. Jenifer Chilunga, (a Member of the Malawi Parliament), encouraged the community and the nation to take a leading role in the planting and management of trees. “The common problem we have is that we look forward to short term benefits of the natural resources such as trees. Villager heads, you need to set regulations that will help protect unwanted cutting down of trees”, she urged.
The minister commended the efforts of Namikango Mission and the Malawi Project for donating the shoes to this community.
“Though your key responsibility is to preach the word of God, it is encouraging to see you taking a leading role in the management of natural resources such as trees. I would wish to assure you that these shoes will motivate these people to plant and manage more trees this season. Other members who are not active in the reforestation program will join – I am sure,” she commented. The minister further requested that the Namikango Mission consider providing supplies to health centers and schools in the area.
In his remarks, Bisani Mphongolo, from the Namikango Mission, encouraged the villagers, and pointed out the shoe distribution is to encourage them to properly look after the trees, and contribute to positive environmental change management. He promised Namikango will continue working with rural communities and will support the health, education and natural resources management programs through provision of supplies.
The chairlady for the village forest committee thanked those who made this shoe donation in her area.