The Principal Secretary of the Government of Malawi’s newly established Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Management, Dr Yanira Ntupanyama launched AFIDEP’s report entitled “Population Dynamics, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Malawi ‘ on 13th September 2012 in Lilongwe, Malawi.
The study which was co-funded and jointly implemented by Washington DC-based Population Action International (PAI) and AFIDEP sought to assess the landscape for integrating population and climate change in development policies and strategies in Malawi.
The timing of the report launch coincides with a unique policy window of opportunity as the Government of Malawi is currently finalizing development of a new Population Policy, and is also formulating its first Climate Change Policy.
The recent placement of Climate Change Management at the centre of the Ministry’s portfolio also signals the government’s commitment to this issue. The key message emanating from the report was that for Malawi to develop sustainably, the country should jointly prioritize and integrate programmes that address population and climate change challenges.
Malawi is one of fifteen African countries that have been categorised as a population and climate change “hot spot”. The country’s population is projected to reach 50 million by 2050 and more than 120 million by 2100, which is driven by a high fertility (5.8 children per woman in 2010) and a young age structure.
Rapid population growth puts enormous pressure on natural resources, resulting in over-exploitation of land, forests and fishing stocks. Agricultural expansion, growth of human settlements, over-dependence of wood for cooking, and low levels of reforestation have compounded deforestation.
The country is also over-dependent on hydroelectric power which is vulnerable to droughts and inadequate rains. Malawi’s economy is dependent on rain-fed agricultural production, which contributes 30 percent of the gross national product and supports livelihoods for over 80 percent of the population.
The country’s economy and people’s well being are therefore highly vulnerable to the linked effects of rapid population growth and climate change.
In view of these issues, the report made the following recommendations to the government and partners to improve Malawi’s capacity to address its climate change and population challenges and thus promote overall sustainable development:
- To develop a timely, evidence-based climate change policy and implementation strategy that fully incorporates population dynamics, reproductive health and family planning as central to climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.
- To set up a strong coordination and governance mechanism for climate change work and ensure that climate change issues are effectively mainstreamed in other development sectors. The coordination body should be in a multidimensional government entity that can effectively spearhead multi-sectoral responses.
- To provide adequate resources to support the joint implementation of effective programs to address population dynamics and climate change.
- To prioritize meeting women and their partners’ needs for family planning. This would reduce fertility rates and slow population growth, which would (a) help ease pressure on the environment and natural resources and strengthen resilience to climate change, (b) promote gender equality and increase women’s opportunities for education, employment and full participation in society, and (c) reduce poverty by improving and expanding health, schooling and economic opportunities.
- To intensify people’s resilience and capacity to adapt to effects of climate change by diversification of food crops and alternative energy sources, reforestation, and expansion of agricultural land under irrigation. These interventions will help reduce food insecurity and general poverty, arrest the high levels of deforestation, and enhance Malawi’s carbon credits.
- To enhance local technical capacity in program design, implementation and evaluation, research and translation of research evidence related to climate change, environment, and population dynamics in Malawi. This includes supporting efforts to improve training of local experts on climate change issues at university level and through in-service workshops.
A seminar that followed the launch of the report noted the timeliness of AFIDEP’s report and agreed on a set of recommendations (based on the report) to submit to the committees developing the National Climate Change Policy and Population Policy.
Participants at the seminar for the launch of the report
Dr Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu, Executive Director, AFIDEP presents the report to Principal Secretary Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Management, Dr Yanira Ntupanyama
AFIDEP’s Executive Director Dr Eliya M Zulu and Knowledge Translation Scientist Dr Nyokabi R Musila and Population Action International’s Vice President of Research and Director of the Climate Program, Dr Roger-Mark de Souza and Climate and Population Associate Ms A.Tianna Scorazzo also paid courtesy visits to discuss contents of the report and recommendations with the Vice President and Minister for Health, Rt. Hon. Khumbo Kachali, and the Minister for Environment and Climate Change Management Hon. (Mrs) Catherine Gotani Hara. In appreciation of the assessment, Rt Hon Kachali agreed that family planning is not solely a Ministry of Health issue, and expressed interest in borrowing from models of integration derived from case studies from other countries in the region which have successfully integrated population issues into other sectors. Further, Hon. Kachali emphasized the need for the Cabinet Ministers for Health, Environment and Climate Change Management, and Economic Planning and Development to discuss the recommendations and chart the way forward. Likewise, Hon. Gara made keen observations on the relevance of the study findings, and emphasized the study’s timeliness, given that people in the community are already attributing negative environmental effects to population issues and climate change. The resounding message from the government representatives is that the time to act is now.
AFIDEP Executive Director Dr Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu presents the report to Vice President and Minister for Health, The Right Honourable Khumbo H Kachali. Dr Zulu was accompanied by Dr Roger-Mark De Souza, Vice President of Research and Director of the Climate Program at Population Action International and Dr Nyokabi Ruth Musila, Knowledge Translation Scientist, AFIDEP.
Dr Nyokabi Ruth Musila, Knowledge Translation Scientist, AFIDEP presents the report to Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Honourable (Mrs) Catherine Gotani Hara. With her are AFIDEP Executive Director Dr Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu and Dr Roger-Mark De Souza, Vice President of Research and Director of the Climate Program and Ms A.Tianna Scozzaro Climate and Population Associate at Population Action International.
The full report “Population Dynamics, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Malawi” may be downloaded here.
The Policy Brief “Population Dynamics, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Malawi” may be downloaded here.
A copy of the AFIDEP slides presented by Dr Zulu and Dr Musila at the report launch seminar may be downloaded here.