When Advocacy Triumphs Over GBV and Climate Change Challenges

When Lake Chilwa dried up in 2017 to an extent that fishermen could no longer ply their trade, families on the other hand started feeling the pinch.

35-year-old Leornad Binali who has been supporting his five-member family all along through fishing, had to hang up his fishing nets.

He was used to this trade and could not easily find an alternative in Kathebwe village Traditional Authority Mwambo in Zomba district.

Life seemed tough ahead as first born daughter Sandra was completing primary school education.  She would in no time need reasonable school fees for secondary school unlike the free primary education.

Having reached a consensus, post discussions with his wife, Enifa Malembo, Leonard had to go for another lake in Mangochi district, within the eastern part of Malawi. Fresh water of Lake Malawi was the next option after heavily silting Lake Chilwa crushed all hopes of possible fishing.

He left family behind hoping that Enifa and the three children would follow when things get promising on the waters of Lake Malawi.

This was the end of the ten-year bond called marriage between agemates Leonard and Enifa.

A NEW ROLE OF HOUSEHOLD HEAD

The transition met huge challenges. They had no any asset apart from the fishing nets Leonard carried along with him to Mangochi.

Sandra passed examinations but was not selected to public secondary school.  Enifa as the new head of the household had to send her to a private secondary school. She knocked on the door of a village bank which the Catholic development commission (CADECOM) championed the same year under Climate Challenge Program Malawi (CCPM), a project implemented with support from Scottish Government through SCIAF and Trocaire.

"I got 50 thousand kwacha loan which enabled me to pay school fees for the whole academic year at 17, 500 kwacha per school term remaining with a balance of only 2, 500 kwacha and I resorted to venture into crop and animal farming full throttle.

"I attribute this idea to CCPM project as it enlightened me to improve resilience to climate change by developing and implementing community led adaptation strategies and measures," said Enifa.

The climate change challenges that robbed Enifa's husband through Lake Chirwa siltation refused to spare farmers. Running water from Phalombe river that runs almost across Enifa's garden used to wash away crops leaving many households food insecure and brought down houses downstream.

But Enifa and fellow farmers owning gardens along Phalombe river, sought expert advice from Cadecom field officer and government agricultural extension workers.

They mobilised other people downstream whose houses got affected every rainy season to fill the degraded areas with soil sacks and vetiver plants as advised.

FROM RAGS TO RICHES

The tables turned this same year 2017 for Enifa and fellow farmers as heavens smiled on them with bumper yield than before. Water in Phalombe river took back its course sparing crops and houses.

Enifa cultivated twice in 2017 making use of the swamp for rice and rains for maize.

"I harvested 35 bags of rice and 52 bags of maize weighing 50kilograms.

"I kept enough for food and sold the surplus from which I bought eight goats, two pigs and a motorbike unexpectedly bidding farewell to poverty," boasted Enifa.

This has been the trend over the past five years with yield improving and Enifa is one of the forces to reckon with in Kathebwe village.

Five years down the line, she now challenges that see no need for Leonard to come back as he has been pestering after hearing of her success despite marrying another wife in Mangochi, dumping his family.

Enifa has more than half a million in her two village bank accounts, bought cattle and plans to buy a seven seater motor vehicle by the end of this year for taxi business to increase revenue base.

She sees no obstacle to pay for Sandra's college education next year as she will be sitting for Malawi school certificate of education examinations this year.

Second born Demson will be going to secondary school if he passes the primary school leaving examinations he has just sat for while last born, Innocent, is now in Standard 4.

At community level, member of advocacy committee for group village Kathebwe in Zomba says there is improved mindset change in the area as they see the benefits of working on their own to solve some problems coming along with climate change.

He says: "Statistics tell it all as 652 houses were damaged four years ago in this area due to running water, but as we are continuing with our work on controlling Phalombe river from diverting, we can boast that no house fell downstream last rainy season due to run off."

CADECOM program coordinator Aaron Kandiwo Mtaya says this is one of the success stories proving the power of advocacy.

"All we have been doing is to empower the communities to get to realise their human rights in relation to climate change and enable them to engage different stakeholders to do their prescribed work in a bid of ensuring Climate Justice.

"So far we have given them enough capacity to see their advocacy work continue even after the project," said Kandiwo- Mtaya.

From TROCARE, Philip Nyasulu says is impressed that the project they supported with funds from the Scottish government, Climate Challenge Programme Malawi interventions look sustainable.

"The communities seem empowered enough to sustain the initiative; hence, have demonstrated an improved understanding of their human rights in relation to climate change.

"The good thing is that both local and national government in Malawi are also engaged to understand the citizen’s human rights in relation to climate change," said Nyasulu.

Machinga, Balaka, Chikwawa and Zomba are the impact districts for climate challenge program Malawi.

The project has hopes that Malawi Government puts in place an enabling policy environment to support implementation of community-led climate change adaptation actions.

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