Climate change

#GetInvolved4Dignity – Join the Malawi floods clothes drive

floods image Malawi Floods. Displaced women and children arrive at Sekeni II Camp for flood victims in Chikhwawa District. (Jan. 16, 2015) Photo by Arjan van de Merwe/UNDP licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The recent floods have taken a devastating toll on Malawi. It is the poorest of the poor that are the hardest hit. Families displaced by the floods have lost everything. And they did not have much to lose to begin with. The emergency response is ongoing, and help is reaching those affected. Reports are however coming back of various challenges linked to the fact that many of the displaced have only one set of clothes which has to be washed and hung to dry overnight.

While significant efforts are going into addressing the overall situation, there’s something easy we can all do, as individuals, to help restore the dignity of those affected: donate unused and unwanted clothes to the victims. The Red Cross has also indicated that there is a need for pots and pans.

We are asking development partners, the diplomatic community, UN agencies and NGOs in Lilongwe to join us in a clothes drive.

Please let us know if your embassy or organization would like to be part of the clothes drive. The clothes will be picked up from your office on Monday 17 February or Tuesday 18 February and delivered to the Red Cross. The Red Cross will ensure transportation to affected areas and those in need.

Please get in touch with Nora Lindstrom if you would like to contribute to this effort. Nora can be reached on 099 336 7559 or email: noralindstrom(at)gmail.com

Please note that the clothes drive is organized as a private initiative and is not a project of the UN or any particular organization.

Malawi bans bags – of the plastic variety

Waste in Mwynekondo settlement in Lilongwe.

Waste in Mwynekondo settlement in Lilongwe.

In a seriously forward move, Malawi’s Ministry of Energy, Mining, and Natural Resources has banned the production and import of plastic material of a less than 60 micron thickness. Kudos. In a country with pathetic waste collection services but where the majority of waste is organic, this represents an important step in the right direction. Partly, it will hopefully help in reducing overall inorganic waste, and the negative impacts resulting from the common practice of burning or dumping waste. But also (fingers crossed), it may make for cleaner compost; many urban households bury their waste and later use it in their fields, but sadly rarely sort their waste prior to burying it.

Not everyone has been happy about the development, however. Plastic bag vendors have decried their loss of income as a result of the sudden ban, with one widowed vendor saying “At this point, I am hopeless since I have been doing this business for eight years, this small shop is the only thing my husband left for my family. My children’s food, clothes and school fees come from it, the ban has left me clueless as on what will come out of our future.” (As quoted in MANA Online) In response to the backlash, the government last week announced a two-week reprieve on the ban.

There are question marks over exactly how (and/or for how long) the plastics ban is going to be monitored and implemented, particularly in the country’s extensive informal economy. It is also evident that there was limited consultation on the law, resulting in unnecessary negative press for what is essentially a positive move for the the country. The good news is, however, that if the Malawian government is serious about minimising waste there are plenty of more ways to do it – just make sure you get the public on board.

Cleaner cooking is a human right.

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Had the pleasure of attending Cleaner Cooking Camp 2014 Open Day in Lilongwe on Friday. Organised by the multi-donor funded Discover Project, the event showcased various renewable and efficient cooking and household energy options available to Malawians, such as improved cooking stoves (locally known as chiteteze mbaula), biomass burners, paper briquettes, and different solar power solutions. Dignitaries held speeches on the importance of cleaner cooking solutions – reducing respiratory illnesses especially among women and children, as well as countering deforestation – while community actors involved in making and promoting improved stoves were honoured for their work with cash prizes. Malawi is a member of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and has a goal of 2 million households using improved cook stoves by 2020. A locally made improved cook stove sells for around 1000 kwacha ($2.50).

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Gardening is radical.

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“A home garden is a form of peaceful protest,” writes Megan Mayhew Bergman in Salon.

I couldn’t agree more – it’s a stance against pre-prepared, supermarket foods that have (often) been grown using pesticides in big fields of just that one vegetable or fruit (i.e. monoculture), might be genetically modified, and often come with unnecessary packaging.

I get my weekly veggie box here in Lilongwe from Kusamala Institute of Agriculture & Ecology. For 3000 kwacha per week (around $7.50) I get a big basket of weird and wonderful things, from pretty straightforward mint, oregano, and radish, to beautiful heirloom eggplants and never-before-heard-of tamarillos, best described as tree tomatoes.

Combined with the peppers, green peas, celery, strawberries, rosemary, and mint growing in a little patch on my yard I can’t help but feel truly radical.

Wind farms baby, yeah.

Wind farms are the future. And no, they’re not ugly. And no, they’re not loud (I’ve slept under one). Yes, there may be some issues with wildlife. But now they can even stop hurricanes! Or so researchers suggest… Cool stuff. (And I’m sure the wildlife issues can be addressed.)

(Totally copied this pic from The Atlantic Cities site. So sue me.)

Solar jars are awesome.

Consol Solar Jar

Love my new Consol Solar Jar. It’s pretty and useful. And only cost just over MK8,000 (just under $20 I think; available at Chipiku in Lilongwe, but in other countries too given that the manufacturer is South African.) My only wish is that the light it emits was warm, and we’ll of course have to see how long it lasts, but so far, so lovely (especially given the frequent power cuts in LLW).