Malawi: How forest loss floods have turned their lives into reforestation

He and many other Malawians never thought that one day their lives
would change and the floods will come and wash their memories away.
Kaira lost his property last year due to floods in Karonga district
after the North Rukuru River overflowed its banks. “I have never
experienced floods. But the one we had last year was intense. My maize
garden was washed away,” Kaira told Islam Online.

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“Floods are more common now than two o decades ago because of the high
rate of deforestation”, Christopher Mwambene told IOL Mwambene is the
Executive Director of Coordination for the Rehabilitation of the
Environment (CURE) a local NGO. Mwambene added that Many areas are
left bare, and if nothing is done now to address the situation, Malawi
will turn into a desert.

“Fertilizer is expensive for most farmers. The soils along the river banks are fertile and do not need chemical fertilizers,” said Kaira. Kaira also recalled that in the past 20 years or so he used to fish in Rukuru River especially when it was raining because there was a lot of water.  “All of a sudden I have
started experiencing shortage of fish stocks. The river only has
enough water during the rainy season. I think the change is due to
climate,” he said. Realizing the dangers being posed by deforestation
the current administration led by president Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika
introduced the Forestry Planting Season which starts on December 15
and ends on April 15.

The purpose of the Forestry Planting Season is to reduce deforestation rate, which is currently at 2.8%, the highest in Southern Africa. The Northern Region of the country has the highest deforestation rate 3.4%, resulting in a national loss of 2 million hectares of forest in the past 25 years. Andulire Kayuni is another farmer who has been affected by floods in the district. He lost the four hectares of maize due to floods. But he survived on cassava,
which he grew on the upper land.

“Our family survived on cassava after our maize garden was washed away by flooding waters,” said Kayuni. “We have learned a lesson from this and we have been advised not to farm along the river banks.” In Phalombe district in the southern part of Malawi the entire village was washed away by the floods in 1991. An estimated 500 people died in what is commonly called the ‘Phalombe disaster’.

Since then Phalombe residents have experienced a number of  floods but the major one appeared again in 2001 where many people were displaced. Majority of people displaced by the floods depend on government and donor handouts. In February last year over 2000 people were homeless in the Lower Shire area in the southern part of Malawi
due to floods.

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