Girls go dirty for clean money

Superstores’ shelves in Malawi are sagging under the weight of imported farm produce as the local harvest is widely perceived as low and unattractive. However, 45 girls at war with youth unemployment and risky sexual behaviour in Mzuzu are confronting the agricultural economy’s appetite for foreign goods. “It hurts us that supermarkets import food crops…

Dwarf bananas, big bunches

As maize yield keeps dwindling due to erratic rains and degraded soils, farmers in Nkhata Bay are reverting to bananas to generate income for buying food and other basics. Mpamba and Chikwina residents in the hilly shoreline districts have a long history of growing bananas, but yields keep falling due to frequent episodes of drought…

Malawi’s $3m energy question

Energy poverty remains one of the major bottlenecks slowing Least Development Countries (LCDs) race to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.  Recently, Heidi Schroderus-Fox, director of the United Nations High Office for the LCDs, Landlocked Countries and Small Island Developing Countries (UN-OHRLLS, launched a groundbreaking study which shows Malawi needs $2.5 billion to provide power for all…

Sunlight waters dry farmland

Solar mini-grids for irrigation help starving farmers beat water scarcity, hunger and poverty made worse by climate change, our Staff Writer JAMES CHAVULA explains. As rains repeatedly “dribble past” Masasa lowlands in Ntcheu District, Martha Chingwalu, 21, struggles to feed her family and walks longer to fetch water. The only borehole in her village, Chiwembu,…

On a sweltering morning in Salima, we saw how growing thirst for water packaged in plastic bottles is slowly polluting Lake Malawi. For villagers surrounding shoreline resorts that readily serve the plastics, there is no better escape from the scorching sunshine than a swim in the country’s largest water body. However, some, especially children, go…

Turning to familiar foe for water

The power of sunlight goes deeper to tap water for populations that rued abundant sunny days when taps run dry, our Staff Writer JAMES CHAVULA writes. The dwindling of surface-water sources fuels a rush for sources hidden underneath the drylands. The race for groundwater is underway in Ntcheu and Balaka, where thousands endured dry taps…

Mango trees burn as forests wane

In Mulanje West, we saw people felling mango trees one by one to burn bricks. According to locals, the rush for trees that once nourished them with tasty fruits confirms the depletion of natural trees they once used to burn bricks. In the rural locality, the burning of bricks is characterised by a night-long party…

Energising democracy

Democracy Works Foundation (DWF) is running a social accountability initiative in Malawi, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, South Africa and Zambia to improve access to clean energy and safe water. Our Staff Writer JAMES CHAVULA asks Dr Augustine Magolowondo, team leader for the Southern Africa Political Parties and Dialogue Programme, how the pro-citizen initiative nourishes democracy. Does…

Water for expanding cities

As the dry season sets in, Blantyre City residents are increasingly waking up to dry taps or weak trickles. Angela Domwe, from Chilomoni Township, usually wakes up around midnight to replenish her buckets before pressure drops. “This water stress is giving us sleepless nights,” she says. “We wake up around 2am to draw water,” says…

Dry towns sitting on water vaults

A rush to the rivers below the country’s drying towns bares new promising groundwater levels, our Staff Writer JAMES CHAVULA writes. When taps in Balaka town run dry a year ago, residents endured lengthy queues for trickles from water bowsers and boreholes where lofty stacks of buckets became familiar sights. The drying of Mpira Dam…

‘You’ll never be forgotten’

You will never be forgotten! Brigadier Tom Bateman proclaimed this on Monday as he ushered Prince Harry to lay a wreath for guardsman Matthew Talbot, who was crushed by elephants in Liwonde National Park. In the scorching sunshine of the lowlands along the Shire River, the Duke of Sussex rubbed his eye as he paced…

Living by example, no plastics

Water packaged in plastic bottles typifies Malawi’s conference culture. Increasingly, participants of such meetings sip bottled water to keep in shape. However, the plastic bottle has come into question amid calls for a sustainable lifestyle—for few actually reuse the plastics or discard it responsibly after use. The calls against bottled water rolled back on August…

Hard choices for plastic-free future

Bright Nyasaland quit school when he was in Standard Two, but he has learnt a lot from the world around him. The 33-year-old sells potato chips at Chingeni Junction in Balaka where blue plastics cover open spaces like flowers in season and winds blow some of them into neighbouring crop fields. For years, crop yields…

What’s burning with plastics?

It is 5am in Machinjiri Township on the eastern side of Blantyre and the morning breeze is fouled by fumes of burning plastics from nearby kitchens. Many homesteads here burn plastic carrier bags to ignite fires for cooking and heating—a common sight in the country where nearly 95 percent of all households cook using firewood…

UNFPA unleashes Nthambi cartoon today

The United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency has released an animated series personifying agonies of Malawian girls carrying a baby before the marriageable age. UNFPA resident representative Won Young Hong will today unveil the character, christened Nthambi, in time for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) slated for November 12 to 14…

Lessons from coal rails

Families living on graphite-rich clay in Malingunde, Lilongwe, have learnt from communities along Vale Logistics’ railway in Mwanza what not to do with money for resettlement. Sovereign Metals plans to clear 108 homesteads in the plain almost 15 kilometres southwest of the capital city. The first phase targets nine households in Kumalindi Village where an…

UN experts for coal-free future

As Malawi switches to coal seams to boost its on-off electricity supply, experts have warned that this is not a smart investment for the  future. Speaking in a web conference on Thursday from United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, Sustainable Energy for All chief executive officer Rachel Kyte said: “Coal isn’t part of the…

Buried in e-waste, Malawi gasps for way out

In most trading centres across Malawi, heaps of unusable electronic devices noiselessly signpost passers-by to the repairers. The stockpiles also mirror the country’s struggle to sustainably shed and shred the electronic gadgets that cannot be used any longer. As the country grapples to manage waste its rapidly growing population churns out, electronics repairers’ shops have…

Girls biking to learn

At Konzere in Chikwawa, it is not uncommon to see a teen girl with a baby saddling on her back. The sun-scorched village in Traditional Authority Ngabu personifies Malawi’s struggle to keep girls in school, with nearly a third of adolescents carrying pregnancies and half of women marrying before their 18th birthday. However, there is…