Activist Mfiti calls for ‘radical resistance’ to oil drilling in Lake Malawi

Environmental Activist Godfrey Mfiti who is trying to persuade Malawi goverment to shelve its plans for oil drilling in Lake Malawi has been consulting local people along the Lake.

Mfiti with fishermen
Mfiti with fishermen
Environmental activist Mfiti (right) interviews fisherman along Lake Malawi on the prospects of oild drilling
Environmental activist Mfiti (right) interviews fisherman along Lake Malawi on the prospects of oild drilling
Mfiti seeking people's views
Mfiti seeking people’s views

Over the end of last December the environmental activist has been meeting local business owners and residents along the Lake Malawi shores.

He has been seeking views on the level of knowledge on oil drilling among the local people who directly benefit from the Lake Malawi.

Mfiti who also heads a local NGO called Institute of Sustainable Development (ISD) is writing a book on the importance of Lake Malawi currently being edited.

In Nkhata-bay at the north of Lake Malawi the communities are not happy with the way government is handling the oil drilling prospects in Lake Malawi.

Local chiefs confided in the environmental activist that government has been secretive in handling this oil drilling process that will directly affect their lives.

“All we saw here at Kande beach in Nkhata-bay were airplanes flying over the lake a couple of months ago and there has been no consultations with locals. We just hear in the radio oil drilling in the lake is starting soon. We do not want oil drilling in our Lake”- Local Chief who sought anonymity confided in Mfiti.

The local chiefs are paid monthly stipends from government as such any views from local chiefs ostensibly opposite to those of government will lead to loss of this monthly income.

Gift Chirwa a local curios and artistic paint carvings artist and trader operating near Kande Beach in Nkhata-Bay bemoans lack of consultations on the part of government.

He expressed disappointment over the lowering standards of tourism on Lake Malawi and the decline in number of tourists over the recent years.

Chirwa emphasized that oil drilling prospects have produced negative publicity that is leading to low numbers of tourists coming to Lake Malawi.

He has been in tourism business for over 9 years along Lake Malawi.

Chirwa operates a business that directly depends on Lake Malawi’s fresh water as a tourism source.

Often tourists coming to visit Lake Malawi in order to see cichlids and enjoy swimming in the fresh waters of the Lake.

Main customers of his artistic paint carvings and curios are tourists to the Lake. He orders artistic paint carvings from young artists around the Fuka-Mapiri Villages in Nkhata-bay who earn a living through artistic designs.

Most of the artistic paint carvings are send to overseas markets though the export market is not regulated. There are many people thousands in numbers like Chirwa surviving and earning a living through artistic work.

For example only at 30 years of age this business man is a bread winner to a family of 9 dependents. All these people depend on the availability of a fresh water lake that attracts tourists. No tourist around the world locally or from overseas will want to visit a fresh water lake infested with oil spills. Tourism is one of the most sustainable economic development opportunities.

“The government of Malawi must consult local people and civic educate them on the importance of conserving the outstanding universal values of the Lake Malawi,” Mfiti said.

Malawi’s economy is so much dependent on informal business and employment. Most of the country’s population do not go for 8-5 routine work of formal employment registered by government.

“Our economy thrives on small scale businesses by local people. In the tourist attractive areas the tourism business remains at low standards. The curios and artistic paint carvings are not formally unionized. The business is not regulated. There are no structured shops in areas like Kande in Nkhata-bay. The country might be losing millions of forex since the export market for curios and artistic paint carvings is not regulated properly,” argued activist Mfiti.

Most of the lodges along the beach of Lake Malawi earn in come in foreign currency. The business owners are often people from other countries. These business owners often externalize the forex. Malawi is then losing a lot in forex and tax revenues.

The government of Malawi must develop the tourism industry and attract investment in the industry along the Lake shore by locals. The banks in Malawi must open up to investors in the tourism industry. In countries like Kenya tourism has thrived due to availability of capital investment opportunities to local people.

According to Mfiti, the idea of exploiting Lake Malawi for oil is economically not sustainable. Oil drilling has huge potential ecological, environmental and public health impacts. Malawi does not have safety nets for the local people in case of any accidents related to oil drilling processes.

Oil drilling plans without proper legislations, production sharing agreements, safety nets and no any successful track record of fresh water oil drilling Malawi as a country is at risk. It is advisable for Malawi government to acknowledge the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Over the whole world oil prices are crushing and the world is moving away from crude oil by promoting renewable energy.

“As we getting closer to the actual start of oil drilling in Lake Malawi a radical approach is needed to stop this process. Our local leaders must be well informed to resist oil drilling in Lake Malawi regardless of political divide. The issue of oil drilling in Lake Malawi is not religious, racial, political or sexist in any form it will negatively affect the ordinary Malawians. Oil drilling will lead to evictions of locals, loss of jobs, loss of tourism and civil conflicts.” said Mfiti.

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Chipiriro Tcheza
5 years ago

Anthu amene akulimbikitsa zopusawo kuti mwaone zawo zidaera kale tsopano zoti miyandamiyanda ya anthu ikupeza nsima ndi kuphunzitsa ana sukulu kuchokera kuchirengedwe chimenecho sakudziwa.Malawi sangalemere chifukwa chamafutai kumeneko mkuonjezera mavuto mumdziko.Inu bambo Mfiti limbikirani tiripambuyo panu ife.kuti ndalama zolowa ndizambiri kusiyana ndiphindu.Panthu zana limodzi opindula khumi ndekuti ziribwino zikatero?

5 years ago

I am totally disappointed with what is happening to Malawi. Its so embarrassing to see that the leaders are so greedy, instead of looking the ways on how we can make our Malawi sustainable but they want to degrade it to zero level, kodi chimakhala chili chani? have you ever thought about the poor people who are in the rural areas of Our country, Let us unite for No fuel drilling from Our Lake. Who so ever wants this to happen has no soul over the country’s people.

Sake Chilling
Sake Chilling
5 years ago

I am dumbfounded by the comments against Mr Mfiti. I wonder if any of those people that are against Mr Mfiti followed the discussions that took place at the Climate Change Summit in France. One of the calls was “keep it in the ground” Countries are being urged to go for renewable energy and move away from fossil fuels. It is unbelievable that a Malawian would “damage” a natural resource like Lake Malawi for the sake of a few greedy people from overseas and a fewer number of people in Malawi who will benefit from the oil proceeds. Take a… Read more »

MF Jones
5 years ago

Malawi would not benefit from oil drilling considering the current world price of oil. At $38 or so a barrel Malawi will need a very efficient production system and high production levels to just break even. This is not good for us. The cost outweighs the benefits.

Leave the lake alone and let’s to continue brag about the beauty and freshness of our Lake.

5 years ago

Malawians should be realistic. You cannot run a modern economy exporting dry leaves. There is need for the economy to develop a strong industrial base. That is why oil exploration is important. It will enable the country to diversify its economy and have a consistent flow of foreign exchange through out the year. I can go on and on. People like Mfiti still want Malawians to live in the stone age. He gets funding from his benefactors in the west and he is living comfortably whilst millions of Malawians are without food as we speak. In whose interest is he… Read more »

5 years ago

Mr. Mfiti keep on doing , KAMEME waku Chitipa BOMA akudziwa chiyani ubwino wa Nyanja kwa anthu amu mphepete mwanyanjamo?

mercy Nyirongo
mercy Nyirongo
5 years ago

Am sorry brother mfiti you are doing the consultations alone I feel sorry these this things are hearvy for you no wonder people are attacking you coz you are already biased arguments lake is not only for you even selection of people interviewed is questionable get another strategy and put those photos on your Facebook page as others have suggested so that your few friends can see

5 years ago

There is always resistance to most development activities in Malawi be it roads what soever. Oil drilling will benefit all of us as a country that you cannot counter with individual gains. Government can not consult everyone living along the lake on something that does not belong to them not even 0.00001 percent.

We faught this lake battle with Tanzania and won. So you mean after winning we should give up the oil drilling we faught for? Where have you been when the lake was about to be sold by some few selfish individuals

swalalahi walehi wasaalaam

Godfrey Mfiti…taesani kumalemba Tina story takoti pa Facebook….most of these stories about oil drilling on Lake Malawi…you are the Nyasatimes reporter and at the same time an activist in the same story… myself I have lost trust in you and your stories are not credible ..the least you can do is to put those photos you shoot along the lake and stick them on your Facebook wall period…..

5 years ago

Malawi will not be the first country.You should also know that more energy resources are discovered and if this oil is not utilised now, in future it would be useless. more important and cheap energy resources could discovered soon

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