Malawi faith groups commit to combat climate change and population growth

Population growth, says Malawi faith groups, is a key ingredient to devastating climate change effects – calling for concerted multi-faith action to address the situation in Malawi with haste.

Faith groups meeting in Kasungu at Chikho Hotel agreed that unless they join government and other local and international stakeholders in fighting environmental degradation, mostly as a result of Malawi’s population boom, the country and God’s earth stand to face even bigger climatic challenges.

“Let us be straight here. Population growth is the key causative of climate change and its negative impacts. Unless we discuss meaningfully to start a deliberate multi-faith approach to sensitizing our people on the dangers of careless population growth, we can only be assured that we shall win the climate change fight. We must tell our people to control human procreation – thinking of manageable sizes of our families. We must start to be responsible with our population,” expressed Reverend Nanson Zonda, the new general secretary for the Church of African Presbytery (CAP).

Rev. Zonda - right) with MCC General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Osborne Joda-Mbewe.- Photo credit: MCC PRO

Malawi’s three Christian mother bodies, the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) northern and central region church leaders were meeting to map up their way in supplementing government efforts in environmental and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Facilitator Dr. David Mkwambisi from Bunda College of Agriculture, said the church was a greater instrument in changing climate change impacts as it has a wider constituency.

“As a church you deal with the heart unlike the government and other stakeholders that deal with the body. It is therefore much easier for you to lead in advocacy on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Your clients are mostly the poor and marginalized who are at the grassroots level. We must take advantage of the scripture to reach out with messages that will help our environment,” he said.

He conquered that with population growth, new settlement demand for new infrastructure that relies on vegetation and in particular wood, in burning bricks and roofing houses.

Mkwambisi also pointed out the threat brought about by this trend, where poor people sell their land to urbanization and end up more poorer and without any land for survival.

“All these factors feed into negative impacts on climate change and economic development. Migration and urbanization also eat into natural resources. We must find better ways and lasting solutions of protecting our natural resources,” he advised.

Earlier, the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Climate Change Management official, also a facilitator at the three and a half workshop, Evans Njewa, offered the church leaders an olive branch from government, encouraging them to work at modalities to compliment the government machinery in voicing out for Malawi’s climate change interests.

“As government we are ready and willing to continue to work with you now and in the future. We want as many of you to add to our numbers when we go for Conference of Parties (COPs) to make our voice heard. We need numbers to move consensus at these important forums. Government will support you in this endeavor,” he challenged.

About 12 church leaders and faith youths from Malawi attended the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference, COP17 in Durban South Africa last year November-December, supported by government through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Nowergian Church Aid (NCA) among other stakeholders.

The world is currently planning the forthcoming COP18 in Qatar, where government of Malawi is encouraging the faith community to mobilize and be part of the negotiations.

“We are always few and fail to attend all the important meetings which take place at once often times. We need more people from the faith community and other key stakeholders to be able to be represented and heard in all the important aspects of the COP negotiations,” added Njewa.

The meeting was the second of its kind after another for the southern region church leaders took place in Zomba. The church has rolled out a number of environment and climate change programs and events in the belief that they are God’s stewards of a just and well-cared for earth.

Genesis 1 talks of God creating the world and seeing that it was good, and charging mankind with its care.

The meeting, coordinated by the MCC, was officially opened by Bishop Sonkhani form the ECM and closed by MCC board member, Mr. Marchwells Mkandawire under the Faith Leaders and Climate Change Program supported by UNDP and the government of Malawi.

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