The Winds of Change

Climate change, poverty and the environment in Malawi

This report gathers people’s observations of climate change in Malawi and what it means for their lives and livelihoods. They describe rising temperatures, longer drier seasons and more intense and concentrated rainfall. The report shows how climate change interacts with poverty and environmental pressures to create a spiral into vulnerability.Women in particular suffer; having to spend even more time growing food and gathering increasingly scarce water and wood. Furthermore, anything that worsens food insecurity is liable to add both to migration and to pressures to sell sex that contribute to the spread of HIV and AIDS.The observations of farmers and fishing communities match up well with what science is saying about trends in Malawi and across Southern Africa. Climate change is not yet as big a problem as natural climate variability, or environmental problems such as deforestation. But future temperature projections are alarming, especially for the main crop, maize.Successful adaptation needs to help people to cope with current climatic variability and environmental stresses; it will be doubly beneficial in helping people cope now and deal better with whatever greater extremes future climate brings. Recent good rains and harvests provide a window of opportunity and resources that should be used to strengthen agriculture, reduce dependence on maize, reduce poverty and diversify livelihoods.This is one of a series of Oxfam reports looking at climate change and poverty issues in countries. Other reports include Uganda, South Africa, Vietnam, and Russia.