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"Economy at mercy of climate change - LSE professor"

A research fellow at London School of Economics and Political Science professor Declan Conway has urged Malawi government to give extra attention to climate change issues because the economy is agro-based.

In an interview in Lilongwe last week, the professor, who is also a leading coordinator in the Uncertainty Reduction in Models for Understanding Development and Applications Project being carried out in Malawi and Tanzania, said improved information dissemination on climate change can avert potential disasters.

The project, which is also known as Umfula, has targeted the Rufiji River basin inTanzania and Shire Valley districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa as well as Thyolo in the Shire Highlands.

Said Conway: “There is need to up-scale information sharing in Malawi as regards climate change issues. Historically, there has been less attention given to this area and this is precarious for the country as its economy is agro-based.

“What makes this more pertinent is that Malawi lies in a transition zone which makes it difficult to predict weather.”

He said Umfula will make climate information more useful for planners in Malawi as well as Africa by investigating which models most effectively stimulate the regional climate.

“Global climate models cannot currently capture, in full, the complex drivers of central and southern Africa’s climate. Our goal is to have a clearer description of how the climate will change over the next five to 40 years, and how these changes will vary from region to region,” he said.

Department of Climate and Meteorological Services director Jolamu Nkhokwe said the country needs to do more on information dissemination regarding weather issues.

He said Malawi has 21 manned weather stations and 25 stations where volunteers help the department gather information.

Said Nkhokwe: “We do not have capacity in the districts, and even at headquarters, there are heaps of papers containing information without proper quality control.”

Associate professor of environmental sustainability at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) David Mkwambisi, who is also part of the Umfula team, said there is a lot that Malawi needs to do to mitigate effects of climate change.

“We need to improve the way we share information because this is an area that is problematic,” he said.

Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira Banda said climate change has the potential to affect the country’s economic gains.

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