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Hope for a Better Future

March 6, 2024
Photo Caption 	World Renew is working with local partners and community members to address deforestation in Malawi.
Photo Caption World Renew is working with local partners and community members to address deforestation in Malawi.

Located in northern Malawi, the town of Rumphi has faced ongoing challenges with flooding over the past few years. Most families in Rumphi earn a living through farming, so each rainy season now brings worry and stress that crops, property, and homes might be damaged or destroyed. Last year the local hospital was severely flooded; its entire supply of medicine was washed away, and patients had to be evacuated.

Job opportunities are scarce in the region, so people often cut down the trees on surrounding hillsides to sell as firewood and homemade charcoal. As a result, deforestation is now one of the major causes of flooding in Rumphi. As the trees are removed, seasonal heavy rains erode soil from the hillsides, and siltation occurs in wetland gardens known as “dimbas.” These problems, in turn, have led community members to clear more forested areas to start new farms.

Recognizing the problem, town leaders and religious leaders began working with World Renew and a local partner, Eagles, to find a solution. They quickly realized that the problem would not be easy to solve across the vast affected area, but they were determined to stop deforestation and prevent future flash flooding.

World Renew took the town and religious leaders to Chongoni in Dedza, an area that faced the same problems as Rumphi. During their visit, the local leaders learned water management techniques and ways to control the flow and speed of rainwater. They also learned about afforestation and protecting trees on hillsides to reduce heavy runoff. Inspired by what they saw in Chongoni, the leaders sat down together to plan how to manage water flow during heavy rains. Then they began to teach members of their community what they had learned. The community worked to set up check dams to reduce the flow of water.

Sadly, when community members saw illegal deforestation and reported it to the forestry department, nothing was done. Then they learned that some of the people who worked in the forestry department were contributing to the deforestation. They were profiting from cutting trees to sell as firewood and charcoal, which are high in demand, to the local hospital and prison.

The Rumphi leaders decided it was necessary to meet with other key people in the community and stakeholders from the Agriculture Department, Roads Authority, Environmental Department, hospital, police, and prison to discuss the negative repercussions of deforestation for the wider community. They knew they had to make everyone understand that if they work together, they will be better equipped to bring about change for the benefit of all — an end to deforestation and ultimately to the devastation caused by flooding.