Sep 08 2006

A Cold Country

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 5:18 PM

LILONGWE – It is late afternoon and I am meeting with a prominent farmer in Malawi, the elected chairman of the largest farmer organization in the country, NASFAM. The weather is unusually cold, with temperatures falling into the 60s in the early mornings and evenings. She is wearing a heavy sweater and insisting that Malawi is supposed to be warm this time of year. But the climate is changing. One of her fellow farmer-activists, Dumisa Nthara, is sounding like Al Gore. “Climate changes are adversely affecting us,” he says. “The farmer in Malawi is now unable to predict when to grow his crops.”

“September is supposed to be hot,” he says. “Look how cool it is today.”

Malawi is one of poorest countries on Earth, and also among the most dependent on subsistence farming. The country, in the southern part of Africa, a thin strip of land sandwiched between much larger Zambia and Mozambique, is bedeviled by poor soils and high population density, which means there isn’t enough land to go around. HIV/AIDS is also taking a heavy toll on the country’s life expectancy. And now here comes climate change. Just how many stresses and setbacks can one small African country take?

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