ZOMBA – I met Malawiâ€™s leading expert on climate change the other day, a young geologist at the University of Malawiâ€™s Chancellor College in the provincial city of Zomba. The geologist bears the magnificent name, Cosmo Socrates Ngongondo. Earlier this year he published a striking paper in the peer-reviewed journal, Quartenary International, on declines in rainfall in the southern part of Malawi, historically the poorest and most densely populated part of the country. The paper bears a intimidating title, â€œAn analysis of long-term rainfall variability, trends and groundwater availability in the Mulunguzi river catchment area,â€ but Ngongondoâ€™s message is easy to grasp. Farmers in southern Malawi are right when they conclude their lands receive less rainfall than 50 years ago. Ngongondoâ€™s analysis of rainfall data, from 1954 to 1998, charts the decline. His paper stops short of providing an explanation for the decrease in rainfall, though when I met with him in his university office he explained that farmers would be wise to adapt their methods to cope with shorter growing seasons and lighter rains. The options: more diverse crops that require less water and mature more quickly. â€œClimate change need not be a disaster for Malawiâ€™s farmers,â€ he says. â€œThey can adapt, and should, because the old weather patterns of the past are not likely to return.â€
Adapt or Burn
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