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COP21: Malawi’s battle to hold on to forests

Posted: 01.21.2017 no comments


Read the full article online at http://www.bbc.com


malawi“You’d be pushed to find a more uplifting display of the transformative power of renewable energy. In a one-room house in rural Malawi, the little face of six-year-old Rachel is framed in a soft white halo. On a bamboo mat lies a maths book alongside a bundle of fine twigs that she shuffles to help her arithmetic. The rest of the village is in total darkness but thanks to the lamp – bought with the help of UK government aid – Rachel’s school grades are improving now she can study at home. In a nearby village, solar panels on a school roof – donated by the Scottish government – have improved results, as well as providing an extra income source from charging phones and car batteries. “Please thank people in Scotland,” the head teacher asks me. “Thanks to the solar panel we even had one pupil go to national school.”


But these are rare examples of electricity in rural Malawi. This is one of the world’s poorest countries. Just 10% of people are on the grid. And around 90% of power is produced by hydro-electric stations, which are beset by erratic rains caused – Malawian meteorologists say – by climate change. Malawi’s own greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are minuscule. But the nation has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world as people desperate for fuelwood hack into the once-rich forests. Deforestation reduces the ability of forests to soak up CO2. It also loosens soil, which then releases carbon dioxide. What’s more, in heavy rains, the loosened soil cascades down the hills. This means aquifers don’t get replenished, rivers burst their banks, and silt and branches clog up the hydropower plants. Escom, the body that owns the hydro dams, says reservoir capacity has been reduced by two thirds as a result of siltation from forest felling. There are constant black-outs for the few people and businesses who have grid electricity at all. So what’s Malawi’s answer to its climate and energy crisis?”


Read the full article online at http://www.bbc.com