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Scottish researchers keep Malawi links alive

River in Malawi surrounded by fields
"These workshops are the first step of a longer-term process that empowers local communities to take ownership of environmental planning.

Scotland’s links with Malawi, first forged almost 200 years ago by the explorer and missionary David Livingstone, are being kept alive through environmental projects involving Scottish researchers and communities in the African country.

Researchers from the James Hutton Institute are working with local people to tackle issues that impact on the quality of life for the millions of people that are dependent on farming, forestry, hunting or fishing for their livelihoods by promoting effective management of environmental resources in Malawi.

Together with international organisations and institutions on the ground, the Aberdeen-based scientists are working on two initiatives funded by the Scottish Government: the WATERS project and the Climate Smart Agriculture programme.

The WATERS project is focused on supporting local government and communities plan for future natural resource management in the face of climate change. It works in four districts of Malawi that are particularly vulnerable to droughts and floods. The majority of Malawians depend directly on their natural environment for their livelihoods, so careful planning is critical to support future poverty alleviation and avoid environmental degradation.

WATERS has already held a series of multi-level workshops in Malawi to build awareness of the multitude of benefits provided by natural systems, how these are interconnected and affected by issues such as human actions or climate change.

Kerry Waylen, social researcher at the James Hutton Institute and co-leader of the organisation’s involvement in the project, said: “Significant success has been achieved in gaining the trust and commitment of local government officials and in building the interest and capacity of community committees. However, important challenges still remain ahead. These workshops are the first step of a longer-term process that empowers local communities to take ownership of environmental planning, and coordinates work across administrative levels, with a view to increasing resilience and adaptation to climate change.

WATERS is led by Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) with the support of the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA), LEAD Southern and Eastern Africa (LEAD-SEA), the Malawian Ministry for Local Government and the James Hutton Institute. It is funded by a £490,000 grant from the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund over three years.

Similarly, the Climate Smart Agriculture project looks into promoting sustainable approaches to agriculture among rural smallholders, to improve food security in Malawi. In collaboration with local stakeholders and with the support of the Malawian government, the objective is to evaluate the potential of sustainable and organic techniques as a substitute for fertiliser and pesticide-based intervention.

Grant Davidson, international development coordinator at the James Hutton Institute, commented: “To combat short-term food insecurity the Government of Malawi initiated the Fertiliser Input Subsidy Programme (FISP). Although it is justifiably recognised as a quick fix, long-term use of artificial fertiliser is economically and environmentally unsustainable and does not tackle the underlying issue of soil health. Alternative solutions for the needs of those most at risk of malnutrition through land scarcity, drought or flooding, low soil fertility, or lack of disposable income are needed.

“Sustainable, organic approaches are available as alternatives to high-input, high-cost interventions. Climate Smart Agriculture is one such approach, producing the maximum yield possible with little reliance on external inputs such as fertiliser or pesticide. Our project will work to improve household resilience and planning for climate change adaptation through activities targeted at community, district and national levels.

The Climate Smart Agriculture project is funded with £397,341 from the Scottish Government’s International Development Programme, over three financial years.

Notes to editors

There is more information on the WATERS project page.

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

Printed from /news/scottish-researchers-keep-malawi-links-alive on 06/06/23 11:16:18 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.