My COP 26 reflections

By Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil, Sustainable Futures Global Network Co-Director

Deemed the “world’s best last chance” to combat climate change and meet the effort to prevent the Earth’s temperature from rising above 1.5°C, COP 26 started on a “high”, with the World Leaders Summit, major announcements including a long list of commitments from public and private sector actors to combat climate change, curb biodiversity destruction and hunger, and to protect indigenous peoples’ rights. As the negotiations carried on, countries negotiated in “blocs”, where groups of countries came together for presenting their specific interests. It was my first time to attend a Conference of Parties (COP) and I was excited to be back in one of my favorite cities; Glasgow, for attending COP 26 as part of Eswatini’s delegation. I coordinate Eswatini’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and I was keenly looking forward to learning and creating new networks to help with Eswatini’s NDC implementation. I was also excited that I would meet Mia Perry and Priscilla Akchapa from the Sustainable Futures (SF) network, a family of like-minded people who believe in ethical partnerships, interdisciplinary work and undertook research and collaboration across global North and South. I have always felt privileged to be part of the warm SF network, which gave its members tremendous intellectual stimulation over the past six years since the network was formed.

At COP 26, the climate negotiations were well attended and after extending for an extra day, nearly 200 countries adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact. There were some successes that could be reported including that the Glasgow Climate Pact called on countries to report their progress towards more climate ambition next year, at COP27, set to take place in Egypt. The Paris Agreement “rulebook” came to a successful close, including regulations around carbon markets and regular reporting of climate data by all countries. The pact enshrined commitment to double the funding for developing countries on adaptation by 2025 to around US $40 billion and urged countries to fully deliver on an outstanding promise to deliver US$100 billion per year for five years to developing countries vulnerable to climate damage.

There were some disappointments however, with not enough ambition on reducing fossil fuels and failure to secure the establishment of a dedicated loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries.  However, the pact did agree to fund the Santiago Network, a body that aims to build technical expertise on dealing with loss and damage. Technically, the 1.5℃ limit is still within reach, though, more ambitious emissions cuts will be needed, with countries required by the Glasgow pact to come back with stronger plans by the end of 2022.

Although at the start of the conference the mood was quite upbeat with a flurry of pledges, with major countries pledging to reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, several countries coming together to pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% between 2020-2030, some major countries coming up with net zero targets and some new funds announced for climate action, the mood changed towards the culmination. Towards the end of COP 26, the estimate was that in the best-case scenario, considering all the pledges and NDC commitments, the planet would be on track to reach 1.8 degrees Celsius which is not 1.5 degrees Celsius but it is certainly better than 2.7 degrees Celsius where we were a week before COP meeting began. There is still a lot of work ahead and what I realized is that SF’s work is now more pertinent than ever.

Sustainability needs to be in the heart of everything we do. SF network brings together researchers, practitioners and communities of practice that acknowledge the complex nature of sustainability. The SF builds understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability and who believed in the possibility of a different approach to international and sustainable development practice. We challenged the long-standing systems, practices, and assumptions of research and development that tended to favour those already privileged and extract from those considered “in need”. The climate crisis is exposing the inequalities of this world, and this was what Mia, Priscilla and I discussed when we met up one night during COP 26. We need to deeply think about the future of the planet and as SF has grown from five countries in Africa to a global network covering nine countries, we now have a larger team who believes in the possibility of a different approach to international and sustainable development practice. To address the global challenge of climate change, there is a lot to be done, including system reforms, forging new partnerships, decarbonizing technology, lifestyle changes, mindset changes and much more to put us on the pathway to net zero. That night we agreed that the status quo needs to be disrupted and building on our experience and learnings over the past six years, the SF network needs to forge a pathway for the coming five years, addressing emerging needs and global challenges including climate change. We believe there is a way forward and we believe in a sustainable future; our vision of SF is not utopian anymore, but something that is urgently needed. Let’s get to work!

The importance of natural wetlands in a changing climate!

By Anthony Kadoma, PhD Student, University of Glasgow

I am writing this when the Conference of Parties commonly known as COP 26 is taking place in the United Kingdom in Glasgow. Having spent a better part of 2021 in Uganda conducting field research activities on a topic very close to my heart and passion – conservation of wetlands in Wakiso district, Uganda I have come to appreciate how vital natural wetlands are. I will use the analogy of natural wetlands as human kidneys to write about something that we are all very familiar with. The human body has four major internal organs including the heart, the lungs, the liver and the kidneys. These are known as sensitive organs and are thus protected by the skeletal system.  If any of the four is not safe, it will be difficult or impossible for one to live a normal and healthy life.

Back to the kidneys, if you don’t take good care of them, they will get sick and you will be warned to stop or reduce what is causing the problem to them.  If you do not listen, your kidneys will continue getting sick and one of the kidneys may be removed, and you will continue surviving and in worst-case scenario, you may need a total kidney transplant where all the two may be replaced. To get a transplant you have two options either to get a willing donor or to buy both options are not cheap leave alone the process of transplanting and as a matter of fact not afforded by the majority. Also, the chances of success are 50/50. That is how bad the situation can be!

Relating the above to our physical world, we have four key sensitive and fragile ecosystems as Lakes, Rivers, Wetlands and Forests. These four support life on earth for fauna and flora. I will focus on the wetlands which serve as the kidneys in our bodies. Our wetlands play many key roles including absorption of carbon dioxide, collecting and storing flood and muddy water and releasing it fresh for our consumption and acting as breeding places for the fish which the majority of us do enjoy.

Sadly, our wetlands are under serious attack from encroachers and degraders and the warning signs are clear to us but we are proving to be adamant and not listening or observing the signs. Hence, slowly and steadily we are heading to the kidney transplant level. Considering the fact that Uganda is one of the fast-growing country population-wise, it is also a country with a fast-changing climate which has resulted into many hazards such as flooding, long dry spells and food insecurities causing loss of lives and properties. Indeed, wetlands in the country are degraded 70 times more than they are conserved. The country loses wetlands three times more than forests yet we don’t have the capacity to afford the cost of creating artificial wetlands.

Preaching adaptation and mitigation to climate alone is not the only solution as rightly observed by one of the young Ugandan climate change activist – Vanessa Nakate who noted that, “You cannot adapt to a lost culture, you cannot adapt to a lost tradition, a lost history and starvation or extinction”. It is time now for all concerned stakeholders to focus on the care of the vulnerable individuals and communities through making every effort to conserve the remaining natural wetlands, deliberately come up with a communication strategy that will send a clear message to all the citizens in a language that they understand and through a mode that is accessible to them be it televisions, radios, social media platforms, use of billboards, word of mouth as well as traditional institutions to pass on the wetland conservation and restoration message. All our educational institutions should incorporate the element of environment conservation because without it we will all be challenged to live healthy lives. It should also be our responsibility as citizens to resist and discourage all wetland degraders at all cost because their actions directly affect our lives as well as that of our children and their children.

Can Glasgow serve as a springboard to jump from Code Red to Code Green?

By John Baaki, Deputy Executive Director, Women Environmental Programme

Prior to the 26th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland, two important reports were released: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC)  Climate Change 2021 Report and NDC Synthesis Report.

The two reports reveal concerns regarding efforts to cut down greenhouse gases emissions. According to IPCC, despite over two decades of efforts by countries to cut down emission of greenhouse gases, their “…concentrations have continued to increase in the atmosphere, reaching annual averages of 410 parts per million (ppm) for carbon dioxide (CO2), 1866 parts per billion (ppb) for methane (CH4), and 332 ppb for nitrous oxide (N2O) in 2019.”  The report also reveals that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is the highest it has been in 2 million years; sea level rise is at its fastest in 3000 years; and artic sea ice is at its lowest levels in at least 1000 years. The concentration of these gases, which are believed to be driven by human activities, has caused warming that is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years, resulting to increased flooding, drought, and other extreme climatic events.

The latest report by the IPCC seems to suggest, that efforts claimed to have been made by different countries over two decades were grossly insufficient to halt global warming, not to talk about reversing it.  This does not show the impact of billions of Dollars of investments from the different climate funding mechanisms of the UNFCCC, the multilateral climate funds, and other climate funds. Should we say that these investments were not judiciously utilized, or the atmosphere stubbornly resists any effort that will cause reduction in the concentration of greenhouse gases. Maybe, pledges to climate funds not redeemed by developed countrieshas caused little actions to be taken to change the climate state.

What may have worried the UN Secretary General more about the IPCC Report, to have declared that it is “a Code Red for humanity”  is the warning that if nothing is done urgently, the world will move from “frying pan to fire,”  with global average temperature far above 1.5 Degrees Celsius, a limit set by the Paris Agreement.

To add salt to injury, the NDC Synthesis Report released after the IPCC Report, confirms that emission reduction efforts by countries as analyzed from the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) they submitted to UNFCCC is not capable of meeting the target of the Paris Agreement.

According to the UN Secretary General, “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable:  greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

The IPCC report, the UN Secretary General said, “…must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet… Countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy.  By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple, and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net zero trajectory by mid-century.” This statement from the UN Secretary General set the tone for COP26.

At the opening ceremony of the climate change conference in Glasgow, many countries renewed their commitments to achieve net zero emissions at different timeframes, including Nigeria that pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2060. The pledge by President Buhari brings hope to climate activists in Nigeria, as it is a sign that the President will speedily assent to the Climate Change Bill that has been passed by the National Assembly and is before him, waiting for assent.

To achieve the net zero emission pledges, countries such as Poland, Vietnam, Egypt, Chile, and Morocco, among others have announced commitments to phase out coal power and invest more in clean energy.

The big question is, with commitments to act more on the climate crisis been received from different countries, is it likely that the rising global temperatures will be lowered soon?  The likelihood of global temperatures lowering, is whether these commitments are kept to. It is however difficult to tell if these promises will be kept as more beautiful promises in the past by different countries were broken, resulting to the climate state we are in – A Code Red!

This has made many climate activists like Greta Thunberg to lose trust in the world leaders as she describes COP26 as a failure and a “PR event.” According to Greta, “The leaders are not doing nothing, they are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves and to continue profiting from this destructive system.”

As week one of the conference winds down, and negotiations set to enter week two, discussions continue on finalizing the Paris Rule Book that outlines the strategies of turning ambitions into actions.

Whether the state of our climate will remain at Code Red or change to Code Green, is dependent on how much the ambitions and commitments at COP26 translate into actions.

System Change not Climate Change

By Dr Mia Perry, Sustainable Futures Global Network Co-Director

These were the words held high on banners and posters, stickers and signs, and shouted in call and response by thousands of people, young and old, at last week’s Fridays for Future Youth Climate March in Glasgow.

After four hours with my three children, watching them shout, pump fists, answer journalists’ questions, eagerly connecting with strangers with common goals; after four hours of being affected and deeply moved by the swells of human energy, the colours, the voices, languages, performances; four hours of interpreting and explaining to my youngest the meanings and motivations behind hundreds of slogans and statements by climate protesters: “What is Trident?” “What is ecocide?” “What is kettling peaceful protesters mum?” And the exhausted crumpled troubled pile of me that evening.

The next day arrives, and what next? What now? I’m an academic, my online profile will tell you that I co-lead a large international research network; that I co-lead a Masters degree in Education for Sustainable Futures; that I co-lead an international development theme within an Advanced Research Centre at the University of Glasgow. And all these things have been made possible in part because of a deeply problematic system of the academy, within systems of capitalism and neo-colonialism. The very systems that that enabled and advanced the injustices and damages that have brought us to the social and ecological crisis that we are in today.

Within this multi-faced set of systems, I have incredible colleagues, friendships, common understandings and treasured differences; I share trust and courage in our collective intentions and initiatives. Almost all of this revolves around the Sustainable Futures Global Network that has emerged from the collective energies of people who seek alternative pathways within the research sector.

What next? After the contentious, inconclusive, but provocative COP26 in Glasgow — I am determined that I don’t oil the cogs of the systems that are so destructive to so many. I am determined, with the Sustainable Futures Global Network, to build spaces, systems, and possibilities that resist the short-sighted comforts, the short-term rewards, and the individual benefits that are bestowed by the current systems to those who feed it. We can’t correct the injustices and damages of our world within the very systems (economic, political, educational, academic) that created them.

Even with our network, we don’t have all the answers that a new system needs, we don’t have it all figured out. I am convinced of the need for new research practices, responsive education, and ethical innovation in a quickly changing world. But is it possible to design a new way forward with international sustainability research, whilst being allied with and employed by a research system that has contributed so substantially to a global crisis? Is it possible to maintain the support systems that we have built for the Sustainable Futures partnerships, our research, and development work, without feeding back into the capitalist systems that supported them?

I don’t know. I know that the months ahead will see many new decisions, risks, and experiments as we try to forge new ways of working together, across countries and cultures, across values and knowledges. We’re sure to get some things wrong. But that is so much better than not trying.

COP 26: Effective Negotiations could help us reach a consensus

Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil, SFA Co-Director, NDC Coordinator, Eswatini

I am currently in transit to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow and found these interesting messages on sachets of sugar at the airport cafe that inspired a bit of self-reflective writing.

Nelson Mandela’s quotes were:

What happens when differences arise? We address them, discuss issues on merit, persuade one another and reach a consensus.”

Negotiation and discussion are the greatest weapons we have for promoting peace and development“.

These words could not be more relevant than now, as the COP 26 begins. The coming two weeks would show that NEGOTIATION would be the most important tool in the process occurring through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its related agreements to bring about international cooperation on stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent catastrophic climate change impacts. Negotiations could make or break the world’s smooth course for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5degC.

Ahead of COP, a video created by UNDP went viral on social media where a dinosaur was asking us to avoid choosing extinction. “This COP 26 could be the last best hope for the world to keep 1.5degC in reach”, said COP President Alok Sharma at the opening session today in Glasgow. The awareness, excitement, expectations, and interest in COP 26 are high and we cannot afford to reach a deadlock. There is too much at stake.

What would make COP 26 successful is effective negotiations and consensus amongst all countries on the way forward. Lets have a look at what issues will be negotiated at this COP:

  1. Finalizing the Rules of the Paris Agreement

There are three areas which need negotiation and consensus under the Paris Rulebook. The first one is setting common timeframes for National Climate Commitments (NDCs)[1]. This means the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) that countries submitted in 2015 and later updated in 2020/2021, would need a “common timeframe”, say 5 years or 10 years and countries would need to agree on coming up with the same NDC end date for every country.

The second item is Strengthening Transparency Requirements (Article 13 of Paris Agreement). The Paris Agreement’s enhanced transparency framework, which aims to hold countries accountable for their climate commitments, needs to be finalised including deciding upon common tabular formats to track and report greenhouse gas emissions, climate action and support.

The third item is determining how Carbon Markets (Article 6) will work. Negotiators will need to decide how to avoid double-counting (ensure that emissions reductions used in carbon transfers are not counted twice); how to ensure overall mitigation of global emissions (so that Article 6 is not just an offsetting tool but rather leads to emissions reductions); how a levy on trades can fund adaptation efforts; and how to clarify whether pre-2020 credits generated under the Kyoto Protocol could continue to apply to emissions targets under the Paris Agreement.

The fourth item is on Building Resilience and Addressing Loss and Damage (Article 8). Negotiators will be discussing the “climate justice” issue of how to build resilience and protect lives of vulnerable communities, particularly those countries affected by sea level rise and extreme climatic impacts.

In addition to the above a number of other items will also be discussed including Technology Framework (Article 10.4) addressing innovation, implementation, enabling environment and capacity-building, collaboration and stakeholder engagement and support.

  1. Setting an Adaptation Goal.

There will be negotiations on approaches, information, defining the metrics and methodologies for assessing progress in enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience, and reducing vulnerability to climate change through adaptation. Hopefully a measurable adaptation goal will be agreed upon.

  1. Loss and Damage.

The term Loss and Damage is used within the UNFCCC process to refer to the harms caused by anthropogenic climate change. Establishing liability and compensation for loss and damage has been a long-standing goal for vulnerable and developing countries including small island states. Currently the loss and damage mechanism focuses on research and dialogue rather than liability or compensation. At COP 26, negotiators will be discussing about whether a dedicated funding stream or mechanism should be established to address loss and damage or whether existing funds and mechanisms within and outside the UNFCCC would be better placed to provide the needed support.

  1. Financing Climate Action

Developed countries had not yet fulfilled the promise of mobilizing $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries (which was to start in 2020). At this COP, hopefully the target will be raised, and more funding will be committed. The UK COP presidency announced that the mobilisation of finance would be one of the key goals for COP26.

The UN negotiations are consensus-based, and reaching agreement will depend on leaving no issue behind and making sure everyone’s voice is heard. Therefore, national Negotiators have a crucial role to play during this coming week and next in Glasgow. They will be working together aligned as “blocs” to negotiate. Teamwork and trust will be important, so could moving away from a  ‘win-lose’ mindset towards a more positive framing of ‘win-win’ perspectives combining climate action with green growth and economic prosperity, which may motivate countries to reach consensus.

Nelson Mandela’s  quote printed on the sugar sachet encouraged me. He was a leader that inspired many with his vision of change and his wisdom will endure through the ages. Let’s make this COP26 negotiations inspirational, memorable, and one that brought countries together in agreement  despite their differences, towards the greater goal of saving humanity and the planet. Wishing all the negotiators the very best at COP26 in Glasgow!

[1] NDC stands for a Nationally Determined Contribution. For the Paris Agreement goals to be achieved, every country needs to play its part. Because countries have different circumstances, resources and abilities, the agreement was designed so each country defines their own pledges, in terms of targets and contributions to the universal agreement. These country pledges are the NDCs.

Insights from LUANAR: CJIF project's successes


By Dora Nyirenda, Research Administrator, LUANAR

Wastes being the unusable materials as they are, who would want to do anything with them? But as the saying goes, what can be seen irrelevant to a certain discipline can be relevant to another, for instance, one discipline can think agricultural and municipal wastes do not have any use but here are some scientists, academicians and local people who think that these wastes have the potential to produce energy to help in tackling the issues of climate change.

To validate this, a research project titled ‘Development of sustainable clean cooking facilities to boost resilience to climate change in Malawi’ was funded by the Scottish Government Climate Justice Innovation fund. Different partners namely LUANAR, Abundance worldwide, LEAD, University of Glasgow and Fab engineering partnered with Dr Nader Karimi to work on it. LUANAR’s aim was to conduct surveys on waste availability by studying agricultural and other organic wastes in different parts of the country especially in 6 districts of Nkhotakota and Lilongwe the central part of Malawi, Karonga and Mzimba districts the northern part of Malawi and Machinga specifically in Mbando village and Chikwawa district in the southern part of Malawi in Feb/March/ April of 2020. There after doing the chemical analyses of the wastes.

What an exciting opportunity for LUANAR to be part of the project as it triggered the minds to know more about agricultural and municipal wastes usefulness in production of energy. In Malawi, the general understanding has been that most agricultural wastes have performed poorly in production of biogas and bio-syngas and as such they have mainly been left idle leading to continued use of firewood that leads to deforestation. 

Well not anymore as different solutions are coming up through the use of municipal and agricultural wastes to produce bio-fuels which are then burned in a novel gas cooker. Indeed this will save Mother Malawi from high deforestation rate that it has recorded in the recent years in Africa (Ngwira S & Watanabe T, 2019).

Members from LUANAR conducted surveys in the mentioned districts, some of the common biomass and/ or organic wastes that were found and samples collected were cassava peelings, bean shells, rice husks, bagasse, molasses, maize bran, cow dung, sorghum stems, sorghum fruit, goat droppings and many more. Another waste that was mentioned that some members had responded was plastic wastes; well one would wonder if this is a biomass waste, right? Not strictly speaking though, the origin maybe biomass in fossil form. For some thoughts some might think to study on this and see if these plastics wastes can be useful in generating energy.

Interestingly, some respondents said that most of the crop and livestock wastes are used for crop production as a source of nutrients which is a very good use. Though this is the case, many of them demonstrated that such wastes were not adequately utilized which gives a window of using these wastes in the production of energy.

Bagasse being one such type of wastes that is produced in abundance by the sugar industries as well as residents in sugar growing areas, this waste was found that excess of it is left unused even after the sugar processing companies have burned it to produce electricity. Perhaps, this can be a raw material in areas where it is in excess to produce biogas and bio-syngas.

The waste sample raw materials that were collected were analysed for components that determine suitability of biomass for biogas and bio-syngas production. Carbon: Nitrogen (C: N) ration in the range of 10:30 was used to guide quality aspects related to the intended use. Fortunately, the sampled wastes were within the range that is suitable for biogas production. Most interestingly, all the chemical elements seen as impurities that would reduce the efficiency of the value of the biomass in the production of biogas in the sampled wastes were below the limits of copper (mg/kg) of 10.00, Zinc (mg/kg) 350.00, Nickel (mg/kg) 100 and Chromium (mg/kg) thresholds.

As successful as the surveys and analyses were, Mbando Village in Machinga district was ready to do the trials as the abundant wastes there were rice husks and cow dung. The trials are a success, biogas and bio-syngas are now being produced used for cooking at Mbando.

Laboratory used to analyse biomass wastes

Insights from Abundance: CJIF project's successes

Fuelling Environmental Conservation: Saving trees in Mbando community

By Stewart Paul, Abundance

In a country with very low access to electricity at 11 % (World Bank, 2020), Malawi is bound to a heavy reliance on biomass as fuel for cooking meals, both at small/household to medium/commercial scale. Between March 2020 and February 2021, I participated in a study on “Sustainable Clean Cooking Facilities to boost resilience to climate change in Malawi”. Funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Innovation Fund (CJIF), the project aimed to help address deforestation in southern Malawi (Machinga) through delivering a sustainable biofuel production using organic waste as fuel for clean and efficient cooking. Designed in Glasgow and built by FabEngineering in Blantyre, the technology might just be a long term solution towards curbing heavy reliance on charcoal and fuelwood for food preparation, especially at a medium scale.

Abundance’s Grace Moyo (left) and Ruth Mumba (Centre) meeting with FabEngineering’s Andrew Khonje (right)

From attending bi-weekly management meetings to leading data analysis of the 2 surveys conducted in Machinga district between September 2020 and January 2021 I would consider myself as having closely worked with the rest of the partners as well as Abundance team on this project. The first survey was on waste collectors analysing the waste collection process, preparation of food, collection of fuel for cooking and knowledge of the environmental impact of burning fuels for cooking. The major findings were that maize stalks are the most common waste type found in Mbando community and that the majority of the stalks are collected at a fee. Also, it is mainly women who prepare food and the preparation process takes around one hour. Whereas mixed views characterised our enquiry on the importance of knowing the fuel type being used, the majority of the survey respondents showed wide knowledge on the environmental impacts of burning fuels, which largely border on the destruction of the physical environment. By successfully designing, delivering and piloting a cooking technological innovation that does not use fuelwood, I am compelled to conclude that the project was a success and it delivered on its aim and objectives.

Soy-corn blend porridge prepared using one of the cookers during piloting

My contribution towards the overall success of the project was mainly attributed to the cordial working relationship with all the partners: LUANAR, FAB Engineering, LEAD and the University of Glasgow. I hope the outcomes and outputs from this project will be used for further research and development of the technology and thereby substantially contribute towards our common drive and urgency to reduce people’s reliance on the “lungs of the land” for food preparation. By training community members on how to use the tested technologies, the project ensured that the community continues to benefit and conserve the environment through its sustainable use.  Stakeholder engagements conducted towards the close of the project saw heightened participation and raised interest from crucial players in the area of energy such as the University of Malawi (Chancellor College and the Polytechnic) and the Scotland-Malawi partnership. Furthermore, the presentation of the project at the Machinga District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting was one of the key milestones as it ensures that the project is not only recognised but appreciated and appraised at the local government level.

Waste management training manual for primary schools

By Reagan Kandole, Executive Director of ECOaction

ECOaction and its partners (Sustainable Futures in Africa Network, Kampala City Council Authority, Makerere University, Design hub Kampala and the US Embassy) aim to promote and sustain proper solid waste management practices and environmental awareness within schools and communities in Kampala, Uganda. The team aims to teach educators and learners how reducing, reusing and recycling solid waste can make a difference to their school, community, and the environment.

ECOaction has the skills and resources to support this development of this knowledge and practice in schools. In 2019-2020, they worked with Environment and Sanitation clubs in primary schools across Kampala City, on the “Clean Air” project that aimed to help schools to achieve proper waste management. ECOaction and partners collaborated with a group of experts to develop a “tool kit” or teaching and learning manual for waste management and recycling in primary schools.

A curriculum specialist from Makerere University, Dr Leah Sikoyo, and Dr Mia Perry from the University of Glasgow have co-developed the manual with ECOaction community artists, and a local designer. The objective of this manual is to build upon ECOaction’s efforts to sensitize school children on environmental awareness. In particular, the resource relates to proper waste management, through hands-on practical activities relating to reusing and recycling everyday waste to generate useful products for various activities within the school and surrounding communities. The practices described contribute to a clean environment and sustainable livelihoods. The manual introduces the justifications, principles and practices of proper waste management and demonstrates how these can be integrated into the primary school curriculum through relevant themes and topics.

Two flexible and adaptable school projects are suggested in the manual through step-by-step instructions; curriculum thematic connections; and visual illustrations and examples. Finally, each activity is linked to out-of-school and community practices for the broader learning and development in family and community contexts. The extended team strongly believes that this manual provides a unique and powerful resource to schools at this time, and aims to increase the reach and impact of this resource as well as build upon it to develop other resources for educational use.

High Cost of Electricity Is A Major Cause of Climate Change

By Vanessa Duclos, Network Manager

SFA member and PhD student, Anthony Kadoma, has had his first piece of writing published in Uganda national newspaper ‘New Vision’. The article is titled ‘High Cost of Electricity Is A Major Cause of Climate Change’.

It is surprising that despite all our water bodies in form of lakes and rivers, including the River Nile, which is the longest river in Africa, the percentage of Ugandans with access to electricity is the lowest in eastern Africa save for Burundi and South Sudan. The percentage of the citizens that have access to power in the East African region as reported by the World Bank in 2018 was: Burundi (11.02%), South Sudan (22.03%), Uganda (26%), Rwanda (34.72), Tanzania (35.56%) and Kenya (75%). When it comes to the availability of water from where most of the power is generated, Uganda leads all the countries with almost 15% of her land covered by freshwater lakes and swamps. Kenya only has 1.93%, Rwanda 3% and Tanzania 6.49% of its total landmass covered by water and swamps. This clearly shows that Uganda has an advantage over its neighbours. Then the question is why do few Ugandans have access to electricity? One of the reasons is that the cost of accessing and using power is costly for most Ugandans.

There are connection costs, wiring costs, monthly bills to pay, repair costs as well as the cost resulting from the malfunctioning of power, which has been reported to cause huge losses. Another hidden cost is that of load shedding if intended or just the power disappearing without one being alerted. This has spoilt the user’s electricity gadgets with no one to compensate them.

The second reason is that the settlement patterns in Uganda make it so expensive and difficult to have many of the citizens connected to the national grid. Almost all the parts of Uganda are habitable resulting in the scattering of homesteads all over the country, making it hard for them to be connected to the national grid.

Thirdly, there has been mismanagement of some of the government efforts to increase connections to the national grid. Programmes like rural electrification, connecting all-district and sub-county headquarters as well as health facilities are all commendable, but inadequate and do not directly target individual households.

With a handful of Ugandans having electricity in their homes even though they use it for lighting other than cooking, there is a big challenge. Almost all Ugandans whether in urban or rural areas cook using charcoal. This charcoal that is derived from cutting down trees has contributed to a great loss in terms of their acreage.

To make matters worse, the water supplied by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation cannot be consumed unless boiled first because of line leakages. This means that more trees must be cut down for homes to have clean water to drink, adding to our already burdened environment. When the forests are cleared rainfall becomes unreliable, seasons unpredictable, dry seasons are prolonged, crop yields are low, and ultimately limited household incomes.

IMPACT STORY: How an SFA Webinar influenced the curricula of an educational institution in Malawi

By Dora Nyirenda, Research Administration, Malawi Hub

Edited by: Alex Maxwell, PGR, UK

During the COVID-19 pandemic, while most people were locked in their homes, the internet helped SFA continue to connect The SFA Malawi Hub was privileged to host a webinar with Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil on Ecosystem Based Disaster Risk Reduction at the end of April, 2020. The Director of Mzimba Christian Vocational School (MCVS) – a faith-based educational institution in Malawi which takes on ten students every year from across Malawi – and his staff, participated in the webinar which aimed at educating, informing and sharing knowledge on Ecosystem Disaster Risk Reduction. As an institution that tries to implement technology through applied research to develop solutions for the local context, the staff were able to learn examples of how ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction can be applied to disasters.  

The webinar was a knowledge sharing session, but could prove to have a deeper and longer-lasting impact for Malawi more generally, with the MCVS staff inspired to change their curricula to include thtopic. The curriculum developed through the webinar aims to tackle disasters such as floods, droughts, strong winds, and land-slidesLorent Mvulathe Director of Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Management of MCVS explains on how this is useful for the future of Malawians, Using the Ecosystem Based Disaster Risk Reduction information in the curriculum can help reduce vulnerability in exposed communities’It is believed that including ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (EBDRR) in the curriculum will inform people and communities on the means to saving lives and peoples’ properties through critically thinking about the different ways to tackle everyday challenges. 

Staff believe the course will help students to understand the symbiotic interdependence between variables within the ecosystem which will then mitigate communities from destroying the local ecosystems. The knowledge gained can then be disseminated countrywide and support ecosystems across Malawi. There are additional requirements for the new curriculum to be successful, from teaching materials to building instructors capacities but it is believed that with this support, communities across Malawi will be better equipped and more resilient to dealing with the damaging effects from natural disasters.  

*Post based on an interview with Mzimba Christian Vocational School Director and Staff (Interviewer: Dora Nyirenda)