Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Lilongwe and Blantyre

A delay in the first of three flights meant that I have arrived in Malawi 24 hours later than originally planned but no matter, the schedule has been rejigged and there’s still plenty of time to see everything that I’d hoped.

On arrival in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, at midday on Monday it was a case of confirming meetings, ensuring sufficient cash was taken out of cash machines and phone credit was topped up before heading south on Tuesday. All admin tasks completed, and executive coach booked, I arrived safely in Blantyre this afternoon.
View of Lilongwe

What has been apparent from being in Lilongwe and through travelling down to Blantyre has been the importance of wood and charcoal as a fuel in Malawi. Official estimates have the reliance on biomass (wood or charcoal) as accounting for 89% of the total national energy demand in Malawi. Considering this, it’s no wonder that there are some significant loads of wood for sale at the side of the road and piled high in lorries destined for areas with less wood available. Due to high transportation costs, it can be an expensive fuel and deforestation is a big problem in Malawi. When this is combined with the health issues associated with using wood fuelled indoor cook stoves, there is a significant drive to increase the efficiency of wood consumption. The fuel efficient cook stove projects in the CEDP are looking to address this very issue and I hope to see some of these projects later in the trip.
Approaching Blantyre

This afternoon I had my first meeting with Martin Ketembo who will be developing a community renewable energy toolkit for Malawi. The toolkit will have two formats, a written resource that NGOs and community based organisations (CBOs) can use and a secondary toolkit based on visual aids and DVDs will be developed for people with lower literacy. The development of both toolkits will be a key resource for community groups and organisations looking to progress their own renewable energy projects in Malawi with the support of the locally based Development Officers. It’s hoped that the toolkit that is developed in Malawi will act as a blueprint for developing similar toolkits for other developing countries.
Solar panels providing energy for pre-election registration in Blantyre

I’ve also been able to meet with Penny George from Scottish Government and Joanna Keating, Head of International Development at Scottish Government. I’ll be travelling to Mulanje tomorrow with Penny, Joanna and others from Scottish Government tomorrow. More news from Mulanje where I will see an operational locally owned hydro project to follow!


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