Isaac smiles and holds on to the branch of a tree by a red brick wall in Malawi
Isaac smiles and holds on to the branch of a tree by a red brick wall in Malawi

Let us join hands in dealing with climate change

As we reach 100 days until world leaders meet in Glasgow for a historic UN summit on climate change, climate activist Isaac in Malawi asks leaders to think about the impacts of climate change.

"The effects of climate change occur everywhere and our leaders see them... its impacts are not a secret," he says.

A portrait of climate activist Isaac in Malawi. Image: Thoko Chikondi/Oxfam

A portrait of Isaac

In 2019, Isaac was one of two Malawian school students and climate activists who travelled to London with Send My Friend To School, with the support of Oxfam GB. Isaac and fellow student Jessy shared their personal experiences of climate change with UK school students and addressed activists gathered in London to protest against climate change.

In March 2021, writer James Chavula and photographer Thoko Chikondi caught up with them and their families at home, to talk about how they continue their activism.

Here Isaac tells his story, with James Chavula.

Near-empty fishing boats

After sitting his secondary school leaving examination in January, Isaac took a bus to Karonga along the northern shoreline of Lake Malawi to relax and figure out what lies ahead. The 18-year-old climate change campaigner does not regret swapping the capital city for the lakeside district close to the border with Tanzania. He has quickly settled down along the sandy beach of the lake.

However, Isaac is concerned about the near-empty fishing boats arriving ashore as well as frequent drought, flooding and hunger in the villages along the shoreline.

Fish catches and water levels are dwindling due to siltation, evaporation and climate change. The impact of global warming on water availability also affects both irrigation and rain-fed agriculture.”

Isaac, climate activist, Malawi

Droughts, flooding and changes in rainfall patterns

"In the UK, they are also experiencing effects of change, but countries such as mine are hit hard by droughts, flooding and changes in rainfall pattern – though their emissions remain lower than those from developed countries that use coal to power their industries.

"The loss of trees have left Malawi with scanty vegetation to stop soil erosion from burying rivers in silt, leading to persistent blackouts as well as flooding. I feel bad about floods in Karonga and the people who lose homes flee to schools and disrupt learning. Floods also fuel diseases such as cholera and malaria."

In the UK, they are also experiencing effects of change, but countries such as mine are hit hard by droughts, flooding and changes in rainfall pattern – though their emissions remain lower than those from developed countries that use coal to power their industries”

Isaac, climate activist, Malawi

"Karonga is unique because of its fish, rice farming and cassava fields. If you come, you are likely to eat rice or cassava nsima with fresh chambo. However, fish catches and water levels are dwindling due to siltation, evaporation and climate change. The impact of global warming on water availability also affects both irrigation and rain-fed agriculture."

The trees refresh the air we breathe and cool the planet

"I try hard to lessen the impact of climate change. The trees refresh the air we breathe and cool the planet as the planet becomes warmer."

Thoko Chikondi/Oxfam

Issac, in smart casual city wear kneels to plant a very young tree in a hole in the red earth with a Senior Chief who wears a brilliant blue robe with yellow edges

Climate change and siltation cause blackouts that send learners to bed shortly after sunset instead of studying at night when it’s quiet.”

Isaac, climate activist, Malawi

“When I wake up, I do household chores before preparing breakfast for my uncle who works at Nyungwe health centre. We have electricity, so we cook using a hot plate. However, we sometimes use charcoal because we have no choice. Electricity is expensive and unreliable. Blackouts remain rampant.

“Climate change and siltation cause blackouts that send learners to bed shortly after sunset instead of studying at night when it’s quiet."

Maybe it is time you listened to the youth more and more

"I didn't have confidence to speak in public, but Greta taught me it’s possible for young people to hold protests at Parliament and speak up to people in power.

“The growing voices from the youth campaigners and school strikes have given our generation knowledge and power to take the future into our hands and some leaders are taking action to correct the situation.

"Here in Malawi, it is not easy to meet with leaders... it is difficult because our leaders are not open to a different point of view, they move with high security and do not respect the views of young people.

"Let us join hands in dealing with climate change so that we can have a better present and better future. You have been listening to old people, maybe it is time you listened to the youth more and more"

Thoko Chikondi/Oxfam

Isaac with his parents all laughing at home in Malawi

Isaac with his parents at home in Malawi.

Everywhere, there are impacts of climate change, This is why I feel good campaigning for climate justice. I know I am doing the right thing for my generation and those to come. Talking about it will help many people know the negative impacts of climate change and how to lessen them.”

Isaac, climate activist, Malawi

"The source of water for irrigation and fishing flows for a few months and then runs dry. Now there is nothing left.

"We need clean energy and affordable electricity instead of using charcoal and firewood which have consumed trees. If we find sustainable energy for cooking and plant more trees than the ones we are cutting down, we will reduce evaporation and siltation of water sources. We won't have frequent blackouts.

"The effects of climate change occur everywhere and our leaders see them. They are likely to do something about it because its impacts are not a secret.

"Everywhere, there are impacts of climate change, This is why I feel good campaigning for climate justice. I know I am doing the right thing for my generation and those to come. Talking about it will help many people know the negative impacts of climate change and how to lessen them."

Thoko Chikondi/Oxfam

Isaac smiles and gives the thumbs up at home in Malawi

When Isaac came to London, his message for UK politicians was that we need urgent action on climate change. Until now, we’ve heard a lot of talk about climate action, but not enough walking the walk. And in some cases, we’ve seen the UK government do the OPPOSITE of what it takes to protect people and planet. Join Isaac in calling for a greener, fairer future now.

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Oxfam GB and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union

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