Environmental sustainability is recognised as one of Malawi's greatest challenges.
According to a study published in 2011, Malawi is the world's ninth most vulnerable country to climate change. This takes into account the risk of impacts, such as storms, floods, and droughts, and the social and financial ability of both communities and civil structures to cope. Add to this the overwhelming reliance on shrinking forests for cooking fuel, vehicle fuel shortages and land pressure, and the pressing need for solutions becomes even more critical.
Currently only 9% of the Malawian population currently have access to electricity, with wood fuel (firewood and charcoal) being the main source of energy for households in the country. This high demand for wood as a fuel source has contributed to serious deforestation and degradation of the environment. In addition to environmental degradation, this lack of access to a clean, affordable and reliable source of energy has been identified as a key barrier to development in Malawi.
Scotland-Malawi links play a critical role in maximising the opportunities for developing stronger community-based approaches to environmental sustainability. For example, offering support to the energy sector through technology and knowledge exchange, providing training and showcasing models of sustainable community development. Community-based approaches represent an effective model for implementing policy commitments into practical solutions to ensure environmental sustainability in Malawi.
Leading the change
Scotland enjoys a strong international reputation for leadership in renewable energy, with some of the most advanced technology development and testing centres worldwide, as well as significant expertise in installing and supporting community energy initiatives on a sustainable basis.
This broad range of expertise has developed within the public and private sectors, as well as in academia and civil society. Scotland's SE4ALL efforts sit within the wider context of the UK Government's significant support for the initiative, as led by DFID. The Scottish SE4ALL forum (co-chaired by Scottish Government and Scottish Renewables) was set up to co-ordinate these efforts of all the interested stakeholders (e.g. Scottish Government, Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP), University of Strathclyde, Community Energy Scotland, SgurrEnergy).
Given Scotland's longstanding and mutually-beneficial relationship with Malawi the forum has decided to focus their efforts 'To support increased access to sustainable energy in Malawi and other developing countries, in particular for rural off-grid communities, through sharing Scottish expertise and experience in the field of renewable energy.'
In particular focusing on the following areas:
• policy support (as provided to Malawi's Department of Energy);
• on-the-ground capacity-building, particularly in decentralised energy access at community level (for example, training and skills-sharing); and
• supporting small-scale innovative projects which aim to test replicable sustainable models for off-grid community-level renewable energy