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Dedza, Malawi — Just 85 kilometres south of Malawi’s capital, the impact of global warming is abundantly clear. Hunger is becoming increasingly common due to famine caused by unfavourable rainfalls and poor harvests, thanks to changing weather patterns.

Adding to the problem is the mushrooming population of a nation that holds land as paramount, as it is the main source of livelihoods. In the past decade alone, the population has grown from 13 million to 18 million people. As land size per person has reduced, virgin land has been annexed.

In Dedza, trees have been cut down to make way for the new inhabitants, exposing the land to soil erosion. Almost 80 per cent of the district’s land now lies bare and prone to degradation, making it unfavourable for cultivation.

The problem has not gone unnoticed by the young people who stand to inherit it. They have been galvanized to act.

“It is imperative that as young people we should be at the forefront to help save the planet from being uninhabitable, as the future belongs to us,” says Charles Chingwalu.

In Senior Chief Kachindamoto’s area in Dedza district, young people have formed the Kachindamoto Youth Network made up of 51 youth advocacy groups that aim to tackle the climate crisis as well as the unprecedented population boom. Mr. Chingwalu is the network chairman.

“We discuss how the population boom puts enormous pressure on resources such as land and the environment, as many people are forced to cut down trees as they look for new land to cultivate and feed their families,” he says.

Because the network members understand how a population boom puts pressure on the environment and exacerbates the existing problem, they are taking a two-pronged approach – advocating for action on the climate crisis as well as championing sexual and reproductive health and rights, with support from UNFPA under the Safeguard Young People Programme.