Today was always going to be a tough day in many ways. Some important decisions crucial for the successful delivery of the 4 year project needed to be made and some of us were going to be interviewed for a 25 minute Environmental TV documentary covering our project on Malawian TV. If I did not think the day was going to be long and challenging, I was reminded of that by the reappearance of the giant spider in my shower – even I found this one too big to remove and thus decided to shower whenever they were not on the wall by the shampoo bottle.
The morning was spent wrestling with the study site selection and the usual discussions relating to the best design for the ecosystem services, the PRA and household surveys and finally, and not to be ignored, the ability of working at the sites chosen. The team is so full of talented people, all of whom are respectful of one another’s opinions, and because of this the morning became a stimulating and creative task rather than a challenge. We decided to run a transect form west Zomba (Chingale), through a transition /frontier zone on the forested plateau and then continuing on towards Lake Chilwar. This method captures different distances from the large forested plateau, important providers of ecosystem services and the Lake Chilwa area which is so affected by actions taken on the plateau, yet provides other key services form the lake.
This lake has dried up in the recent past, and is likely to dry out again if further land use change, including further deforestation, and climate change occur. As the population of Malawi has increased significantly in the past decade, the consequence of the lake drying out would be severe and affect many people. I hope that the knowledge from our project will help to improve the management of the Zomba plateau and surrounding valleys to stop this from happening or to better manage the recovery from such an environmental shock beyond a tipping point.
The day concluded with some of the team being interviewed for a Malawian Environmental Programme shown three times a week and at a 9pm prime time slot. It was a pleasant surprise, and yet another challenge, to have so much time to discuss our project on television and not offer our 25 minutes of interview for a 30 second sound-bite. Sosten, Nyovani, Carolina and myself worked hard to explain why our project was important and what we will do with our findings. I hope we managed to rise to this challenge and you can be the judge when we hopefully post the progrmmae on youtube and on our ASSETS website http://espa-assets.org/. Seeing my colleagues in action in front of the TV crew reassured me for the second time today that the ASSETS team is really special and I am honored to be leading the team to address such a globally important and worthwhile issue.