“During this year’s heavy rainfall, there is no-one who has risked their lives. Our community is very proud of their work.”Patricia Sitande
Village Civil Protection Committees (VCPCs) warn communities about upcoming floods, drawing upon both meteorological data from the Government and indigenous knowledge to identify natural signs of imminent weather events. The combination of this forecasting enables the committee to warn communities about weather events and to assist them to mitigate the impact through such as early evacuation to higher ground during floods. Patricia Sitande, is head of a VCPC in Machinga and is responsible for ensuring her community is prepared for the extreme weather events.
Patricia Sitande, chair of her local VCPC, was elected by her community because, in her own words, she is “very active and willing to work”. Her role involves solving community disputes, coordinating volunteer work, and enacting the early disaster warning system.
Patricia has five children – four boys and one girl – aged between two and fifteen years old. There have been periods when she was not able to feed them all – there is extreme poverty within her community and the soil is degraded due to the increased number of floods and droughts caused by climate change meaning that the soil can no longer produce good crops which often result in low yields.
Patricia explains that the VCPC is composed of a diverse group of people, from young leaders to older members of the community who are “transferring the indigenous knowledge using their experiences from the past.”
Indigenous knowledge has become a crucial tool to prepare the community for the impacts of climate change. Patricia provides an example: “the mango tree, there were a lot of fruits on the southern side of the tree last season so [we] predicted that there would be a lot of rain”.
Recognizing such signs, Patricia and her committee warned and worked with metrological experts in local government to warn the community to prepare for flooding. Many people in the community moved away from the riverbanks to higher lands before the rainy season and avoided disaster when the floods came.
Patricia’s home partially collapsed due to heavy rains but she says that she is happy that no one risked their lives during the floods this year, due to the committee’s work to warn people of impending heavy rains.
The committee’s early warning system saved lives and their leader Patricia explains that we are ‘very proud of our work.’ Representatives from the committee received First Aid and leadership training through the CCPM, helping them to better communicate with their wider community.
When asked about a potential future in politics, Patricia laughed and replied, “Maybe, I am not sure. Maybe local leadership, being a village head. [I see] the possibilities…”