DART Malawi Deployment 2023
On the 14th of March, DART trustees took part in a Skype meeting to discuss the option of offering assistance to the government of Malawi. The country had been affected by Cyclone Freddy, one of the largest tropical storms on record, that brought 6months of rain in 6 days.
The rains cause large scale flooding and landslides. There were reports of trees and debris causing fatalities; damaging major infrastructure and extensive impact to some heavily populated areas, half a million people had been displaced and living in make shift camps.
Some communities cut off without food and water for 10days due to extensive bridge and road destruction. All these factors combined with a recent cholera outbreak have led to desperate situation.
Deployment Confirmed. DART's Deployment team has boarded a flight to assist the nation of Malawi. We are extremely grateful to Air link for providing our team with flights that make our deployments possible.
The DART team of Volunteers gatheried essential PPE very kindly provided by STEIN for their deployment to Malawi. Thank you to the whole team of DART Volunteers that helped our our four Volunteers: Andy MacPherson, Al Rhodes, Andy Bakere and Sam Martin
Our Deployment team are on the ground and speaking with Local Government in Malawai ready to be assigned tasks clearing vital roadways and infrastructure.
The team has been working for the Ministry of Roads, clearing a river bridge on the M4 (A major supply route between Mulanje and Blantyre) and clearing vegetation so that this key piece of infrastructure could be inspected.
The DART team have relocated east from Blantyre to carry out infrastructure clearance work in the area around Fort Lister. Our team are training & working with staff from the Malawi Department of Forestry.
Today's tasking included windblown tree clearance from the School in Khamula.
In the first photo below, you can see a tree that has fallen over onto a school, pulling with it dangerous electricity cables.
We were advised to make contact with Malawi’s Department of Forestry, the team felt they were best placed to work alongside DART and receive training.
Following a meeting, they were dispatched to Phalombe an area of significant damage and several protected Forestry reserves.
Our accommodation was a Forestry office on the outskirts of Phalombe a 30 min drive to Fort Lister, which was the main area of works.
On route to Fort Lister on the first day the road was blocked by fallen trees at a village school. The next few days were then spent carrying out training and tree clearance at this location.
There were 6 members of the Forestry Department the majority of whom had never seen a chainsaw before. They were extremely keen and motivated and were quick learners.
They were kitted out with chainsaw protection trousers, boots and helmets, all supplied and donated by Stein.
The remainder of the deployment followed the same mode with work continuing up at the forestry office which was inaccessible due to windblown trees.
The culmination of the training was a full day’s exercise clearing several multiple windblown trees. This was carried out entirely by the Forestry team with no input from DART. The direct result of this training program increases the capacity of the Forestry Service in southern Malawi by 300%.
Tree Clearance from School Grounds
To the right here we can see a tree that has been blown over, pulling down with it powerlines. To make matters worse this building in the background is the local school.
Our Tree Surgeons make light work of carefully dismantling the tree, making the area safe and surprisingly, the powerlines (which were turned off) return to their previous state.
Training and Equipment Hand Over
Part of DART'S mission in Malawi is to donate equipment, PPE and training that will improve the country's resilience to future extreme weather events.
Photographed: Patrick learning safe chainsaw handling and cross-cutting techniques.
Training Malawai Locals On Chainsaw Use
The cyclone brought extensive flooding and landslides but in the Blantyre region, wind speeds were relatively low. This didn’t lead to large-scale windblown trees but rather isolated pockets in exposed areas.
Movement around Malawi was extremely restricted due to the number of bridges and roads that were damaged or destroyed completely. Several areas where there were reports of significant tree damage in the south, closer to Mozambique were only accessible by helicopter even 3/4 weeks after the event.
Large-scale deforestation driven by the need for food production and cooking fuel has stripped the mountainsides of trees. This coupled with climate change and subsequently increased rains has had a cumulative impact hitting the poorest sectors of society.
The forestry departments being at the forefront of the fight against deforestation are without doubt the best organisation to be custodians of the equipment. This training is a significant legacy for Malawi, this build’s capacity in country and reduces the need for external NGO assistance.
Working alongside local assets while training to achieve this should be at the forefront of all future developments.
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