Dr Alasdair Allan MSP writes about Christian Aid Scotland's Malawi Food Crisis Appeal, which has raised over quarter of a million pounds.
Scotland's international role
Malawi is not a place that any visitor is likely to forget. I feel very privileged to have had that experience recently.
I first encountered the Scottish Government's international development work in my previous education portfolio when I opened an Education Scotland conference on their Malawi work in June 2014.
I took up my new job as International Development Minister in May 2016, at a time when the Scottish Government were consulting on our International Development strategy. I had to get up to speed quickly as this policy would shape how we would take forward our ambitions for Scotland as a good global citizen.
‘Malawi is at the heart of what we do.'
This refreshed strategy is more than about just providing immediate aid, it's about ways that we, as a society, can assist our partners to develop sustainably and make better lives for themselves. And Malawi is at the heart of what we do.
Around this time, the President of Malawi, Peter Mutharika, declared a state of emergency in response to the food shortages which arose as a result of the floods in 2015 and the El Nino effect in 2016 which destroyed crops.
I had to consider the Scottish Government's response to this emergency. I asked my officials to consider how we could bring the situation to the attention of the people of Scotland and get them involved in our response with the possibility of match funding donations.
This suggestion led to four Scottish NGOs, including Christian Aid, launching appeals to raise funds which the Scottish Government would match.
I am proud to say that, as a result of your support and the match funding from the Scottish Government's International Development and Climate Justice Funds, Christian Aid raised £267,962 to assist Malawians in their time of need.
Energy and hope
I found Malawi, and the Malawians I met during my recent visit, to be full of energy, enthusiasm and hope. They are ready, with our support, to overcome the many challenges they face and to build a future for themselves and the next generation.
This brought home to me the importance that sustainability plays in all the work we do to break the cycles of devastation which have, for far too long, diverted vital resources and prevented our partners from realising their full potential.
‘Sustainability should be at the heart of all we do as development partners.'
The work supported through the Scottish Government's International Development Fund is not just about reacting to the many catastrophes that beset the developing world.
It is also about how we can best support our partners through funding, shared learning and expertise so that they can prioritise their own development needs, for the future they want.
Sustainability should be at the heart of all we do as development partners. This is reflected in the importance that the Scottish Government attaches to the sustainability of our projects.
It is also reflected in the decisions that we make in Scotland on issues which impact developing countries: environmental sustainability; climate targets; and fair trade choices.
I was heartened by my visit to the communities in Mbengo and Mkwezalamba villages in Balaka district with whom Christian Aid are working that we are all working towards a joint, achievable vision that will bring about profound change to Malawi and our other partner countries.
This energy, enthusiasm and, most of all, sense of hope will be my lasting impression of my first encounter with the warm heart of Africa.
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