University of Leicester
2022ChavindaCPhD.pdf (3.62 MB)

The Co-construction of knowledge of climate change adaption in Malawi’s environmental communication

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posted on 2023-02-02, 12:12 authored by Chimwemwe R. Chavinda

The overarching question that this thesis addresses is how science-led discourse on climate change is integrated with local language and culture to teach about sustainability in Malawi? I answer this question by examining the interactions of experts and the community as participants in the Lake Chilwa Basin Climate Change Adaptation Programme (LCBCCAP) in, Zomba, Malawi. This thesis draws on a theoretical framework that combines Social Constructionism, Communication for development and social change. The data collection for this study included interviews with experts, communities in Lake Chilwa Basin and an analysis of community radio programmes. Using the case study approach and corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis, the thesis further examined the discursive practices of various social actors and how climate change is re-contextualized from global to local discourse. The findings in this study show that although the communities in Lake Chilwa Basin were exposed to various sources of information; through the media and experts’ discourse, their understanding of climate change was mediated by local culture and knowledge. The study shows that culture plays an important role in the way local people understand nature and climate change, challenging the notion that science is the only way we can talk about climate change. This study contributes to the understanding of how communication between experts and the community unfolds within donor-funded adaptation programmes. The findings from this study further show that although communication within LBCCAP was conceptualised as participatory, the earlier models of modernization and information deficit were at the centre of the communication process. This thesis argues that local communities are disadvantaged if they participate in projects which do not utilise their cultural resources. Therefore, climate change communication should acknowledge the role of culture in the understanding of climate change among local communities. This study concludes by recommending that there is a need for a good mechanism for integrating local knowledge and culture in climate change communication.



Anders Hansen; Bernhard Forchtner

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Media, Communication and Sociology

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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