Chapter 3: Environment and Development in Malawi

Environment and Development in Malawi

3.1 Introduction

Malawi is endowed with a number of renewable natural resources such as land, water, fish, wildlife and forests, which provide the basis for the sustainable socio-economic development of the country. This chapter gives an overview of Malawi's environment and natural resources, describes the countryman economy and productive potential. It also presents main characteristics of the human resources, population growth and finally introduces the institutional framework for the management of the country's natural resources and socio-economic development. This chapter is a summary of the description and analysis presented in the 18 NEAP task force reports. It also incorporates environmental concerns expressed by the eight consultative district workshops (see NEAP Volume 2).

3.2 An overview of Malawi's environment and natural resources

3.2.1 Physiography

Physiographically, Malawi can be divided into five zones; Rift Valley Floor, Rift Valley Scarp zone, Hill zone, Plains, and High Plateau. These are shown in Map 3 while Fig 3.1 shows the cross-section from Mulanje Mountain to the Shire River. The characteristics of the zones are shown in Table 3.1. Variations in altitude and latitude have given rise to a wide range of climate, soil and vegetation types.

3.2.2 Climate

Many climatic elements such as the rain, radiation and the wind have been successfully harnessed to provide food and energy for sustenance of life. Natural climatic fluctuations from year to year are termed climate variability. However, a change, which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity, that alters the composition of the global atmosphere, and which is in to natural addition climate variability observed over comparable time periods is termed climate change. The climate change is attributed to an increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons and nitrous oxide, which are all a result of emissions from human activities. These gases trap outgoing long wave radiation in the lower levels of the atmosphere thereby resulting in global warming. The other contributing factor to climatic change is deforestation, which lays bare the earth's surface resulting in a radiation imbalance.

The impact of this climate change includes changes in precipitation, evaporation rates, and soil moisture among others. These may have serious effect on agriculture, water resources, energy, vegetation, health and the economy. Malawi's climate

Malawi's climate is influenced by the country's proximity to the huge lake that covers almost two-thirds of its length. The climate is tropical continental with two distract season, the rainy season from November to April and the dry season from May to October. However, from May to July it is relatively cool and in some high altitude areas drizzles (Chiperoni rains) are common.

Annual rainfall in Malawi ranges from 700 to 1800mm. Its distribution is influenced by topography (orographic effects) and proximity to the lake. Least rainfall is registered in rain shadow areas such as in the Shire Valley, west of Shire Highlands and Zomba plateaux (e.g. Lake Chirwa area), north-west of both Viphya and Nyika plateaux. Highest rainfall is experienced in high altitude areas; for instance, Mulanje, Nyika and Viphya plateaux.

The main rain bearing system in Malawi is the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). This is a Pro- cone in the equatorial low pressure belt towards which tile north-easterly and south-easterly trade winds of the two hemispheres converge. The ITCZ oscillates randomly across the country during the rainy season and produces widespread rainfall. The rains start in the Southern Region and progress northwards. Other rain bearing systems that affect Malawi are:

Zaire Air Boundary (ZAB) - a recurred south Atlantic south-east trade winds which after picking moisture over the Atlantic and Congo (Zaire) rain forests arrives in Malawi via Zambia as a moist north-westerly wind bringing widespread rainfall.

Tropical Cyclones - are intense low-pressure cells that originate in the Indian Ocean and move from east to west and can bring widespread heavy, rainfall, mainly in the south, depending on their position in the Mozambique Channel. These rains usually result in flooding.

Convergence ahead of pressure surges - as high pressure cells continue to move over the southern tip of the sub-continent, convergence develops ahead of pressure surges, causing isolated but locally heavy, rains that precede the onset of the rainy season, i.e. before the ITCZ becomes established over the country.

Easterly Waves - towards the end of the rainy season, around March and April, easterly waves exist in the upper levels of the atmosphere, resulting in isolated but locally heavy rains in some parts of the country.

The mean annual minimum and maximum temperatures for Malawi range from 12 to 32 degrees Celsius. The highest temperatures occur at the end of October or early November, but thereafter the rains bring moderating effects. The coldest months are June and July.

Highest temperatures are recorded in the Shire Valley and along the lake shore while the lowest are recorded over the high attitude areas particularly the Shire Highlands, the Viphya and Nyika plateaux, Dedza and Mulanje mountains and other high-altitude areas. Frost is rare but has at least been recorded at chitedze, Lilongwe, Dedza, Bvumbwe, Mimosa, Chichiri and Mzimba meteorological stations.

3.2.3 Soil classed

The country has four main soil classes, namely:

 (i) Latosols: These are red-yellow soils which include the ferruginous soils of Lilongwe plain and some parts of Southern Region and are among the best agricultural soils in the country. The weathered ferrallitic (plateau or sand-veld) soils some with a high lateritic content, are of low natural fertility and can easily be exhausted. Ferrallitic soils cover large parts of the plains along the western border of the country. In high rainfall areas such as Nkhata Bay, these soils are leached.

 (ii) Lithosols: The most wide-spread of the lithosol group are the shallow stony soils that are associated with steep slopes. These occur in all areas of broken relief in the country.

 (iii) Calcimorphic soils: This soil group includes the alluvial soils of the lacustrine and riverine plains; the vertisols of the Lower Shire Valley and the Phalombe plain; and the mopanosols in the Liwonde and Balaka areas.

(iv) Hydromorphic soils : These are grey soils of the hydromorphic group which are in found either seasonally or permanently wet areas, as in Lake Chilwa plain and Lower Shire Valley, and localized marshy areas known as "dambo".

Most of the soils in the rift valley are of; alluvial origin, rich in nutrients and ideal for agricultural production. On the escarpment slopes and plateaux the soils are heavily leached and of medium fertility. In the hilly places the soils are shallow, and such areas are used as catchment areas and for protection of indigenous fauna and flora.

3.2.4 Land Resources Present and potential land suitability

The distribution of present and potential land suitability for rain-fed agriculture is affected by factors such as: topography, slope, rainfall, temperature, soil type and depth. The pregnant and potential land suitability by region is shown in Table 3.2.

At national level, only 31% of the country's total land area is suitable for rain-fed agriculture at traditional level of managementTraditional Management is defined as the growing of traditional crops using local varieties, manual labour with simple tools, no use of fertilizer or pesticides, traditional cultivation practices and no use of extension and credit facilities.; another 31% is only marginal. However, the amount of suitable land almost doubles, from 2,954,500 ha to 5,741,950 ha (61%) with improved level of managementImproved Traditional Management is the growing of crops which assumes the availability of improved cultivars, the application of fertiliser and pesticides when required, hired labour or ox-drawn implements maybe used, extension advice is frequently obtained and generally improved cultivation practices are applied. These farmers obtain credit if required and are market oriented (Eschweiler et al 1991).. This increase comes from the decreases in marginal and unsuitable land percentages from 31% to 17.5% and 37% down to 21.6%, respectively.

At present, cultivated land exceeds the suitable land for rain-fed agriculture at traditional level of management  (Table 3.3.)

By 1990, 49% of the country's land resources was under cultivation, yet only 31% of the countrymen land is suitable for rain-fed agriculture; an indication that the 18% must have come from marginal land. At improved level of management total suitable land for the country is 61% (5,917,950 ha) i.e. suitable and marginal land. Since cultivable land and human population are not evenly distributed, there is a good chance that not only is marginal land increasingly being cultivated, but unsuitable land as well is brought under arable cultivation at a very fast rate. Indeed, visual observation throughout the country supports this.

As many farmers do not follow soil conservation practices, expansion of agriculture into marginal and unsuitable areas poses a lot of problems for the country's sustainable agricultural development.

It is also important to note that some of the suitable land,: about 500,000 ha, is in reserved areas, national parks, forest and wildlife reserves; while another 250,000 ha is staying idle in estates (Eschweiler, 1993)

3.2.5 Wetlands

Malawi contains some of the world's important wetland ecosystems. The most important wetlands include shoreline plains of Lakes Malawi, Chiuta, and Chilwa, a diversity of dambo ecosystems, and marshes of the Shire river system.

3.2.6. Vegetation types

The wide variation in physiography, climate and edaphic factors has given rise to a large variety of vegetation types. Several attempts have been made to identify major biotic communities and Clarke (1983) noted the following as the major biotic communities of Malawi:

  1. montane evergreen forest;
  2. montane grassland;
  3. semi-evergreen forest;
    1. closed canopy woodland of wetter uplands (tall Brachystegia spp); 
    2. open canopy woodland of plateaux  Brachystegia / Julbernadia / Isoberlinia);
    3. open canopy woodland of hills and scraps (Brachystegia spp);
    4. open canopy woodland fertile areas (Piliostigma / Acacia / Combretum);
    5. mixed thicket/woodland of drier upland;
    1. mopane woodland;
    2. wood land soft fertile areas (Adansonia / Cordyla / Falderbia albida);
    3.  thicket/savanna of poorer areas (Combretum/Acacia);
    4. woodland savanna of poorer areas (mixed species);

  2. sand dune vegetation;

    1. Grasslands (seasonally wet);
    2. grasslands (perennially wet/swamp);
    1. lakes (fresh water);
    2. somewhat saline lakes (without outlet); and

  4.  Islands.
Only four of the biotic communities (4a, 4d, 6 and 8b) are not under the protection of forest, national parks and wildlife reserves. However the protection of 8a and 9 is limited to about 12 km2 as represented by the Lake Malawi National Park.

3.2.7 Forest resources

Malawi's forest occupies 3.6 million hectares or 38% of the country's land area. Indigenous forests cover 97% of this area, while the balance consists of plantations. The type of forest cover varies according to climatic, physiographic and edaphic factors. It has been estimated that there are about 6000 species of flora in Malawi. The most dominant forest species are Brachystegia, Julbernadia and Isoberlinia. These species produce high quality firewood and building poles.

The regional distribution of forest resources and population is shown in Table 3.4. Forests are a vital natural resource in Malawi. They supply 93% of the country's energy needs, provide timber for construction and industrial use and environmental and recreational services. It is estimated that about 48% of indigenous forests are held under customary land tenure (see section 3.5.1) by the local communities (Eschweiler 1993). These forests are not managed and there is no charge on wood collected from customary forests by local people for household use. However, extraction of protected trees (Table 4.5) from customary land as well as from forest and wildlife reserves require payment of fees, but these are rarely collected due to deficiencies in the revenue collecting institutions of the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources (MFNR).

Gazetted forest reserves are somehow better managed than wildlife reserves and customary forests which are not managed at all. Although productivity of indigenous forests, is generally low, there are variations between customary forests, forest reserves and wildlife reserves attributed to forestry management.

All wood products from Government forest reserves require payment of a higher fee for commercial use than a lower fee for household users.

3.2.8 Water resources

Malawi has rich surface water resources comprising a network of river systems and lakes, covering 20% of the country's territorial area. The most dominant water body is Lake Malawi. Other extensive water bodies include Lake Chilwa, Lake Chiuta, Lake Malombe, and the Shire River. The most important rivers are Shire, Songwe, North Rukuru, South Rukuru, Dwangwa, Bua, Linthipe, Ruo, Phalombe and Mwanza Rivers (Map 2)

The surface water resource is totally dependent on rainfall. Most rivers and lakes display seasonal flow patterns and dry up to a large extent in the dry season. Shortage of domestic water supply is common in rural areas during the dry season, and in urban areas during drought.

The drainage system has been divided into 17 water resources areas which are further subdivided into 78 water resources units. The most important characteristics of the major river basins are shown in Table 3.5.

The country's ground water resources are not yet fully quantified. Nevertheless two major types of aquifers have been identified, the extensive but low yielding (1-2 litres, per second) weathered basement aquifer of the plateau area, and the high yielding (up to 15 litres per second) aquifer of the lakeshore plains and the lower Shire River.

Malawi depends on its water resources for various purposes such as drinking, industrial development, hydro-power, rain-fed and irrigated agriculture. However, irrigation has plated only a small part in agricultural development in Malawi. At present about 25,000 ha are irrigated, of which 16,000 ha are on two large sugar estates (SUCOMA at Nchalo and DWASCO at Dwangwa) and a further 3,600 ha on 16 government owned smallholder rice schemes scattered throughout the country. The main potential for future medium-sized and large scale irrigation development lies along the lakeshore, using water pumped from Lake Malawi and in the long term, by major gravity canals. There is also some potential in many areas for small-scale self-help irrigation, for which the potential is estimated at over 100,000 ha.

Feasibility studies for an extensive irrigation project in the Lower Shire have been conducted but possible benefits for such projects should be weighed against the threat they may pose to the affected wetlands.

Lake Malawi and the Shire River also serve as a cheap means of transportation. Passenger and cargo vessels ply the Lake Malawi waters while smaller passenger boats cruise on the Shire River. The two water bodies have some of the finest tourist attraction sites in the country.

3.2.9 Energy resources

Malawi's main source of energy is biomass, accounting for 93% of total energy used. Forests are the major source of bio-energy. Petroleum products account for 3.5% while hydro-electricity constitutes only 2.5% of the energy consumed. The remaining 1% comes from coal, ethanol and other forms of energy not widely used e.g. solar energy.

The hydropower potential is concentrated on the Shire River. Its estimated total capacity is about 600 Megawatts, which would provide nearly 3,500 Gwh of electrical energy. To date, 164 the plant capacity has been installed. A number of hydro-power plants are under construction on the Shire River and these include a 50Mw at Tedzani falls to be commissioned in 1995 and 128Mw at Kapichila falls to be available towards the end of this century. There is also a mini-hydro project of 4.5Mw on the Wovwe River, which will be commissioned in 1996. This is part of rural electrification programme. Several smaller rivers, such as the Songwe, South Rukuru, Dwangwa and Bua have limited hydropower potential at a number of small sites, estimated at about 300-400 Mw.

With regard to petroleum products, the country relies wholly on imports as nothing is produced locally except ethanol, which is used for blending with petrol. Ethanol production is nearly 18 million litres annually.

At present coal production is at Mchenga Coal Mine in the north and is about 52,000 tonnes per year (1991/92) while the demand is estimated at 110,000 tonnes. Coal deposits of various grades occur at several locations in the country. This is generally high quality coal with low sulphur content. It may therefore be exploited, subject to Environmental Impact Assessment to determine the effects of such mining operations and of the utilisation of the coal.

While investigation on application of alternative sources of energy such as biogas and wind energy is required, little has been done so far. The wide utilisation of solar energy is, however, hampered by the high cost of solar energy apparatus.

The contribution the energy sector makes to the economic and social development of the country is obvious. However, the extremely high reliance on biomass for energy needs imposes heady strains on the country's forest resources and contributes to their rapid depletion. Hence there is need to develop alternative energy sources and/or increase availability of electricity and coal at affordable prices to the ordinary Malawian.

3.2.10 mineral resources

The mineral resources of Malawi are not fully known and only a few have been identified and quantities estimated. Among them are bauxite at Mulanje and rare earth element minerals. Identified elements include monazite and strontianite, usually in association with pyrochlore, apatite and zircon. World demand for rare earth elements for use in high technology applications such as permanent magnets, colour television, lasers and superconductors has increased. Hence the identified elements could be exploited for the benefit of the country. In addition, traces of gold have been located in Lisungwi Valley, but more work is required to determine available quantities.

Some industrial minerals have also been identified in Malawi. Deposits of limestone, marble, vermiculite, kaolinitic clay, corundum, kyanite, glass sands, graphite, phosphates and heavy mineral sands have been ascertained.

Although the country has these minerals, the mining industry is still in its infancy. The existence of bauxite on Mulanje Mountain, said to be the largest in the SADC Region, has been known for sometime, but it is only now that a feasibility study to exploit it is being done. Similarly, it is now that feasibility studies are programmed for vermiculite, and graphite. Portland Cement Company is making good use of limestone through quarry and clinker factory at Changalume in Zomba and a milling factory in Blantyre. A total amount of 107,040 tonnes of limestone was quarried in 1987 and 72,831 tonnes of cement were sold.

3.2.11 Fish resources

Malawi has diverse fish resources, comprising 500-1000 species. All but six of which are endemic. Lake Malawi is the most major source of fish. The diversity of fish fauna in the lake is influenced by its unique biophysical characteristics: long, deep and narrow basin; clear water which permits visual detection of fish at depths of 17 metres; anoxic water below 250 metres, which are largely devoid of fish life; a marked seasonality of weather and lake surface conditions; and large stocks of mostly small-sized fish. Main types of fish from Lake Malawi are Oreochromis Spp (Chambo), Baplochromis spp (Kampango), Lethrinops spp (Chisawasawa), Clarias spp (Mlamba), Bathyclarias spp (Bombe), Lebeo mesons (Ntchila), Opsaridium microlepis (Mpasa) and Opsaridium microcephalus (Sanjika). Oreochromis spp are predominant in landings in the south, whereas Haplochromis (Utaka) are most predominant in the north.

Percentages of total fish landings are shown in Table 3.6. Lake Malawi contributes between 40 and 60% of total fish landings while Lake Chiuta contributes only 1 to 3%. In addition rivers on their own have some 30 species of fish and more than half of them are cyprinids. With the exception of the catfish (Clarias gariepinus) all of the commercially important species are endemic cyprinids and most are of high unit value.

A number of rivers drain into the lakes, thereby replenishing nutrients for primary production of phytoplankton. The balance of nutrients in the lake is a function of factors such as seasonal inflow from rivers, losses into the deeper water and through the Shire River and the release of nutrients from deeper levels due to wave action.

The fishing industry is labour intensive with an estimated 35,000 full-time artisanal and an additional 1,000 employed in the commercial sector. Almost 90% of all fish landings come from artisanal fishermen who use dug-out canoes. Another 200,000 people are estimated to be working ashore as fish traders, boat builders, net makers and in other support industries. The fisheries sector contributes about 4% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Overall fish production rose dramatically from 20,000 tonnes in 1965 to 84,000 tonnes in 1970s but has since fluctuated between 60,000 and 80,000 tonnes. The estimated potential sustainable catch is in excess of 100,000 tonnes. Lake Malawi's annual fish yield is about 50,000 tonnes with an estimated value in the order of MK200 million (US$50 million, 1993)

Fish accounts for 60-70% of the animal protein taken by the population (ICLAM/GTZ, 1991). Fish, especially the Oreochromis asp (Chambo) accounts for 10% of food expenditure of the average household in the lowest income category. Scarcity of fish will therefore cause a significant negative impact on the nutritional status of the population, particularly the children.

3.2.12 Wildlife resources

Malawi is endowed with diverse flora, fauna and microbiota, ranging from low-lying rift valley woodlands to montane forest grasslands and water bodies with at least 3,500,  4,000 and 1,000 species of plants, animals and micro-organisms that have been described so far. More are yet to be described. To date 1,500 species of vertebrates: 163 mammals, 92 reptiles, 54 amphibians, 538 species of fish and 620 species of birds have been described (Sweeney 1970, Konings 1990, Ansell 1985 and 1989, Ansell and Dowett 1988 and Newman et al 1992).

The distribution of animals in Malawi is mainly affected by the topography, vegetation types and human activities. In order to protect the rich biodiversity, the Government has established five National Parks and four Wildlife Reserves, accounting for 11.6% of the country's land. The areal extent of these protected areas is shown in Table 3.7. The spatial distribution of national parks, wildlife and forest reserves is depicted in Map 4.

The Lake Malawi National Park, established in 1980, is the first freshwater and underwater national park in Africa. It is now a United Nations World Heritage site.

The actual and potential benefits of wildlife to man are many and include: aesthetic, scientific, cultural and recreational values. Protection and management of wildlife resources is important as a source of genetic diversity, food, trophies, timber and of tourist attraction.

At present the contribution of wildlife to the national economy is very small, largely because the potential of tourism has not yet been exploited fully.

3.3 An overview of population and human resources

Malawi's population growth rate, currently at 3.2% is one of the highest in the world. This high rate is due to a number of factors such as a high and stable total fertility rate of 6.7 births per woman (1992), early marriages for women, a low percentage of families practicing child spacing partly due to low uptake of contraceptives. The crude death rate has declined slowly from 25 in 1977 to 19 per 1000 in 1987. The total fertility rate has slightly decreased from 7.6 in 1977, to 7.4 in 1987 and down to 6.7 in 1992. Although infant and child mortality rates have dropped to 16 and 26% respectively, they are still among the highest in the world.

3.3.1 Demographic trends

The population of Malawi, shown in Table 3.8, has increased from an estimated 737,200 in 1901 to the current 1994 estimate of about 10.0 million.

The Average Annual Growth Rate sharply increased from 2.9% to 3.7% from 1977 to 1987 partly due to high influx of refugees from Mozambique. At the peak of the influx there were over one million Mozambican refugees in Malawi. Approximately 50% have so far been repatriated.

The growth rate excluding the Mozambicans is now put at 3.2%.

According to 1977 and 1987 censuses, it is clear that Malawi has a young population with 46% below 15 years of age. This has brought about high dependency ratio of 1.01 for each economically active adult.

3.3.2 Regional demograph tic profiles

The distribution of Malawi population is not uniform among the three regions. The 1987 census showed that almost half of the population was in the Southern Region which has about a third of the country's land area t see Table 3.9). In contrast, the Northern Region, with a quarter of the land area, had 11% of the population.

In 1987, the population density was the highest in the South with 125 persons per square kilometer, followed by the Central and North with 87 and 34 persons per square kilometer respectively. These regional variations are partly a reflection of the disparities in employment opportunities and basic infrastructural facilities.

3.3.3. Rural to rural and rural to urban migration

Substantial rural to rural migration has been noted during the 1977-1987 period mainly from densely to sparsely populated districts. Similarly rural to urban migration has also been significant, at the rate of 3.6% per annum. In the 1977 census the total population living in urban areas was 8% but the percentage had risen to 11%.

3.3.4 Literacy levels

The male-female disparity in literacy in Malawi has been an area of policy concern. Table 3.10 shows that at national level only 34% of the population aged 5 years and comprising females attended education compared with 54% males. This situation is mostly attributed to the general preference of parents to invest more in male education than in female education. It is widely believed that there exists an inverse correlation between literacy and fertility rates. Total fertility rates begin to decline with higher female educational attainment.

In Malawi statistical evidence indicate that the low level of literacy among females may be one of the contributory factors to the high total fertility rate of 6.7. With low literacy levels large number of children offer an attractive alternate form of future social and economic security.

Table 3.10 also shows that less than half of the population aged 5 years and above had some education. It further shows that only 42% of the population of similar age attended primary school education only. The regional differentials are significant as shown by the figures.

3.4 Overview of the economy and productive potential

3.4.1 Macroeconomic environment

Following independence in 1964, Malawi's development strategy focused on open market, export oriented growth, based on agriculture. Special emphasis was placed on infrastructure and estate agriculture as the vehicles for increased production and growth. GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.8% between 1965 and l980, and real per capita income grew by 3% a year. By mid-1970s, however, falling world prices for the countrymen export (particularly for tobacco and tea), rising oil prices and the disruption of transport networks through Mozambique, led to rapid decline in Malawi's terms of trade, a fall of 2.8% between 1978 and 1981. This situation was aggravated by the drought in 1979/80 and other factors such as the need to import maize, the maturation of external debts, and rising interest rates. These factors led to a marginal positive GDP growth rates in 1980 and 1981; a balance of payment current account deficit, which rose from 7.1% of GDP in 1977 to 24.7% in 1979, and a budget deficit which increased from 7.6% of GDP in 1977 to 15.9% in 1981.

In 1981 Malawi, embarked on Structural Adjustment Programme. Despite improvement in the growth rate to 4.1% between 1982 and 1985, the country experienced further economic setbacks in the form of increased external transport costs, influx of Mozambican refugees and continued deterioration in the terms of trade. Notwithstanding the structural adjustment programmes, Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world whose per capita GNP in 1993 was MK991 (US$225). The withdrawal of non-humanitarian aid by the donors and drought in 1992 caused further deterioration in macro-economic indicators, with the 1992/93 fiscal deficit, before grants, rising to 15.7% of GDP and inflation reaching an average of 22% over 1992. However, in December 1993 most donors lifted the withholding of aid to the country.

3.4.2 The structure of the economy and sector shares of the labour force

Malawi continues to rely on agriculture as the backbone of the economy and main engine of growth. Agriculture supports 85% of the population and accounts for 35% of GDP (single largest sector) and 80% of the labour force (Tables 3.11 and 3.12, respectively). Agriculture also contributes 90% of foreign exchange earnings.

The industrial sector is the second most important in terms of output and accounts for about 13% of GDP and wage employment. This sector has, however, been on the decline in the recent past. After experiencing rapid growth in the 1960s and the 1970s, averaging 9.6%, the sector performed poorly in the 1980s, registering a growth rate of only 3.4%. In 1992 industry grew by 2.1% as compared to the 3.7% in 1991. However, its share to GDP has almost remained static, only rising from 12.3% in 1987 to 13.9% in 1992. Other important sections in terms of contribution to GDP are Government services and distribution, averaging 14% and 12% respectively.

3.4.3 The Structure of the agricultural sector

Malawi's agricultural sector is characterized by two distinct farming systems; the smallholder and the estate, which are differentiated by socio-economic conditions such as regulations which define production, marketing and pricing, and land use. The Smallholder sub-sector

An estimated 1.6 million smallholder farm families operate under customary land tenure on 4.5 million hectares and produce 80 % of Malawi's food and 10% of exports.

The proportion of the smallholder farming households cultivating less than 0.5 ha has increased to 48% in 1992/93 from 23 percent in 1984/85 (refer Table 3.12). Since 77% cultivate less than 1.0 hectare, it indicates an increase in the smallholder population relative to the farming land. The majority of smallholders do not use improved seeds and fertilizer. Yet smallholders (77%) with less than 1 ha. produce 25% of the total maize production. Maize yield is usually 800 kg/ha since most do not have access to or cannot afford to purchase modern inputs. The resulting low incomes constrain their capacity to undertake soil conservation measures. This category of farmers are often net consumers and have to struggle to purchase maize for about four months prior to harvest at 30-50% above the producer price The estate sub-sector

Estates are those farms which occupy leasehold and freehold land and a minimum of 10 hectares is required to register as an estate. In 1393 there were about 26,000 estates in Malawi occupying 1.2 million ha or about 19% of the total cultivated areas. Estates mostly produce flue-cured and burley tobacco on about 40% of the estate area and maize on about 42~. Other estate crops are tea, sugar, coffee and tree nuts. Estates contribute the major proportion of total exports, which was about 70% in 1990. Estate land has increased from 67,000 ha in 1967 to 843,327 ha in 1989. Currently the estate sector occupies 1.2 million ha and the majority of the estates are basically enlarged smallholder farms, since they lack all or most of the characteristics of an agricultural estate. Estate development has been most extensive in the central region accounting for 77% of the total number of estates and 67% of the total estate area. Estates have better access to modern farm inputs and credit facilities. Furthermore the security of tenure for estate provide improved incentives to undertake productivity enhancing investments in agriculture resulting in higher yields.

3.5 Institutional framework

3.5.1 Political and administrative set-up

Malawi gained its independence in 1964 from Britain and became a Republic within the Commonwealth in 1966. After adopting a one-party Constitution in 1967, it reverted to multi-party democracy in 1993 following a national referendum.

Administratively, the country is divided into twenty-four districts (Map 2) in three Regions. The Northern Region has five districts, the Central Region has nine while the Southern Region has ten. Each region is headed by a Regional Administrator; while the districts are headed by District Commissioners.

The State functions through a President, who heads the Government, consisting of Cabinet Ministers and their Ministries and Departments, which form the Executive Branch. The National Assembly, forms the Legislative Branch for promulgation of laws and the Judiciary, oversees the implementation of the laws. Apart from these, Traditional Authorities (TAB) administer customary laws.

National development projects are executed by ministries, departments and parastatals who submit their development project proposals to the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development (MEP&D) and the Treasury for approval and financing.

Each district has a District Development Committee (DDC), chaired by a District Commissioner. The DDC plans micro-projects executed by the local communities through self-help with government providing materials such as cement, timber and iron sheets and the people providing labour. Most of the projects involve construction of roads, bridges, school blocks postal agencies and teacher's houses. The DDC is represented at local level by Village Development Committee (VDC) for implementation of the projects.

Social services in the cities, town and district are provided by their respective councils that are treated as parastatals in terms of their development projects.

3.5.2. Environmental institutions .

In order to integrate natural resource issues and environment in economic planning, Malawi has developed an institutional structure comprising both sectoral and cross-sectoral agencies.

The MFNR includes four important departments: Departments of Forestry (DOF), Fisheries (FD), Geological Survey (DGS), and National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) with responsibilities for the corresponding natural resources. Closely related to these is the Department of Energy (DOE). The Department of Lands and Valuation (DLV) has the main responsibility to define, assess and execute land policies. The Water Resources Board (WRB) formulates water policies and oversees the management of these resources through the Department of Water (DOW), which also has the authority to carry out regulations regarding pollution control. In the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) the four technical departments  (agricultural research; agricultural extension and raining; animal health and industry and irrigation), the Land Resources and Conservation Branch (LRCB), Agricultural Communication Branch (ACB) as well as the Smallholder Agricultural - Credit Administration (SACA) all play an important role in the management of natural resources and the environment.

The MEP&D is responsible for appraising environmental implications of programmes and projects.

In 1982 the National Committee for the Environment (NCE) was established as a high level body composed of senior officials from Government departments, statutory bodies and the University. It is responsible for ensuring that all economic and social activities in the country are consistent with sustainable development goals and for resolving inter-departmental conflicts in environmental management. The current chairman of the NCE is the Secretary to the President and Cabinet.

In 1991 the technical secretariat of the NCE, called the Environmental Unit, was merged with the National Research Council of Malawi to become the Department of Research and Environmental Affairs (DREA) under the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC). The former Environmental Unit was reorganized to become the Environmental Affairs Division (EAD) of PREA with wide ranging functions for overseeing, directing and coordinating environmental activities.

3.5.3 Environmental legislation

Malawi has more than forty statutes on the environment. The major legal regimes for these statutes include laws pertaining to land, forests, water, agro-chemicals, wildlife, and land use planning. Because of weaknesses that undermined the efficacy of the laws and indeed their enforcement, most of the statues have been revised while some are still being revised at present. Most notable weaknesses were in the scope and content of the statutes making it difficult to identify a party or parties responsible for environmental damages. Where the perpetrating parties were identified, the legislation failed to provide for adequate penalties to have any effect. Hence the ongoing revision should empower relevant departments with essential Pectoral legal instruments to bring perpetrators of the environment to book.

Another major weakness is that currently Malawi has no general environmental legislation that establish national conservation principles and provides guidance and coherence to natural resource management. The deficiencies lie in the absence of a framework law to deal with such cross-sectoral issues as overall environmental policy formulation, environmental planning, environmental quality criteria and standards, environmental impact assessment, pollution of environmental media, institutional co-ordination and conflict resolution, and the monitoring of implementation of environmental policies by Pectoral agencies. An "Environment Management Act" is being prepared to address this weakness. A first draft, prepared with UNEP technical assistance, is currently being reviewed by a special inter-ministerial task force.

3.5.4 The property regimes

Malawi embraced the capitalistic ideals since independence. People had exclusive rights to their property except when they were deemed enemies of state by sabotaging the economy, in which case their property was forfeited to Government. However, the Forfeiture Act has since been repealed.

With regard to land ownership, there are five distinct classes existing in, Malawi as follows; Customary land : this is land held in trust for all the people of Malawi by the President, who delegates his authority to chiefs. The land is commonly held and distributed to the people by local chiefs. Although each person has recognised ownership to his piece of land, he cannot trade on it as the land can be reassigned to some other person if the Chief deemed it proper to do so. There is therefore no incentive for the "owners" to invest in long term conservation of the land. A coherent system in distribution of the land exists in both in matrilinial and patrilinial societies and ensures that there is no undue interference with known ownership. This system has allowed smallholder agriculture to survive without access to bank loans. Leasehold land: this is part of private land that is leased by individuals or other legal persons. The lease period varies according to type of land and the purposes for that land. Currently these fall into three groups of 21 year old leases for agricultural land; 33 to 99 year old leases for property and infrastructure developments; and over 99 year leases for developers who may have to sub-lease to tenants on 99 year leases. Registered land: this is grouped into two classes called customary registered and adjudicated land. The first exists in Lilongwe District only. This land is registered in area leader's names with all the families in that area registered, including the sites of their land holdings. There is implicit freehold status for each family as it can trade in its holding by leasing out or selling bits of it with the group's consent. Loans can therefore be obtained on the strength of their certificate to the land. The second class is basically a simplified leasehold system, which allows for owners to have a certificate for their piece on the basis of a survey and registered number. This is currently in place in the Cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre. It is being introduced in Zomba and may be developed countrywide. Freehold/certificate: this class embraces private land subdivided into:

(a) Freehold: this is land, which has been granted in freehold to persons. The Government has no specific control in the transactions on this land and no rent is charged. It is difficult to enforce conservation measures on this type of land;

(b) Certificate: a dying group of ownership, a relic from the colonial system, which allowed settlers to obtain a certificate for the land they were holding. These certificates have freehold rights and the environmental responsibilities are non-existent. Public land: public land is Government land for Government's use. If there is need for infrastructure development, the land in question is converted to public land and utilized as such.

Schools, hospitals, government offices, markets and roads are built on this type of land. Forestry reserves, wildlife reserves and National Parks fall into this category too.

(see Table 3.13)

Contents | Foreword | Acknowledgments
Chapters:  | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven
Lists: | Figures | Maps | Tables | Appendices