This is the first in a series of State of the Environment Reports for Malawi, prepared by the Environmental Affairs Department.

The major objectives of this State of the Environment Report are to:

  • provide the Malawi public and decision makers with accurate, timely and accessible information concerning the state of the environment in Malawi;
  • increase public understanding of environmental issues and problems in Malawi and at the same time seek public support and participation in addressing them
  • provide information on the progress the government has made in addressing environmental problems as stipulated in the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) adopted in December 1994;
  • provide a basis for the development of a meta-database of environmental information, within the Environmental Affairs Department, that may be used for planning and decision making;
  • develop a baseline for key environmental indicators in Malawi against which changes in the state of natural resources and the environment can be monitored; and
  • provide a framework for monitoring the impact on Malawi's natural resources and the environment of international environmental conventions and treaties.
In compiling the State of the Environment Report, emphasis has been on identifying key environmental indicators for each of the main environmental issues identified in the NEAP and in compiling information on national trends for selected environmental indicators in order to facilitate the monitoring process of the condition of the environment. A number of indicators have been identified that will assist in the monitoring process (see list in appendix). The indicators are divided into those that provide information on pressure on the environmental condition, those that describe the actual state of the environment, and those that aim to relieve the pressure and improve the state of the environment. Future SOE reports could focus on compiling district information for these key indicators and/or on preparing environmental audits within key sectors of the economy.

In this report the presently available information is presented to meet two basic requirements:

  • to report on the nine key environmental issues as described in the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP), adopted by government in 1994;
  • to compile and analyse data on important environmenta1 indicators for each of the environrnenta1 issues, in order to provide the information needed to lay a strategy for addressing environmental problems more holistically in line with Vision 2020 goals.
This has been done using data on:
  • environmental pressures, emanating from socio-economic, political and institutional shortcomings, which influence or contribute to changes in the state of the environment;
  • the big-physical condition of the specific natural resource sectors; and
  • responses to the problems, as reactions to the unwanted trends in the pressure and state indicators, which aim to stop, slow down or reverse the changes.
This report consists of an overview and nine main chapters, each describing a key environmental issue identified in the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP). A number of recommendations have been consolidated to guide actions to address the problems and are presented on a chapter by chapter basis in the Overview.

Chapter 1, Environmental Management in Malawi, gives an overview of the current environmental policy, legislation and institutional framework, the process that led to the current situation and the measures that still have to be taken, in order to cover all aspects of a holistic approach to environmental management. 

Chapter 2, Environmental and development, highlights some of the main economic development processes that have taken place in the country to date. 

Chapter 3, Soil and land degradation, highlights the reasons for, and suggests means to abate, this very serious problem in Malawi that has far reaching consequences on the long term sustainable productivity of the land and great impact on the economic development of the country. 

Chapter 4, Forestry, reviews the state of the country's forests and the main reasons for the sharp decline of forest covered land in Malawi.

Chapter 5, Fisheries reviews the state of the country's fisheries and suggests alternatives to the overexploited inshore fisheries.

Chapter 6, Water Resources, reports of declining water resources and water quality in Malawi. 

Chapter 7, Biodiversity, accounts for the very varied biodiversity of Malawi and the threats to this variation due to the pressures on all natural resources in the country.

Chapter 8, Human Habitat, reports of severe and increasing shortage of housing in the country, low access to safe sanitary facilities, safe drinking, refuse collection and disposal services. 

Chapter 9, Climate change and air quality, reports of significant variations in weather patterns over Malawi. Variations that seriously affect agricultural production and development. The chapter also accounts for the possible measures to put in place to mitigate the effects of this variation. 

While attempts were made to present as much data as possible in this report, lack of more recent data on many of the issues, as well as time and resource constraints precluded a more comprehensive analysis. It will be the strategic task of subsequent reporting exercises to generate and report on the main socioeconomic, political and institutional issues and settings affecting and contributing to changes in the state of the environment and natural resources, including more responses to the problems. 


 Contents | Foreword  | Acknowlegdements | Editorial Process 
Contributors | Preface | Acronyms  | Overview
Chapters: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | Appendix I
Lists: Maps | Figures | Tables | Boxes | References