The Impact of Climate Change in Malawi

Written by  Kingsley Mtila

It is known as the Warm Heart of Africa, described by its peace, stability and the friendliness of its citizens. Apparently the only fresh body of water remaining in the world exist in it, which is also the third largest lake in Africa.


In addition, it is also a well known exporter of tea and sugar to most developed countries as it depends on rain fed agriculture for its economy sustainability. No wonder 85 percent of its 17.5 million plus population consists of farmers living in rural areas.


Despite being independent for 51 years now, it has a record of the highest number of new born deaths with an approximation of 17 babies born in a day unlikely to survive for 48 hours, and the question still remains, until when will it still depend on agriculture for its economy sustainability as effects of climate change that is referred to as a change in the typical or average weather or average temperature of a region for a given season, have and are already impacting on it negatively? This is Malawi, a land locked country situated in southern Africa.

Just like other developing countries, climate change is impacting on many Malawians human rights, undercutting their right to health, food, safe drinking water, self determination and privacy and adequate standards of living, most touching fact is that most of these rights violations have fallen on citizens who least contributed to the problem, for example their children who are threatened off their right to life.

This is as a result of heavy rains that started in mid January leading rivers to burst their banks and creating flash floods that left a quarter of a million people most of whom survive on subsistence farming homeless, forcing the state president to declare half of the country a disaster zone.

Emission of industrial gases into the atmosphere in Malawi and uncontrolled cutting down of trees are among the contributing factors to climate change.

Apparently climate change is also having an impact on Malawi’s economy, for example, the insurance industry, as it is often times on the fore front responsible in putting back pieces after extreme weather or in assisting businesses and farmers when longer term weather patterns affect their bottom lines. However, this also represents positive economic changes to Malawi.

For example, as a country there is no need to choose between averting climate change and promoting, as actions on climate change are likely to create significant business opportunities through new markets in low carbon energy technologies and other low carbon services and goods, hence creating employment opportunities in the long run.

Rural communities and rural societies in Malawi are continually facing challenges to the impacts of climate change on agriculture that is mostly depended on for survival.

In addition, social impacts are still varying such that human systems such as medical systems, social aid and welfare are still being affected as climate change has changed the citizens’ way of living, working patterns and the right to play for children in their built and natural environments.

Malawi is also Making efforts to curb climate change, recently government through the ministry of natural resources, energy and mining launched a National adaptation plan (NAP) process aimed at reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, which has been described as a clear demonstration of government desire to attain excellence in issues patterning to climate change management which are meant to increase resilience and adaptive of the country’s citizens and the ecosystem.

NAP will help in coping with medium and long term development challenges and the impacts of climate change in comprehensive and programmatic approach plus building on existing and ongoing activities contained in the Malawi Growth and Development strategies (MDGS), national adaptation program for action, national communities and social development plans.

Locally, leaders are working with citizens to build strong, prosperous, habitable communities and villages as climate change is impacting Malawian communities, social and natural systems across the country.

Many Malawians especially the poor are being affected by the impacts on their property, infrastructure, health from volatile weather changing rainfall patterns and extreme temperature shifts. The working together is showing progress on climate change solutions, with communities on the frontline of leading the movement to address challenges and prepare for the future.

Uncontrolled cutting down of trees for charcoal used as the number one substitute for electricity in Malawi is also contributing to climate change, apparently most Malawians are victims of frequent power outages with a maximum of 6 and a minimum of 3 hours per day.

As a way of curbing down the malpractice, local leaders have embarked on a campaign known as (You own the land) with citizens who are into charcoal business.



The campaign is aiming at signing agreements with individuals who will be entitled to a particular piece of land giving them freedom to cut down trees and re-planting five to seven more trees with close monitoring of senior community leaders, chiefs and village headmen before being entitled to another piece of land. The campaign has been rolled out in Mwanza district.

Expectations are that should these be fully taken into consideration, then Malawi as a country that has so much dependence on rain fed agriculture is likely to keep on surviving and curb the effects of climate change that have and are still affecting its depriving them their rights to adequate standards of living, health, social life and proper education infrastructures for children among others.


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