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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2018)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
    • Inland sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Aquaculture sub-sector - NASO
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: May, 2020.

Malawi is a landlocked country with 20 percent of its area covered by water bodies. Lake Malawi is one of the world’s most important fresh water bodies, with some 700 to 1 000 fish species in a single lake. Fishing is mainly artisanal and small-scale with some large-scale fishing in the south of Lake Malawi. Annual capture production was about 199 500 tonnes in 2017 dominated by Cyprinidae, including “Usipa” (Engraulicypris sardella), and “Chambo” tilapias (Oreochromis spp) and other cichlids. 

Aquaculture production has grown from less than a thousand tonnes in 2005 to more than 12 200 tonnes in 2017, mainly with extensive pond culture, often integrated with agricultural activities on farmsteads. Three species of tilapia accounted for more than 95 percent of production. 

In 2018, fisheries and aquaculture provided direct employment to 153 084 inland fishers and 12 800 fish farmers (30% women). The reported number of undecked, unpowered canoes in 2018 was 18 941 with another 2 385 undecked powered boats. A trawl fleet composed by 35 vessels was reported in 2018 with most vessels between 24-29.9 m LOA. About 90 percent of the fish landed was smoked and dried to supply rural areas, making trade a major occupation among many fishing communities, including women. Annual per capita fish consumption was estimated at 11.6 kg in 2017. Fish provides about 30 percent of the animal protein intake and about 5 percent of the total protein intake in Malawi. In 2018, imports were estimated at USD 4.3 million and exports at USD 348 000. In 2006 Malawi developed a Master Plan for aquaculture to support both commercial and non-commercial fish farming. 

An Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy for National Fisheries Policy (2012 – 2017) has been developed by the Malawi Department of Fisheries. 
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data – Republic of Malawi

Water Area 24 405 km2 FAO/World Bank
Fisheries Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (2017) 4 percent of GDP FAO/World Bank
*Value converted by FAO as per UN currency exchange rate

Key statistics

Country area118 480km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area94 280km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Inland water area24 200km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.20.013millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2019

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsTable 2 in this section is based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2020. The charts are based on the same source but these are automatically updated every year with the most recent statistics.

Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics – Republic of Malawi

      1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2016 2017 2018
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 40.98 43.66 146.47 157.05 161.76 163.34 163.34 168.08
  Aquaculture 0 0 0 6.00 9.00 10.07 10.07 15.00
  Capture 40.98 43.66 146.47 151.05 152.76 153.27 153.27 153.08
    Inland 40.98 43.66 146.47 151.05 152.76 153.27 153.27 153.08
    Marine 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
FLEET (thousands boats) 15.32 15.32 15.32 15.60 17.12 16.54 18.00 21.36
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics  
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up  

Please Note:Fishery statistical data here presented exclude the production for marine mammals, crocodiles, corals, sponges, pearls, mother-of-pearl and aquatic plants.


Updated 2018Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorMalawi is endowed with numerous water bodies that include Lakes Malawi, Malombe, Chilwa and Chiuta, and the Shire River System. Water bodies, together, cover 24 405 sq.km, about 20 percent of Malawi’s surface area of 118 484 sq.km. Fishing is an important sector that contributes to livelihoods of the rural population and economic growth of the country. Fish contributes substantially to the food security and livelihoods of millions of people in Malawi. In the 1970s, fish provided 70 percent of the animal protein intake and 40 percent of total dietary protein supply for the country. Per capita consumption of fish during this period was 14 kg per person per year. However, there was decline in production for about three decades before the situation improved again mostly from 2010 onward. As a result, per person consumption of fish also declined to about 11 kg at present. Marine sub-sectorThere is no marine sub-sector in Malawi.

Inland sub-sectorCatch profileThe fishing grounds in Malawi include Lake Malawi, the largest lake in the country, Lake Chilwa, the second largest, and other smaller water bodies which include Lakes Malombe, Chiuta and the Lower Shire River system.

The fish production levels have increased for the past decade mainly due to unprecedented high Usipa (Engraulicypris sardella) catches (low value fish). However, catches of the most valuable fish, Chambo, remain low compared to the period between mid 1970s and early 1980s. Lake Chilwa which substantially contributes about 30 percent to the total capture fish production in Malawi experienced water recession by almost three times between 2005 and 2017. This greatly impacted on the fish production mainly of large value species in Malawi. This is in contrast to the period between 1981 and 1990 when around 10 000 tonnes of large value species could be landed. There is also a large underexploited offshore resource in Lake Malawi estimated at 33 000 tonnes of Ndunduma (Diplotaxodon spp.) that fishers can sustainably exploit. However, unavailability and relatively high cost of technology that is needed to exploit such resources poses as a challenge, mainly for the small-scale fishers. As a result, there is increasing fishing pressure on the fish stocks in the in-shore waters thereby leading to over-fishing. This is attributed to a number of factors, among others: increasing human population, and therefore high local demand for fish; lack of technology to fish off-shore by most of the fishers; and limited alternative income generating activities. In addition, habitat degradation within the aquatic environment or catchment areas, and climate change also affect fish productivity and production.

Landing sitesBased on the latest catch estimates, the main landing sites include the fishing districts of Nkhotakota, Mangochi, Likoma and NkhataBay, among others.Fishing practices/systemsSeveral fishing gear types are employed in the exploitation of various fish species. The small-scale fishers normally use gill nets, seine nets (beach or open water types), traps and hand lines while the commercial operators usually use purse seines and trawl nets. Depending on the gear type and fishing areas, the fish species landed mainly include Tilapiine cichlids, the Chambo (Oreochromis spp), Haplochromine cichlids, particularly the Kambuzi, Utaka and Mbaba, Mcheni (Ramphochromis spp), Usipa (Engraulicypris sardella), Mlamba (Clarias spp) and Matemba (Barbus spp).

Dugout canoes (70 percent) dominated the population of the fishing crafts followed by boats without outboard engines (13 percent), planked canoes (7 percent) and boats with outboard engines (10 percent). The fishers use these fishing vesels or crafts to operate 61 397 gillnets, 4 208 open water seines, 886 beach seines, 583 630 longlines, 2 230 handlines and 35 839 fish traps across the country. The artisanal fishers mainly operate in the in-shore waters. As for the large-scale fishery, there are currently 25 between pair-trawlers stern-trawlers and these mainly operate in the deep water offshore fishery, i.e. waters from 50m depth, mainly of southern Lake Malawi. The ornamental fish trade mainly uses scuba divers and there are 5 licensed operators in total for only Lake Malawi.

Main resourcesThe fish resources that are captured by the artisanal fishery include virtually all the species in the main water bodies in Malawi. The only difference over time lies in the fact that the major species exploited by this fishery is currently Usipa (Engraulicypris sardella) belonging to a family Cyprinidae. The Usipa contribution to the total artisanal catch has been 70 percent or more over the last decade, followed by Utaka (Copadichromis spp), Ncheni (Ramphochromis spp), Kambuzi (Cichlidae), Mbaba (Chichlidae) and others. On the other hand, the large-scale fishery is thriving on Ndunduma (Diplotaxodon spp), Utaka (Copdichromis spp), Chisawasawa (offshore haplochromine cichlids), Ncheni (Ramphochromis spp), Kampango (Bagrus spp) and Mlamba (Clarias spp). The ornamental trade (or ornamental) fish trade mainly targets Mbuna species (Cichlidae) which are rock dwelling and brightly coloured fish species. These are endemic to Lake Malawi.

In overall terms, there has been an increasing trend in total fish catch from 65 484 tonnes in 2006 to 222 000 tonnes in 2018 mainly due to high Usipa production. As for large valued fish species such as Chambo (Oreochromis spp), Ncheni and others, there are declining trends. In addition to the declining production trends for large valued fish species, there is also remarkable post-harvest loss due to spoilage and infestation coupled with limited implementation of better practices in terms of fish processing and value addition among the fishing communities.
Management applied to main fisheries

Prior to 1993, the Fisheries Management approach in Malawi has mainly been influenced by the principles of the conservation paradigm, i.e. a biologically centralized led approach. As such one of its sectoral policy objectives is to aim at maximizing the sustainable yield from fish stocks that can economically be exploited from the natural waters. The conceptual background to this approach is based on the theory of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).This approach is still being applied to the small-scale commercial fisheries sub-sector, where there is a strict control of the number of fishing units licensed, based on the status of the fish stocks in each fishing area. Lake Malawi is divided into a number of fishing zones, and a prescribed number of fishing units is licensed and allocated to each zone.The management system in the artisanal fisheries sub-sector has changed from the conventional “top-down” management approach to participatory fisheries management approach. This approach started on a pilot basis in Lake Malombe in 1993, and has since spread to Lakes Malawi, Chiuta, Chilwa and the Shire River System.Despite the introduction of participatory fisheries management, the management measures for the different fisheries are still based on biological information as guided by the fisheries policy. The policy states that the paramount responsibility of the Department of Fisheries remains the protection of the existing fish resources by means of appropriate research, the collection and analysis of the relevant data and the application of appropriate control mechanisms. However, in areas where participatory fisheries management is being practiced, prior consultations with the fishing communities is done before management measures are endorsed into fishing regulations as provided for by the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1997.The following are some of the practical regulations that appear in the Fisheries Conservation and Management Regulations of 2000:
  1. Closed Fishing Season and Area: This regulation was designed to protect certain species during their spawning period. Selected fishing gears (various beach seines) are prohibited to be used in the closed areas and during the closed season. The closed season runs from 1 November to 31 December of each year in Lake Malawi for all beach seines, and from 1 January to 31 March of each year in Lake Malombe for all seine nets.

  1.  Mesh size restrictions: This regulation was formulated to supplement the one on closed season and areas in order to protect young fish from being caught before they are mature to breed. Minimum mesh sizes for various types of fishing gears are set based on the size at maturity information for the target species.

  1.  Minimum takeable size of fish: Based on size at maturity information, this regulation was designed to supplement the mesh size restriction regulation by protecting young fish. Different fish species have minimum allowed takeable sizes.

  1.  Maximum headline length of fishing net: This regulation was designed to control fishing effort by limiting the size of the fishing net. Each type of net has its own maximum permissible length depending on the water body to be used. For example the same gear, like chambo seine net, would be longer in Lake Malawi than in Lake Malombe.

  1.  Licensing of fishing gears: This regulation, which is an exception of the other four above, is usually intended to control the amount of fishing effort by limiting the number of gears licensed to fish. In so doing it regulates access to the fishery. In the small-scale commercial fisheries, each fishing unit is licensed to fish in the zone it was allocated. These fishing licenses are not transferable.

Fishing communitiesThe fishery sector employs 153 000 fishers countrywide.

Aquaculture sub-sectorGovernment of Malawi recognizes the significance of aquaculture (fish farming) to food security and nutrition by supplementing capture fisheries. The aquaculture sub-sector in Malawi is relatively small, but growing. The number of farmers has increased in recent years due to communal ownership of ponds. There are approximately 15 000 fish farmers (61.5 percent males, and 38.5 percent females), with a total of 10 007 fish ponds in all the districts practising fish farming in mostly extensive culture systems in the country. Total pond area is 251.59 hectares. In terms of their distribution, there are more fish farmers in the districts of Machinga, Mulanje, Ntchisi, Nkhotakota, Phalombe and Thyolo. There has been a progressive increase in fingerling production from both the public and private hatcheries from 5 793 930 in 2013 to 9 511 755 in 2017. Aquaculture production also increased from 752 tonnes (valued at USD705 760) in 2002, to 12 217 tonnes (valued at USD33 142 539) in 2017 and 9 000 tonnes in 2018.

The species being farmed are Chilunguni (Tilapia rendalli), Makumba (Oreochromis shiranus), Chambo (Oreochromis karongae) and Mlamba (Clarias gariepinus). However, lack of fast growing species has made it unattractive for large-scale commercial farmers to enter the sub-sector. Introduction of alien species (exotics) for fish farming is prohited in Malawi.Currently, the Department of Fisheries is promoting the growing of fish by integrating aquaculture with agriculture, i.e. Integrated Aquaculture-Agriculture (IAA). Aquaculture extension services are being revamped in order to enable them achieve desired results. Farmer-to-farmer exchange of technology is being encouraged, by integrating Farmer Associations into the extension service. The Department of Fisheries is also involving Non-governmental Organization (NGOs) and other institutions as service providers, by providing them with technical information and backstopping. Furthermore, large-scale commercial aquaculture is being promoted by putting in place a policy framework conducive to attract investors through a practical, ‘one-stop’ interface.
Post-harvest sector

Fish utilizationAbout 90 percent of the fish from capture fisheries in Malawi is preserved by means of sun-drying (50 percent), smoking or roasting (40 percent), and the rest is in fresh, chilled and frozen forms. There are a number of fish processing techniques practiced in the country, ranging from the traditional type dug-out smoking ovens, and drying racks made of reeds and mats to the improved facilities such as Bena kiln (modified Ivorian kiln) and wire drying racks. However, methods of fish processing in Malawi remain rudimentary and generally not suitable for the highly regulated export market. It is important to note that the revised National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy (2016-2021), focuses on fish quality and value addition as a means of promoting adoption of best practices that will enhance quality, hygiene and sanitation and value addition for fish and fish products so that the annual catch that is lost through post harvest spoilage and insect infestation is reduced.

Fish marketsFish processing and trading is a major occupation among many fishing communities including women in Malawi since most of the fish sold to distant markets is in dry form for easy storage. In most fishing communities in Malawi, the traditional fish marketing system is characterized by fishermen landing their catches on scattered beaches, normally in small quantities. The practice has been that fishers have little bargaining power in the sales of their catch, with most marketing activities being dominated by fish traders who, to some extent, also function as a source of informal credit, providing necessary cash for the fisher's family needs, especially during the extended seasonal periods of limited catch and income. This situation creates a strong inter-dependence between traders and fishermen which influences market decisions over the latter.

Most of the landing sites in Malawi are basically used as market sites, mostly with few chilling facilities. There are two methods used in selling fish on a beach. First, fish can be sold either by auction whereby bidding is done by the traders or by selling fish in dozens by charging a predetermined price by the fisher. Auctioning is common in some places on Lakes Malawi, Malombe and Lake Chilwa for fresh fish especially of those most valuable species and where demand is quite high.

Some of the small-scale commercial fishing companies have their own fish handling, processing and marketing facilities at their landing bases. An example is MALDECO fishing company, which has its own ice plants, cold rooms, freezing plants, smoking kilns, within its premises very close to Lake Malawi and insulated fish distribution vans. These insulated vans are used to distribute fish to their fish market outlets in urban centres.

The local fish marketing and distribution network has been very densely concentrated in southern part of Central Region and the whole of the Southern Region of Malawi. This reflects a series of factors such as the existing north-south variations in the country’s fish production patterns and population densities, the road system, the proximity to market centres and certainly also the comparatively high road transport costs. For longer distances, transportation of dried or smoked fish, lake steamer and public bus services provide the most efficient and versatile means of transportation of traders. Depending on the quality of processing, dried fish has a shelf life of at least one month. The product is easier to transport and store than fresh fish and the pressure to sell is significantly less for the dried fish.

Public retail markets exist in all principal urban centres of Malawi including Lilongwe, Blantyre Limbe, Zomba and Mzuzu. Sometimes fresh fish is available in some smaller urban centres depending on demand and proximity to the source. In most public retail markets, fresh fish is sold on separate stalls by size and piece, but not usually displayed on ice. There is fresh fish sold on price per kilogram basis only in some supermarkets. Dried/smoked fish is sold on public markets by piece or in small heaps for given prices, and not by weight.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorRole of fisheries in the national economyThe fishery sector plays a significant socio-economic role as a source of direct and ancillary employment, food nutrition security and source of household and national income.

In 2017, fish landings had a beach value of USD 235.744 million, with a volume of 199 454 tonnes. From the ornamental fish trade, a total of 36 367 live fishes had been exported thereby generating economic value worth USD 228 862.88. From the aquaculture sector, a total of 12 217 tonnes were produced thereby generating economic value equivalent to USD 33.143 million.

TradeLake Malawi has over 800 endemic fish species, which are of both local and international scholarly importance and also act as a source of tourism attraction. The main fish species of significance to the sector are grouped into Chambo, Utaka, Kambuzi, Mbaba, Ncheni and Kampango. Some fish species such as Mbuna are sold mainly outside the country and this helps to bring much-needed foreign exchange. In 2016 and 2017, the country exported 36 147 and 36 367 live ornamental fish respectively. The largest market for the ornamental fish trade in 2017 was Germany, which imported 40 percent of the total fish exported, followed by Hong Kong (31 percent), China (12 percent), France (7 percent), UK (5 percent), USA (2 percent), Denmark (2 percent) and Canada (1 percent).

Since the late 1980s, fish imports have generally been higher than exports, showing that the country’s own supply of fish has been lower than the demand. Most of the imported fish originated from Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Thailand, Namibia, Swaziland and China.

Food securityAnnual per capita fish consumption was estimated at 11.6 kg in 2017. Fish provides about 30 percent of the animal protein intake and about 5 percent of the total protein intake in Malawi. Not only a good source of animal protein, fish is a unique source of essential fatty acids and micronutrients which are often lacking in Malawian diets (vitamin A, iron, zinc) and important for proper cognitive and physical development.

Although this is lower than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended 13-15 kg per person per year, it nevertheless is a significant increase considering that between 2007 and 2011, the annual average was only 5.89 kg per person. Much of the fish is consumed in rural areas, thereby contributing significantly to daily nutritional requirements to people with higher nutrient needs such as children, People Living with HIV (PLWH), and the elderly.

Trends, issues and development

Constraints and opportunitiesMalawi’s fisheries sector faces a number of challenges which include consistently low national budgetary allocations and limited private investments. This characterises the sector with inadequate support for infrastructure development in fish landing, processing and marketing. In addition, the administration of the sector has poor fleet of vehicles and patrol speed boats in most of the field stations rendering high operation and maintenance costs to monitor enforcement of fisheries regulations in all water bodies; insufficient number of technical and support staff to implement the planned programs; climate change leading to poor distribution and amount of rainfall that affects water availability in ponds and reducing breeding grounds of fish thereby affecting fish recruitment; high cost of floating fish feeds for faster growth of fish as these are mainly imported; and limited participation of private sector investment in aquaculture. On the other hand, the potential of cage farming in Lake Malawi, and about 11 650 km2 of land potentially available for aquaculture development, are some of the opportunities for the country to exploit in order to meet the fast growing demand for fish in the country and to meet the country’s fisheries and aquaculture development goal.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies

The national fisheries sector policy is to promote sustainable fisheries resource utilisation and aquaculture development in order to contribute to food and nutrition security and economic growth of the country. Its goal is to sustainably increase fisheries and aquaculture productivity for accessible nutritious food and increased contribution to economic growth. There are seven priority areas that the government of Malawi through the Fisheries Sector would like to pursue, which are: Capture Fisheries; Aquaculture Development; Fish Quality Control and Value Addition; Governance; Social Development and Decent Employment; Research and Information; and Capacity Development.

Malawi’s development policy expresses the need for reduction of poverty, ignorance and disease by the achievement of rapid and sustainable economic growth and an improvement in income distribution. The policy recognizes that for the welfare of Malawians to be improved, economic growth will have to exceed population growth. The fisheries sector has a key role to play in poverty reduction through the provision of rural employment and, more importantly, through its contribution to household food security.

Three options for increasing fish through capture fisheries and aquaculture have been identified: a) Good management of capture fisheries to ensure that yields are maintained at sustainable levels; b) Harvest of unexploited resources from the capture fisheries mainly from the offshore deep waters of Lake Malawi; and c) Aquaculture enhancement programme, which is being spearheaded by Aquauclture Development Programs.

All the three options above will require strengthening the institutional framework, through a) Policy review; b) Legislation review; c) Increased private and public sector capacity; d) full decentralization of some key functions of the Department of Fisheries to the grassroots.

Research, education and trainingResearchFisheries research in Malawi dates back to early colonial times when the focus was on taxonomical studies of preserved collections in natural history museums. Since the establishment of a Fisheries Research Unit (FRU) in 1962, relevant and problem-solving management oriented research programmes have been undertaken in capture fisheries. In the aquaculture subsector, some research in Fish farming is done by the National Aquaculture Center (NAC) based in Domasi, Zomba. Its research is mainly focused on fish breeding, fish nutrition and feeding, fry and fingerling production, and fish production systems. It has satellite stations in Kasinthula, Chikwawa and Mzuzu Fish Farm.

In an effort to restore commercially important stocks such as Chambo, in 2000 the Fisheries Department, through its research units, developed a one year research plan which outlined outlined research activities for one year (July 2000 to June 2001) in five categories: gear selectivity; utilisation trends; biological surveys; population dynamics; and socio-economic research. In 2003, government in collaboration with research and academic institutions in Malawi developed the Chambo Restoration Strategic Plan (2003-2015), which part of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD) (2004). The NSSD was Malawi’s commitment to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development target of restoring depleted fish stocks to maximum sustainable yields, and FAO’s International Plan of Action to prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

These are only some of the many research efforts undertaken by the sector. However, most of the scientific studies were done sporadically without proper national coordination, which made it difficult to make a meaningful impact. For this reason, and following from development of the National Fisheries Policy (2016), government found it necessary to develop a National Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Agenda (NFARA) 2018-2023 whose goal is to guide researchers and all relevant stakeholders in the implementation of all research activities to ensure that research efforts are addressing national priorities, and that there is effective collaboration and networking in the implementation of the activities.

Education and training

7.5 Foreign aid

On-going projects

Currently, there are three main projects that are running in capture fisheries and one in fish farming. The first one is Fisheries Resilience and Managment (FiRM) Project for southern Lake Malawi, Upper Shire River and Lake Malombe funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF) through FAO. The project started in October 2017 and is being implemented under four components: (i) Capture fishery; (ii) Aquacuture Development; (iii) Capacity Building and Institutional Strengthening; and (iv) Project Management.

The second project is Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems (M CLIMES) project that is being implemented through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The institutions involved include the Department of Fisheries, LUANAR and District Councils of Karonga, Nkhata bay, Nkhotakota, Salima and Mangochi.

The third one is Fisheries Integration of Society and Habitats (FISH), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project that is being implemented by Pact under the Cooperation Agreement number AID-612-A-14-00004.

The one on fish farming is the Aquaculture Development Program (ADP) which is solely funded by the Government of Malawi in order to champion promotion of smallholder aquaculture in all the districts of the country.

Planned projects in aquaculture

The following are the the projects that are being proposed.

  • Maldeco Fisheries Project
  • Commercial Fish Farming Project
  • Kasinthula Fish Farming Project
  • Lake Malawi Commercial Cage Farming Project

Institutional frameworkThe Department of Fisheries, established in 1946 by an Act of Parliament, is a government department that is mandated to protect and conserve the national fish heritage of Malawi, through appropriate research and application of appropriate control mechanisms. Since then, it has carried out various research experiments and based on a sound technical basis provided some guidance for the development of the fishery industry in Malawi.

Legal frameworkThe Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, 1997 (Cap. 66:05) makes provision for the regulation, conservation and management of the fisheries of Malawi and for matters incidental thereto or connected therewith.

This Act provides rules relative to the conservation and management of the fisheries of Malawi. There shall be appointed an officer to be designated as the Director of Fisheries who shall be responsible for the conservation of fish stocks; the assessment of fish stocks and the collection of statistics, the development and management of fisheries; the monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing operations, the regulation and control of fishing operations, including aquaculture and operations ancillary thereto, etc. The same article also designates fisheries protection officers. There is hereby established a board to be known as the Fisheries Advisory Board. The Board shall advise the Minister generally on the development, administration, conservation and management of the fisheries of Malawi and shall in particular consider and advise on fisheries management plans and reviews of the plans prepared by the Director prior to the submission of such plans or reviewed plans to the Minister. The purpose of this Part III is to provide for local community participation in conservation and management of fisheries in Malawi.

For proper management of fisheries, the Director may enter into a fisheries management agreement with any local fisheries management authority providing for: a) management plan; and b) assistance to be provided by the Department of Fisheries. Part IV makes provision for registration of local registrable fishing vessels. "Local fishing vessel" is defined in section 2. Part V concerns fishing by foreign fishing vessels. No foreign fishing vessels shall be used for commercial fishing in the fishing waters unless the owner or charterer thereof is authorized to fish by a licence granted under Part VI of this Act. Section 13 provides for notification of fish on board by foreign fishing vessels entering fishing waters. Part VI concerns granting of fishing licences to foreign vessels, stowage of gear, and transshipment and export of fish. Part VII makes provision in respect of special fishing. Part VIII concerns aquaculture. There is hereby established a fund to be known as the Fisheries Fund (sect. 22). The remaining provision of the Act deal with enforcement (Part X), prohibitions and offences (XI), court proceedings, administrative proceedings and penalties (XII), international cooperation in fisheries (XIII), and miscellaneous matters (XIV). (63 sections)

The National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy (NFAP) (2016-2021) is a 5-year nationwide sectoral document that revises the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy of 2001 with the aim of addressing critical issues affecting fisheries and aquaculture development in Malawi such as the need for strengthening monitoring and evaluation as well as the utilization of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

Main goal of the Policy is a sustainable increasing of fisheries and aquaculture productivity for accessible nutritious food and increased contribution to economic growth. The specific objectives are as follows (i) increase annual fish production from capture fisheries; (ii) increase small and large scale aquaculture production; (iii) strengthen participatory fisheries management regimes; (iv) halve post harvest losses; (v) increase annual fish exports; (vi) increase per capita fish consumption; (vii) improve decent employment in fishing communities for youth, women and men and to reduce the number of child laborers; (viii) promote applied research in fisheries and aquaculture and monitor the impact of pollution and environmental changes including climate change; and (ix) develop capacity of the Government and local management institutions to serve the industry.

To help eliminate hunger and food insecurity, the Policy (i) promotes aquaculture has a tool to contribute to food security and poverty reduction goal by supplementing capture fisheries that are being exploited at over their maximum sustainable yields; and (ii) focuses on small-scale fisheries to generate rural income and create employment.In order to make agriculture and fisheries more productive and sustainable, main interventions are directed to promote (i) sustainable control measures for the recovery of the over-exploited stocks; (ii) proper monitoring and control of exploitation of the fisheries resources in all lakes and river systems; (iii) appropriate fishing technologies for the various fisheries with focus on the offshore fish resources; (iv) regulatory measures for sustainable aquaculture development; and (v) development of an information system for sustainable exploitation, management, and conservation of biodiversity.More inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems will be enabled through (i) a more active participation of local fishing communities and fish farmers in the sustainable development of the fisheries sector; (ii) enabling environment for the small-scale fishing communities in a gender-equitable manner; (iii) assessing child labor issues in the fisheries sector; (iv) promoting decent employment in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture; (v) enhancing capacity of both technical staff and fishing community including women and youth in delivering various services; and improving fish quality supply and value addition to the fish and fish products through the adoption of best practices including sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) aspects, enforcing fish quality standards, and implementing procedures for certification of fish and fish products for domestic and export markets.

To increase the resilience of livelihoods to disasters, the document envisages (i) the assessment of vulnerability and risks of fishing and fish farming communities to climate change impacts; (ii) promotion of applied research in fisheries and aquaculture and monitor the impact of pollution and environmental changes; and (iii) identification and implementation of adaptation measures of the impact of climate change to resource and livelihood of the resource users.As for the Governance, the Policy promotes a joint effort by the state and non-state actors in the management of resources for the benefit and to the satisfaction of all relevant stakeholders through a participatory fisheries management. The small-scale fisheries are conducted under the open access management system and to regulate the operations it is fundamental a clear tenure rights to fishing, ensuring that access limitations do not result in worsening food insecurity or in undermining customary and traditional rights of current resource users.



ADP Aquaculture Development Program
FiRM Fisheries Resilience and Managment
FISH Fisheries Integration of Society and Habitats
FRU Fisheries Research Unit
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GEF Global Environment Facility
IAA Integrated Aquaculture-Agriculture
M CLIMES Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems
MSY Maximum Sustainable Yield
NAC National Aquaculture Center
NFARA National Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Agenda
NFAP National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy
NGO Non-governmental Organization
NSSD National Strategy for Sustainable Development
PLWH People Living with HIV
SADC Southern African Development Community
sq.km Square kilometers
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
USAID United States Agency for International Development
USD United States of America dollars
WHO World Health Organization

Department of Fisheries (March 2018). Annual Economic Report: Fisheries Sector contribution, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Government of Malawi.
Department of Fisheries (April 2018). National Fisheries and Aquaculture Communication Strategy 2018-2023, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Government of Malawi.
Department of Fisheries (April 2018). National Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Agenda 2018-2023, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Government of Malawi.
Department of Fisheries (2005). Small-Scale Offshore Fishery Technology Development Project 2005-2008, Ministry of Mines, Natural Resources and Environment, Government of Malawi.
Weyl, O.L.F. (2003). Capture fisheries in Malawi and their contribution to national fish supply. Enviro-Fish Africa (Pty) Ltd.
Kapeleta, M.V. (unspecified date). Aquaculture development in Malawi: Tilapia culture, Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Mines, Natural Resources and Environment.

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