MALAWI

GEOGRAPHY, POPULATION AND WATER RESOURCES

Malawi is a landlocked country with a total area of 118 480 km2, traversed from north to south by the Rift Valley. The total length is 850 km and the maximum width is 250 km. The area covered by Lake Malawi and Lake Chilwa is 24 200 km2. The cultivable area is estimated to be 3.6 million ha (or 38% of the total land area), of which 2.1 million ha is cultivated, i.e., 58% of the cultivable area and 22% of the total area.

TABLE 1

Basic statistics and population

Area of the country

Cultivable land

Cultivated land

1994

1992

1991

11 848 000

3 600 000

2 105 500

ha

ha

ha

Total population

Population density

Rural population

1994

1994

1994

10 843 000

92

80

inhab.

inhab./km2

%

Water supply coverage

Urban population

Rural population

1994

1994

43

46

%

%

The population is about 10.8 million (1994), including some 1.0 million refugees from Mozambique, and the annual population growth rate is 3.3%. The rural population is estimated to be 80%.

Agriculture constitutes the back-bone of the economy, contributing more than 33% of the GDP and providing employment to about 90% of the working population.

Climate and water resources

The mean annual rainfall of 1 014 mm ranges from 700 mm to 2 400 mm/year. The movement of the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) provides a wet season between mid-November and about mid-April. The climate is cool and dry from May to August, and then becomes hotter until the onset of the rains in mid-November. The internally produced surface water resources have been estimated to be 16.14 km3/year. There are 7 major dams, with a total storage of 39 million m3. There are 700-750 small dams in various states of repair, with a storage capacity of approximately 64 million m3. Water resources play an important role in hydropower development. Installed capacity is 164 MW and energy generation in 1993 was 785 GWh.

The potential yield from groundwater is estimated to be 1.4 km3/year, based on a recharge of 15 mm. Reliable yields under irrigation are only achievable in the alluvial basins along the western shores of Lake Malawi, Lake Chilwa and in the Lower Shire Valley. Yields from groundwater in the basement complexes covering the rest of the country are generally only sufficient for rural water supplies by hand pumping.

Water resources:

Average precipitation

Internal renewable water resources - total

Internal renewable water resources – per caput

Global renewable water resources

Dependency ratio

Total dam capacity

De-salinated water

1994

1994

1 014

120.1

17.5

1 614

18.7

6.1

0.1

-

mm/yr

km3/yr

km3/yr

m3/yr

km3/yr

%

km3

106 m3/yr

Water withdrawal:

- Agricultural

- Domestic

- Industrial

Total

per caput

as % of internal renewable water resources

Other withdrawal

1994

1994

1994

1994

809

95

32

936

86

5.3

-

106 m3/yr

106 m3/yr

106 m3/yr

106 m3/yr

m3/yr

%

106 m3/yr

Wastewater:

Produced

Treated

Re-used treated wastewater

-

-

-

106 m3/yr

106 m3/yr

106 m3/yr

Water balance

Irrigation potential

1992

161 900

ha

Irrigation:

1. Full or partial control irrigation: equipped area

- surface irrigation

- sprinkler irrigation

- micro-irrigation

% irrigated from groundwater

% irrigated from surface water

% of equipped area actually irrigated

2. Spate irrigation area

3. Equipped wetland and inland valley bottoms

4. Other cultivated wetland and inland valley bottoms

5. Flood recession cropping area

Total water managed area (1+2+3+4+5)

- as % percentage of cultivated area

- increase over last 10 years

- power irrigated area as % of water managed area

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

28 000

15 700

11 300

1 000

0.05

99.95

96

-

-

61 900

-

89 900

4.3

-

-

ha

ha

ha

ha

%

%

%

ha

ha

ha

ha

ha

%

%

%

Full or partial control schemes: Criteria

Large schemes > - ha

Medium schemes

Small schemes < - ha

Total number of households in irrigation

-

-

-

-

ha

ha

ha

Irrigated Crops:

Total irrigated grain production

as % of total grain production

Harvested crops under irrigation (full or partial control)

- sugar cane

- rice

- vegetables

- maize

- other

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

1992

32 750

2

31 500

15 000

7 500

3 700

2 000

3 300

t

%

ha

ha

ha

ha

ha

ha

Drainage - Environment:

Drained area

as % of cultivated area

Flood-protected area

Area salinized by irrigation

-

-

-

-

ha

%

ha

ha

Irrigation and drainage

Undisplayed Graphic

Water withdrawal (total: 0.94 km³ in 1994)

Undisplayed Graphic

Distribution of the water managed areas (1992)

Undisplayed Graphic

Origin of irrigation water, full or partial control (1992)

In 1993, Malawi had 9 700 drilled boreholes and 5 600 protected, hand-dug wells with handpumps.

Total water withdrawal in 1994 was about 0.94 km3 (Figure 1).

IRRIGATION DEVELOPMENT

The total water managed area is about 89 900 ha (Figure 2), which is about 56% of the potential area for irrigation, estimated at 161 900 ha.

Undisplayed Graphic

Irrigation techniques, full or partial control (1992)

Undisplayed Graphic

Irrigated crops, full or partial control (1992)

At present, 28 000 ha is equipped for full or partial control irrigation. Almost all irrigation is from surface water, either from weirs or by pumping from rivers. There are some very small areas (15 to 20 ha) along the Lake Malawi lake shore which are irrigated by groundwater (Figure 3). Irrigation techniques include 15 700 ha of surface irrigation (furrow and basin); 9 000 ha of sugar cane under sprinkler at Sucoma; 2 300 ha of tea, coffee and other crops – also under sprinkler; and some 1 000 ha under micro-irrigation (Figure 4). Some 1 100 ha of surface irrigation schemes are in need of rehabilitation. The cropped area in these full or partial control schemes is 31 500 ha per year (Figure 5). There are three basic categories of farming in the full or partial control irrigation subsector (Figure 6):

Undisplayed Graphic

Irrigation management, full or partial control (1992)

Private estates (18 300 ha): These include Sucoma (9 000 ha) and Dwangwa (6 000 ha) sugar estates, and Kawalazi estate, which have been developed as joint ventures between Government and local and foreign investors such as the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) and Lonrho. Private coffee and tea estates are also operated by large-scale commercial farmers and enterprises on freehold and leasehold land.

Government-run Smallholder Schemes (3 200 ha – 6 000 households): These were established by the government to give irrigation opportunities to local farmers, who were allocated irrigated plots in addition to their dryland holdings in the vicinity of schemes. The schemes are operated by the government and the farmers pay no water charges for use of their plots.

Self-Help Smallholder Schemes (6 500 ha – 32 500 households): These have usually been designed and constructed by the government with full support and participation of farmers in each stage of development, including identification and planning. Farmers contribute their labour during construction, and, when completed, farmers manage and maintain their schemes with the minimum of government support.

There are some 61 900 ha of dambo (wetland) areas under rice cultivation. Simple diversions and bunding are applied, and farmers often cooperate in small groups to manage water. Studies are being undertaken to estimate areas, uses and potential for drainage using low-cost structures.

Total irrigation potential has been estimated at about 161 900 ha, including the existing dambos. Future irrigation development potential of 72 000 ha on Class 1 and 2 soils occurs mainly along the lake shore in Northern Central and Southern Regions, and in the lower Shire Valley. Water resources will be from Lake Malawi and the Shire River, as well as tubewells from the alluvial aquifers.

The estimated capital cost of commercial sprinkler irrigation development is $US 5 000-10 000/ha, and annual maintenance is estimated at $US 650-1 000/ha. Estimated costs for small-scale surface schemes are $US 5 000-6 500/ha, with annual maintenance costs of $US 650/ha.

INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT

The Department of Irrigation within the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for all planning and development of irrigation in the country, with an established head office and staff located in the eight Agricultural Development Divisions (ADDs). In the new (1994)Government, the Department has been raised to the level of Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development. The Water Resources Board within the Department of Water is responsible for granting water rights for abstraction of surface water flows (river or dams) as well as groundwater for irrigation and industrial supplies. Annual permits are required for abstractions greater than 1 000 l/day, except for domestic use, and a scale of charges is based on water source and type of usage. Collection of revenue is severely limited by lack of staff.

The Water Resources Act is in the process of being revised.

TRENDS IN WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT

Isolated instances of irrigation development occurred in the late 1940s. It was not until 1968 that Government commenced a deliberate policy of irrigation development, mainly for rice growing along lakeshore plains and in the Lower Shire Valley. By 1979, 16 smallholder schemes had been established, covering an area of 3 200 ha and with the settlement of 6 000 farmer households. The importance of self-help smallholder schemes has also been recognized by Government, which provided varying degrees of assistance during the 1970s. Over the last 15 years, irrigation has had a low priority in agricultural production. The main constraints have been:

–focusing of the agricultural economy on rainfed agriculture and existing irrigation schemes, where emphasis was on funding extension activities;

–reluctance of donors to fund irrigation development;

–placement of irrigation services under the Ministry of Agriculture, which has focused on rainfed agriculture;

–price setting of crops not viable for irrigation;

–almost no irrigation technology training facilities within the country;

–an Irrigation Department that has been both poorly funded and understaffed; and

–lack of farmer ownership of plots on government schemes.

Recent droughts – in 1991/92 and partially in 1992/93 – caused low yields and crop failures. Government has realized the increasing importance of irrigation as a means of ensuring food security at both household and national levels. This has been demonstrated by raising the status of irrigation to Ministry level. The new Ministry has put forward a 23 point irrigation development strategy plan for poverty alleviation. The main features are to:

–give highest priority to development of irrigation and water resources in the country and strengthen the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development with sufficient funds and staffing to undertake studies on pumping sites, boreholes and dam development;

–establish a National Committee in Irrigation and Drainage and promote irrigation research;

–recommend power lines be installed along rivers and the lake shore to encourage irrigation development and agro-industries;

–provide input support to outgrower farmers, including credit facilities;

–increase development of self-help farmer schemes, and hand over operation and management of existing government-run schemes following completion of rehabilitation;

–support irrigation development in the private sector, and smallholder farms with irrigation technology and diversified cropping systems. Pump-based schemes should be discouraged unless farmers themselves are prepared to pay for infrastructure and operation;

–develop training programmes at field and management levels and assist farmers in their organization of water user associations to ensure future irrigation development is socially and economically viable;

–establish clear water rights regulations;

–ensure women participation at all levels and ensure adequate health standards on schemes;

–in close collaboration with relevant Ministries and organizations, ensure the enforcement of legislation on water conservation and catchment protection; and

–strengthen monitoring activities to ensure projects are executed as planned.

The new Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development is proposing an active development programme in 1995/96, which will include 30 dams (10 in each region), 7 500 ha of irrigation (2 500 ha in each region) and 60 pumping sites for 1 200 ha of irrigation.

MAIN SOURCES OF INFORMATION

Chirwa, A.B. 1994. Integrated Water Resources Management Plan for Zambezi River Basin. Country Position Paper.

FAO. 1985. Smallholder Irrigation in Malawi. Project Findings and Recommendations. Terminal Report of project MLW/80/013.

Hunting Technical Services/Sir Mott MacDonald and Partners. 1982. National and Shire Irrigation Study. Addendum on Groundwater Irrigation Potential.

Hunting Technical Services. 1986. Irrigation Study Phase II: Feasibility Studies. Final Report, Vol. 4, Annex: Self-Help Schemes.

Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development. 1994. The Agricultural and Livestock Development Strategy and Action Plan.

Mzembe, C.P. 1994. Overview of Irrigation Development in Malawi.

Mzembe, C.P. 1994. Irrigation Department. Executive Summary of Submitted Projects.

SADCC [Southern African Development Coordination Conference]. 1992. Regional Irrigation Development Strategy. Country Report Malawi.

UNDP. 1986. National Water Resources Master Plan. Projects MLW 79/015 & MLW/84/003. Department of Water, Ministry of Works and Supplies.

United Nations. 1993. Situation Analysis of Poverty in Malawi.

World Bank. 1994. Water Services Sector Study. Final Report, prepared by Cowiconsult A/S and Norconsult A/S.

World Bank. 1994. National Water Development Project - Project Document. Cowiconsult A/S and Norconsult A/S.