Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

2.0 Social economic background of the study

Economic activities and population are the main determinants of demand for forests goods and services (FAO, 2000). Over the period of 1931 to 1987, the population of Malawi increased from 1.5 million to 7.8 million, an increase of about 4.2 times over a period of 58 years. The fastest population increase rate was experienced over 1926 - 1931 period where the rate peaked 4.5 %. The lowest growth rate was experienced over the Second World War years when it shapely declined to 1.9 %.

Currently population rate of growth shows a declining trend from 3.3 % to of 2 %, the rate that was last known during the Second World War. Ironically, the cause for the growth rate decline in both cases is the same: death through war then and due to AIDS pandemic today (Ndawala, 2000).

Malawi is a poor landlocked country with a population of 10 million (NSO, 2000), which is largely rural. Agriculture still dominates the economy, accounting for 36 percent of GDP and almost all of the country’s exports. Over 80 percent of the labour force remains engaged in the agriculture sector.

Since independence in 1964, the economy experienced rapid growth in gross domestic product and the volume of exports expanded rapidly. Malawi achieved a growth rate of 6 percent a year through to 1978. The performance of the economy slackened during 1979-1981 largely due to external shocks and deteriorating terms of trade.

Resulting from structural adjustments programme and a number of policy interventions, some positive growth was archived particularly in 1982 and 1995. Despite the attainment of positive rates of growth, the incidence of poverty remains very high.

The extent of poverty indicates that over 60 percent of Malawi’s population live below the poverty line. Per capita income was estimated at US $220 in 1999. Income distribution is highly inequitable and population density is high so that 32.3 percent of smallholder households cultivate between 0.5 and one hectare and 24 percent of households are female headed two fifths of the population are illiterate. Illiteracy among women is at 69 percent.



Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page