Strengthening the management of natural resources and enhancing the communities’ resilience to climate change adaptation in the north Blantyre region – Malawi


The problem

Climate change is not new to Malawi and over time, its victims have developed a variety of ways of responding successfully to the challenges it brings. Over the years however, the intensity of climate change effects has increased. This therefore means that in addition to the challenges people living in extreme poverty experience, people living in the study area are suffering the increasing effects of climate change including increased climate variability as well as more extreme weather events. This additional burden of climate variability and change will only increase. Indeed, according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other studies, climate change will continue to increase the variability in weather patterns and make them more extreme. Consequently, the project sites of Chikale, Kumbewa, Malenga, Mkumba and Undi villages, which are already vulnerable to climate change impacts, especially droughts/dry spells and the resulting destruction to their natural resources, are bound to experience an increase in these effects. This variability therefore implies that it will be harder for families and communities to predict the ever changing, inconsistent weather. The little resources they have will now be spent on trying to deal with the unpredictable weather because their livelihoods are highly dependent on it. This scenario will expose them to a whole range of risks including ill health, making them more vulnerable. Thus the cycle of vulnerability is perpetuated. Some of the direct impacts of climate variability on the communities in the study area identified include impacts in crop production, where farmers reported decreasing yields in the last decade. This they attributed to loss in soil fertility, drought and unusually high rainfall during harvest time. In livestock farming, farmers reported that irregular rainfall/water shortages negatively affect their pastures. With less pasture, the size and productivity of their herds has diminished. Impacts were also reported in forestry, a source of livelihood for the communities. Scanty rainfall has contributed to the depletion of forests and so the firewood and charcoal that is a source of fuel as well as an enterprise is no longer dependable. Water sources have also been impacted where respondents interviewed reported declining traditional water sources in the past 20 years. Impacts were also reported in the energy sector with the depletion of forests. There is therefore a need to ensure that vulnerable individuals, families and whole communities move beyond reacting and coping to climate change and its effects to adapting and being resilient to this new reality. To this end, this CC-DARE supported project set out to; strengthen the sustainable management of natural resources in the study area, facilitate and help build cross-sectoral natural resources, improve household adaptive capacity and develop sustainable natural resources climate change adaptive strategies.

The overall aim of the project was to strengthen the management of natural resources in the north Blantyre area that has been hit by poverty and to enhance the communities’ resilience to climate change adaptation. More specifically, the project aimed at identifying and documenting adaptation and management strategies that improve livelihoods and enhance resilience to climate change.

Where the action took place

Villages in the north Blantyre area were the projects focal areas. The project sites were Chikale, Kumbewe, Malenga, Mkumba and Undi villages in Lundu authority.

The CC DARE contribution

CC DARE provided the requisite financial support at different stages of the projects implementation which was done by the Forestry Research Institute of Malawi (FRIM) for 6 months. A questionnaire was used to capture the respondents’ opinions on climate change problems as well as coping and adaptation mechanisms. The major climate change problems identified include; wide spread droughts, increased temperatures, shortage of water, rainfall fluctuations, early cessation of rain, water pollution, deforestation, long dry seasons, short rainy seasons, soil degradation, land degradation and excess rainfall. The main coping and adaptation mechanisms identified include; modified farming techniques that can cope with scarce rainfall such as planting maize varieties that are adopted to moisture-deficient conditions, diversifying livelihoods where some community members have turned to off-farm income generating activities like petty trading, charcoal making, tailoring and bicycle taxis, adoption of agro forestry practices such as planting multi-purpose trees e.g. Mango planted in a maize garden and livestock farming.

The big picture

It is envisaged that identified adaptation strategies will strengthen the sustainable management of natural resources, build cross-sectoral natural resource management & planning and improve the household level adaptive capacities in the north Blantyre region. The involvement of government structures in this study is a good step toward creating the needed awareness on climate change issues among government circles. The project also took advantage of the influence elders have in the villages by involving them. More however needs to be done to increase youth participation in the management of natural resources and in climate change adaptation. Additional efforts to promote visibility of the project in the project areas and so enhance its replicability should be considered. Since the project commenced, FRIM has conducted a number of activities such as baseline surveys, meetings with various stakeholders including the villagers, training and capacity building on basic climate change issues, advocacy and theoretical adaptation activities, all which have the effect of raising awareness about climate change. Of late, practical adaptation projects in the target villages have been implemented. It is believed that the interaction achieved during these activities will increase awareness about climate change in terms of its impacts and the possible contributions toward adoption that can be made by the local communities, local government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders. It is also anticipated that from the study area, lessons and skills acquired will be replicated in the neighboring villages and beyond.

How does the project address sustainability and cross cutting themes?

The study confirmed that households believe that weather patterns are changing. It was also realized that people’s perceptions about climate change and variability are affected by local environmental, social and economic factors. The study established the existence of a link between climate change effects and socio-economic impacts. The study found that climate change aggravates the negative impacts of deforestation, soil erosion, population growth, lack of economic development and ill health in a society. These factors in turn increase the pressure on limited resources, particularly water and forest resources. At the household level, this study found that there is limited capacity to respond to difficult times. Inadequate land is a particular problem. Additionally, the exposure to climate risks as well as the capacity to respond to climate change varies among different household members. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate variability as they have added responsibilities such as caring for children and the sick even during hardship times like during droughts. Additionally, their capacity to adapt to such climate change effects is limited by the fact that they have fewer alternative income generating options such as cash savings or assets to sell in order to buy food and other basic items and are also not involved in decision making. This finding brings to the fore, gender disparity themes that need to be addressed if balanced adaptation to climate change is to be achieved.

Further information:


Status Report

CCDARE in Sub - Saharan Africa