Tea plantations in front of Mount Mulanje

Malawi Geography

The Southeast African state of Malawi was a British colony until 1964. With a land area of over 94,000 kmĀ² (plus the portion of Lake Malawi, the third largest inland waterway on the continent) and a population of just under 17.6 million residents, it is one of the smaller and relatively densely populated states in the region.

Country overview

According to areacodesexplorer, Malawi is located on the third largest inland body of water in Africa, the picturesque Lake Malawi with its deserted sandy beaches. The freshwater lake has an average bathing temperature of 28 degrees. The country is relatively densely populated and is one of the poorest countries on earth.

Natural conditions

Malawi is one of the outer tropics. One fifth of the national territory consists of water. The Nyasa Trench, the southernmost part of the East African Trench, runs through the country lengthways. Occasionally earthquakes can also occur, as most recently in 2009. Malawi can be divided into three zones: Lake Malawi lies in the northeast; south of the lake is the Shiregraben, surrounded by mountains and high plateaus. The highlands run to the west with the Nyika plateau and the Viphya mountains. A large part of the country is over 1,000 meters above sea level. Lake Malawi is up to 600 meters deep, making it one of the four deepest lakes in the world. There are three smaller, shallower lakes in the south. The largest river, the Shire, is the lake’s only outflow. It flows through the south of the country and finally flows into the Zambezi in Mozambique. In the southeast (Mulanje) there is Mount Mulanje, at 3000 meters one of the highest mountains in southern Africa. The soil is suitable for agriculture.

There are a number of protected areas such as the Kasungu (central region) and Liwonde National Park (southern region), Majete (west of Blantyre), the Nyika plateau in the north and the Zomba plateau. There is also the Mangochi Forest and the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. The Lake Malawi National Park has the greatest wealth of fish species in the world, almost all of which are endemic, and which is therefore a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The climate shows considerable regional differences. The north receives significantly more rain than the south. The large water surface of the lake ensures regular rainfall. In January / February 2015 there was very heavy rainfall , which caused the worst flooding in the country in over 30 years. In March 2019 there were floods that struck numerous people and required emergency aid. The rainy season lasts from December to April. It is cool from May to August, while the hot season lasts from September to November. An overview of the average temperature offers the FAO. The climate tables provide a general overview. The flora and fauna of Malawi is subtropical. The predominant type of vegetation is the miombo forest, which is heavily used by the rural population, e.g. B. as a firewood reservoir. The FAO has facts about the cultivation periods of the most important agricultural products. The relocation of 500 elephants from Liwonde National Park to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve has resulted in a better geographical distribution of the animals. While too many elephants had too little habitat in Liwonde, there was more space for the animals in Nkhotakota.

Tea plantations in front of Mount Mulanje

Ecological problems

So far, environmental protection has been more reflected in modern environmental legislation than in reality. The greatest environmental problems are caused by deforestation. Since this is mainly due to the need for firewood of the poor rural population, it can hardly be prevented by the state through laws. The consequences of deforestation are devastating. Malawi has a population loss of 1.6% per year and is thus at the top of the SADC region. Another reason for deforestation is industrial tobacco growing. Tobacco is by far the country’s most important export product. Lake Malawi, although there is no large fishing industry, is considered to be overfished, as a local fisherman vividly describes. Meanwhile, the exploration of oil and gas on the coast of Lake Malawi, which the state is pushing, is viewed critically from an environmental point of view. This is all the more true for oil and gas exploration in Lake Malawi. Even a minor accident could have devastating effects on the lake’s ecosystem, with unforeseeable consequences for the numerous people living there.

You can also find information about environmental policy, environmental protection and projects on the homepage of the NGO CURE. The report on the state of the environment provides further interesting information. Global climate change is also having a negative impact on Malawi. There is severe flooding (as in early 2015 and in the northern region in April 2016), which can also hit cities, as in March 2019, or droughts. In March 2019, the southern region of Malawi was particularly affected by flooding affected. These have serious effects on food production and the quality and quantity of agricultural export products, which are of great importance in the agricultural country. The consequences of climate change are therefore also significant for Malawi.

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