Malawi map

Malawi is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa, bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast and Mozambique to the south, southwest and southeast. The Great Rift Valley runs through the country from north to south, and to the east of the valley lies Lake Malawi (also called Lake Nyasa), making up over three-quarters of Malawi's eastern boundary. The surface of Lake Malawi is located at 457 m above sea level, with a maximum depth of 701 m, which means the lake bottom is over 213 m below sea level at some points. In the mountainous sections of Malawi surrounding the Rift Valley, plateaus rise generally 914 m to 1,219 m above sea level, although some rise as high as 2,438 m in the north. To the south of Lake Malawi lie the Shire Highlands, gently rolling land at approximately 914 m above sea level. Malawi has two sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List; Lake Malawi National Park was first listed in 1984 and the Chongoni Rock Art Area was listed in 2006. Malawi is among the world's least-developed countries. Around 85% of the population live in rural areas. The economy is based on agriculture, and more than one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues come from this. The main agricultural products of Malawi include tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, sorghum, cattle and goats. The main industries are tobacco, tea and sugar processing, sawmill products, cement and consumer goods. (Wikipedia)

Quick Facts

Land use

Total land area
9,428,000 hectares
Area of forest
33.4% of land area
Area of agriculture
61.4% of land area
Area of permanent cropland
1.5% of land area


17.2 million
Population growth
3.1% annually
Rural population

Economics and development

GDP from agriculture
GDP per person
381.40 USD

Climate change and biodiversity

CO2 emissions
0.10 metric tonnes per person
Threatened animal and plant species
Bonn Challenge Commitments
Goal year
Date committed
Area committed
2,000,000 hectares
Potential economic benefit
628 million USD
Potential climate benefit
0.19 GtCO2 sequestered
Goal year
Date committed
Area committed
2,500,000 hectares
Potential economic benefit
785 million USD
Potential climate benefit
0.24 GtCO2 sequestered
National Restoration Targets
National Forest and/or Climate Strategy and/or Low Carbon Development Strategy
National Forest Landscape Restoration (NFLR) (2017)
  • Impacts from land degradation include the following: 
    • Lost revenue. Each year between 2001 and 2009, land degradation cost Malawi an estimated $244 million (6.8 percent of GDP). Poor farming practices that degrade croplands for maize, rice, and wheat resulted in a loss of $5.7 million per year.
  • National Development Goals targeted by Forest Landscape Restoration Strategy (pg. 5):
    • National Goal: Improve food security 
      • Increase rural access to and availability of food by increasing the production of timber, fuelwood, fodder, honey, mushrooms, and other nontimber forest products that directly or indirectly contribute to the food security of rural communities 
    • National Goal: Conserve and restore biodiversity
      • Contribute to more effective protection, accelerated regeneration and ecological restoration of native ecosystems and threatened species across landscapes
      • Help to restore the health of ecosystems and increase the ow of ecosystem services 
    • National Goal: Alleviate poverty 
      • Enhance sustainable management of forest resources and their contribution to the national economy
      • Strengthen linkages between agriculture, forestry, and other sectors to ensure resilient socioeconomic growth 
  • National Strategies (pg. 6): 
    • Agricultural Technologies: Achieve at least 10% tree cover on 50% of cropland in Malawi by 2020 and 80% of cropland by 2030
      • Area of estimated opportunity: 3,730,790 ha, 39% of the country (pg. 9)
    • Community Forests and Woodlots: increase area of community forests and woodlots to 200,000 ha by 2020 and 600,000 ha by 2030 
      • Area of estimated opportunity: 753,471 ha, 75% of the country (pg. 9)
    • Forest Management: improve protection and management of 2 million ha of natural forest, restore 500,000 ha of degraded forest, and establish 100,000 ha of commercial plantations by 2030 
      • Area of estimated opportunity: 3,401,279 ha, 36% of the country (pg. 9)
    • Soil and Water Conservation: Apply soil and water conservation measures on 250,000 ha and 500,000 ha by 2030 
      • Area of estimated opportunity: 1,043,768 ha, 11% of the country (pg. 9)
    • River- and Stream-Bank Restoration: Regenerate or plant 20 million trees along river- and stream banks by 2020 and 50 million trees by 2030  
      • Area of estimated opportunity: 36,478 ha, 0.04% of the country (pg. 9)
  • The total estimated intervention opportunity area for forest management in Malawi is 3.4 million hectares, which includes 2.4 million hectares of natural forest protection, 820,000 hectares of degraded forest restoration, and 138,000 hectares of improved plantation management (pg. 14). 
Other (National Strategies and Plans, Rural Development Programs, Natura 2000 areas, projects, and goals)
Malawi Vision 2020 (1998)
  • Statement: By the year 2020, Malawi as a God-fearing nation will be secure, democratically mature, environmentally sustainable, self reliant with equal opportunities for and active participation by all,having social services, vibrant cultural and religious values and being a technologically driven middle-income economy.
  • Chapter 10 - Natural Resource and Environmental Management:
    • Strategic options to controlling land degradation include:
      • Rehabilitating degraded land,
      • Intensifying afforestation and agroforestry programmes
    • The options for arresting deforestation include:
      • Enhancing the effectiveness of tree planting programs;
      • Promoting agroforestry, commercial forest ownership, and forestry industries;
      • Using sustainable methods of harvesting of trees for fuelwood;
      • Encouraging intensive and commercial agriculture; and diversifying out Of agriculture; and
      • Promoting community participation in natural resource and environmental management.
FLR Assessments

Forest landscape restoration assessments in Malawi have identified the following opportunities:

  • Agricultural technologies (Conservation agriculture, Farmer-managed natural regeneration, Agroforestry): 3,730,790 ha
  • Forest management: 3,401,279 ha
  • Soil and water conservation: 1,043,768 ha
  • Community forests and woodlots: 753,471 ha
  • River and stream-bank restoration: 36,478 ha

In total, nearly 7.7 million hectares, which is 80% of the total land area of Malawi, has opportunities for restoration. Of this area, 6.4 million hectares (67%) is suitable for one restoration intervention and more than 1.2 million hectares (13%) are suitable for two or more restoration interventions. The total opportunity for two or more restoration interventions. 

Rwanda maps
A multi-criteria analysis (MCA) was used in Malawi to identify priority areas and to design FLR interventions to promote food security, increase resilience, and support biodiversity.
Malawi maps
Priority areas identified through multi-criteria analysis: this figure shows the sum of all of the landscape restoration scenario multi-criteria analyses. The scenario MCA have not been standardized and so results are somewhat dependent on the number of input criteria. Nevertheless, this map can provide a useful guide for decision-makers looking to address the drivers of degradation in Malawi for the three scenarios outlined here at the national scale. 

Based on estimated costs and benefits of selected restoration interventions, achieving Malawi’s Bonn Challenge commitment will require approximately 279 billion MWK (Malawian Kwacha) or approximately 62,000 MWK per hectare.

In terms of motivating factors, Malawi is well-positioned for recognizing the benefits of restoration, but the main barrier to implementation is that a strong and well-understood legal framework with sufficient economic incentives supporting restoration is not in place. In addition, large-scale restoration successes that could inspire commitment to and adoption of restoration practices are not well documented, and similarly, restoration champions are not yet supported with a robust communication strategy. Government leadership and commitment to a national restoration target is not yet widely appreciated.

Further resources:


Key contacts:

  • Charles Karangwa, Regional Forest landscape Restoration Coordinator, Eastern and Southern Africa Region, IUCN (Charles.KARANGWA @
  • Joseph Njue, GIS Officer Forest Landscape Restoration, Eastern and Southern Africa Region, IUCN (Joseph.Njue @
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