Lake Chilwa, a Ramsar wetland of international importance, is a major source of fish and agricultural produce. As such it is vital for the livelihoods of large numbers of people who live in the surrounding area and also for urban populations in Malawi. The wetland also plays a critical conservation role as it supports a population of 1.5 million residents and non-resident waterfowl, and is both a breeding ground and resting and feeding station along an important bird flyway in Southern Africa. The productivity of the agricultural systems in the wetland depends on adequate rainfall to annually recharge the lake and maintain the water balance in the wetland. When lake levels are high it is one of the most productive lakes in Africa. A number of different management initiatives have been developed to try to balance human and conservation requirements. The last was developed in 2001 but has not been implemented in a holistic manner due to delays in the decentralization of government activities to the district level and lack of funding. This review of the Lake Chilwa management experience suggests the need for more effective decentralized institutional arrangements that fully engage the local communities and stakeholders, and recognize the need for tradeoffs in ecosystem services (ESS) in the wetland and the catchment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science(all)