Malawi is one of the world's least-developed countries, with an economy based on subsistence agriculture and over 90 percent of its population rural. Malawi's population has been hard hit by drought and crop failures, which have produced widespread famine in recent years. AIDS has also taken its toll, reducing the expected life span 51.1 years to 36.6 years.
||Malawi Forest Figures
Total forest area: 3,402,000 ha
% of land area: 36.2%
Primary forest cover: 1,132,000 ha
% of land area: 12.0%
% total forest area: 33.3%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -33,000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -0.9%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 9.6%
Total forest loss since 1990: -494,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-12.7%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: -39600 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -3.0%
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 29.5%
Primary forest loss since 1990: -198,000 ha
Primary forest loss since 1990:-34.5%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: n/a
None or unknown: n/a
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 3,402,000 ha
Primary: 1,132,000 ha
Modified natural: 2,067,000 ha
Production plantation: 204,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: 204,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 6%
Annual change rate (00-05): 4,800,000 ha
Above-ground biomass: 260 M t
Below-ground biomass: 62 M t
Area annually affected by
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: n/a
Critically endangered: 0
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 655,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 5,617,000 m3 o.b.
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: n/a
Wood fuel: n/a
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: n/a
More forest statistics for Malawi
Deforestation is a serious problem in Malawi. Between 1990 and 2005, the country lost nearly 13 percent of its total forest cover due to fuelwood collection and subsistence and commercial agriculture. Tobacco farming, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the nation's export earnings (Trade Environment Database: Malawi Tobacco Industry and the Environment), is sometimes blamed for deforestation, but perhaps more importantly, it saps the country's economy. The nation's heavy reliance on the commodity has certainly weakened the overall economy by leaving it highly vulnerable to decreasing tobacco prices while impacting the health of rural farmers who grow the cash crop instead of food crops.
Malawi—a land-locked nation—is home to Lake Malawi which houses some of the greatest fish diversity of any lake on earth, but deforestation has resulted in soil erosion and siltation of parts of the lake.
Malawi's loss of primary tropical forest is of great concern to conservationists. Between 2000 and 2005, the country lost almost 35 percent of its primary forest cover. This loss threatens Malawi's tremendous potential for eco-tourism, which could be based on its famous lake and safari wildlife.
As of 2004, about 16 percent of Malawi was under some form of protection. The country is home to 658 species of birds, 108 mammals, 207 reptiles, 56 amphibians, and 3,765 species of plants.
Recent articles | Malawi news updates | XML
A new way to rescue Africa’s struggling soils: Planting perennials with crops
(11/20/2012) It sounds counter-intuitive: Grow more food by planting less. But it’s a plan that scientists think will produce enough crops to feed Africa’s quickly expanding population. African farmers who sow food crops mixed with plants called perennials—which live two years or more—can enrich nutrient-poor soils and increase their bounty, argue scientists in the Sept. 20 issue of Nature.
Fertilizer trees boost yields in Africa
(10/16/2011) Fertilizer trees—which fix nitrogen in the soil—have improved crops yields in five African countries, according to a new study in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. In some cases yields have doubled with the simple addition of nitrogen-soaking trees. The research found that fertilizer trees could play a role in alleviating hunger on the continent while improving environmental conditions.
Unique acacia tree could play vital role in turning around Africa's food crisis
(08/24/2009) Scientists have discovered that an acacia tree, long used by farmers in parts of Africa, could dramatically raise food yields in Africa. The acacia tree Faidherbia albida, also known as Mgunga in Swahili, possesses the unique ability to provide much-needed nitrogen to soil.
NASA study shows global warming will diminish rainfall in East Africa, worsening hunger
(08/06/2008) A new NASA-backed study has found a link between a warming Indian Ocean and reduced rainfall in eastern and southern Africa. The results suggest that rising sea temperatures could exacerbate food problems in some of the continent's most famine-prone regions.
Nigeria has worst deforestation rate, FAO revises figures
(11/17/2005) Nigeria has the world's highest deforestation rate of primary forests according to revised deforestation figures from the the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
World deforestation rates and forest cover statistics, 2000-2005
(11/16/2005) Cambodia has the world's highest deforestation rate, Brazil loses the largest area of forest annually, and Congo consumes more bushmeat than any other tropical country. These are among the findings from mongabay.com's analysis of new deforestation figures from the United Nations. Monday, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its 2005 Global Forest Resources Assessment, a regular report on the status world's forest resources. Overall, FAO concludes that net deforestation rates have fallen since the 1990-2000 period, but some 13 million hectares of the world's forests are still lost each year, including 6 million hectares of primary forests. Primary forests -- forests with no visible signs of past or present human activities -- are considered the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet.
Deforestation and erosion starving Malawi
(10/13/2005) Forest loss and erosion could doom Malawi to perpetual food shortages as the country's fertile soil is literally swept down to its rivers and flushed out to sea.
10 million people will need humanitarian assistance in Southern Africa
(09/23/2005) As many as 10 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe have been assessed as food insecure and will need humanitarian assistance until the next harvest according to a food security brief from USAID.
Suggested reading - Books
Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]
Contact me if you have suggestions on other rainforest-related environmental sites and resources for this country.
Image copyright Google Earth, MDA EarthSet, DigitalGlobe 2005
CIA-World Factbook Profile
World Resources Institute
Last updated: 4 Feb 2006