36.2% —or about 3,402,000 hectares—of Malawi is forested. Of this, 33.3% —or roughly 1,132,000 hectares—is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse form of forest.

Change in Forest Cover: Between 1990 and 2000, Malawi lost an average of 32,900 hectares of forest per year. The amounts to an average annual deforestation rate of 0.84%. Between 2000 and 2005, the rate of forest change increased by 9.6% to 0.93% per annum. In total, between 1990 and 2005, Malawi lost 12.7% of its forest cover, or around 494,000 hectares. Malawi lost -595,000 hectares—0—of its primary forest cover during that time. Deforestation rates of primary cover have decreased 34.5% since the close of the 1990s. Measuring the total rate of habitat conversion (defined as change in forest area plus change in woodland area minus net plantation expansion) for the 1990-2005 interval, Malawi lost 15.0% of its forest and woodland habitat.

Biodiversity and Protected Areas: Malawi has some 1029 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of these, 1.7% are endemic, meaning they exist in no other country, and 2.4% are threatened. Malawi is home to at least 3765 species of vascular plants, of which 1.3% are endemic. 8.9% of Malawi is protected under IUCN categories I-V.

Malawi Environmental profile


Malawi: Forest Cover, 2005
Total Land Area (ha)9,408,000
Total Forest Area (ha)3,402,000
Percent Forest Cover36.16%
Primary Forest Cover (ha)1,132,000
Primary Forest, % total forest33.27%
Primary Forest, % total land12.03%
Other wooded land (ha)-

Malawi : Forest types
Tropical (% forest area)100%
Subtropical (% forest area)0%
Temperate (% forest area)0%
Boreal/polar (% forest area)0%

Malawi: Breakdown of forest types, 2005
Primary forest (ha | %)1,132,00033.3%
Modified natural (ha | %)2,067,00060.8%
Semi-natural (ha | %)--
Production plantation (ha | %)204,0006.0%
Production plantation (ha | %)--

Malawi: Change in Forest Cover
Forest 1990 (ha)3,896,000
Forest 2000 (ha)3,567,000
Forest 2005 (ha)3,402,000
Annual Change 1990-2000 (ha | %)(32,900)-0.84%
Annual Change 2000-2005 (ha | %)(33,000)-0.93%
Total Change 1990-2005 (ha | %)(494,000)-12.68%
Change in rate (%)9.56%
Primary 1990 (ha)1,727,000
Primary 2000 (ha)1,330,000
Primary 2005 (ha)1,132,000
Annual Change 1990-2000 (ha | %)(39,700)-2.30%
Annual Change 2000-2005 (ha | %)(39,600)-2.98%
Total Change 1990-2005 (ha | %)(595,000)-34.45%
Change in rate (%)29.52%
Other 1990 (ha)-
Other 2000 (ha)-
Other 2005 (ha)-
Annual Change 1990-2000 (ha | %)--
Annual Change 2000-2005 (ha | %)--
Total Change 1990-2005 (ha | %)--
Change in rate (%)-
Other 1990 (ha)132,000
Other 2000 (ha)180,000
Other 2005 (ha)204,000
Annual Change 1990-2000 (ha | %)4,8003.64%
Annual Change 2000-2005 (ha | %)4,8002.67%
Total Change 1990-2005 (ha | %)72,00054.55%
Change in rate (%)-26.67%
Forest area+Wooded Area-Plantations
Other 1990 (ha)3,764,000
Other 2000 (ha)3,387,000
Other 2005 (ha)3,198,000
Annual Change 1990-2000 (ha | %)(37,700)-1.00%
Annual Change 2000-2005 (ha | %)(37,800)-1.12%
Total Change 1990-2005 (ha | %)(566,000)-15.04%
Change in rate (%)11.43%

Malawi: Primary
Primary or "old-growth" vegetation
Primary Forest 2005 (ha)1,132,000
Other primary wooded land 2005 (ha)-
Other primary wooded land 2005 (ha)1,132,000
Undisturbed vegetation 2005 (% land area)12.03%

Malawi: Forest designation
Ownership of forest land, 2000
Public (%)-
Private (%)-
Other (%)-
Ownership of other wooded land, 2000
Public (%)-
Private (%)-
Other (%)-
Designated functions of forest – primary function 2005
Production (%)-
Protection (%)-
Conservation (%)-
Social Services (%)-
Multiple Services (%)-
None of Unknown (%)-

Malawi: Disturbances affecting forest land 2000
Forest Area annually affected by
Fire (%)-
Insects (ha)-
Diseases (ha)-
Other (ha)-

Malawi: Protected areas
Protected areas
Biosphere reserves, 2005
Wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites), 20051
World Heritage sites, 20041
Protected Areas: IUCN categories I-V, percent of total land8.9%
Protected Areas: IUCN categories Ia, Ib, and II, extent, percent of total land5.88%
Protected Areas: IUCN categories III, IV, and V, percent of total land, 20043.06%
Protected Areas: IUCN categories VI and other, percent of total land, 20047.44%

Malawi: Biodiversity - Wildlife
total species56
endemic species4
threatened species5
total species658
endemic species3
threatened species13
total species207
endemic species0
threatened species7
total species108
endemic species10
threatened species0
Wildlife diversity
total species1029
endemic species17
threatened species25

Malawi: Biodiversity - Plants
Growing stock composition
3 most common species
% of total growing stock
Growing stock composition
3 most common species
% of total growing stock
Number of Native tree species
Native tree species-
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Critically Endangered0
Vascular Plant Species, 2004
Number endemic49
Number of Threatened Plant Species, 2004
Species threatened14

Malawi: Value of forests
Biomass stock in forest, 2005
Above-ground biomass (M t)260
Below-ground biomass (M t)62
Dead wood (M t)-
Total (M t)-
Carbon stock in forest, 2005
Carbon in above-ground biomass (M t)130
Carbon in below-ground biomass (M t)31
Carbon in dead wood (M t)-
Carbon in litter (M t)-
Soil carbon (M t)-
Change in growing stock 1990 - 2005
Annual change rate (1000 cubic m/yr)
Growing stock per hectare 1990 - 2005
Annual change rate ( cubic m/ha per yr)
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood (1000 cubic m)655
Wood fuel (1000 cubic m)5,617
Total wood removal 2005 (1000 cubic m)6,272
Total wood removal 2005 (% of growing stock)2
Plant products 2005
Food (t)-
Fodder (t)-
Raw material for medicine and aromatic products (t)-
Raw material for colorants and dyes (t)-
Raw material for utensils, handicrafts & construction (t)-
Ornamental plants (t)-
Exudates (t)-
Other plant products (t)-
Animal products 2005
Living animals (units)-
Hides, skins and trophies (units)-
Wild honey and bee-wax (t)-
Bush meat (t)-
Raw material for medicine and aromatic products (t)-
Raw material for colorants and dyes (t)-
Other edible animal products (t)-
Other non-edible animal products (t)-
Value of wood and non-wood forest product removal 2005
Industrial roundwood (US$)-
Wood fuel (US$)-
Non-wood forest products (US$)-
Total value (US$)-
Total value ($USD/ha)$-
Employment in forestry 2000
Total people employed1,000

Malawi : Production, trade and consumption of forest products, 2002
Woodfuel ('000 cubic m), 2002
Industrial roundwood ('000 cubic m), 2002
Sawnwood ('000 cubic m), 2002
Wood-based panels ('000 cubic m), 2002
Pulp for paper ('000 metric tons), 2002
Paper and paperboard ('000 metric tons), 2002
Malawi: Environment
Environment - current issuesdeforestation; land degradation; water pollution from agricultural runoff, sewage, industrial wastes; siltation of spawning grounds endangers fish populations
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Natural hazardsNA

Malawi: Land use / Resources
Land use (%)arable land: 23.38%
permanent crops: 1.49%
other: 75.13% (2001)
Natural resourceslimestone, arable land, hydropower, unexploited deposits of uranium, coal, and bauxite

Malawi: Economy
Economy - overview:Landlocked Malawi ranks among the world's least developed countries. The economy is predominately agricultural, with about 90% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounted for nearly 36% of GDP and 80% of export revenues in 2005. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for over 50% of exports. The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. In late 2000, Malawi was approved for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. The government faces strong challenges, including developing a market economy, improving educational facilities, facing up to environmental problems, dealing with the rapidly growing problem of HIV/AIDS, and satisfying foreign donors that fiscal discipline is being tightened. In 2005, President MUTHARIKA championed an anticorruption campaign. Malawi's recent fiscal policy performance has been very strong, but a serious drought in 2005 and 2006 will heighten pressure on the government to increase spending.
GDP - per capita$600 (2005 est.)
GDP - real growth rate (%)1% (2005 est.)
Agriculture - productstobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, cassava (tapioca), sorghum, pulses; groundnuts, Macadamia nuts; cattle, goats
GDP - composition by sector (%)agriculture: 35.9%, industry: 14.5%, services: 49.6% (2005 est.)
Industries tobacco, tea, sugar, sawmill products, cement, consumer goods
Economic aid - recipient$401.5 million (2001)
Debt - external$3.284 billion (2005 est.)
Population below poverty line (%)55% (2004 est.)
Labor force - by occupation (%)agriculture 90% (2003 est.)

Malawi: Population / Demographics
Population (July 2005)12,158,924
Population growth rate (%) (2005)2.06%
Population density (people/sq km) (2005)129.2
Percent rural (2003)83.7%
Median age (years)total: 16.34 years
Total fertility rate (children born/woman)5.98 (2005 est.)
Ethnic groups (%)Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European

Largest Cities in Malawi

Cities and urban areas in Malawi with population over 100,000 All figures are estimates for 2002.

CityCountryCity PopulationUrban Area Population

 Environment, Land use / Resources, Economy, Population / Demographics, Infrastructure, Health -- CIA World Factbook, 2005
 Forest Cover, Forest types, Breakdown of forest types, Change in Forest Cover, Primary forests, Forest designation, Disturbances affecting forest land, Value of forests, Production, trade and consumption of forest products -- The FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS's Global Forest Resources Assessment (2005) and the State of the World’s Forests (2005, 2003, 2001)
 Protected Areas, Plant and animal biodiversity -- United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). 2004. World Database on Protected Areas.
 Biosphere reservers -- United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) - Man and Biosphere Program. 2004. UNESCO - MAB Biosphere Reserves Directory.
 RAMSAR sites -- The Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands . 2005. The Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
 World Resources Institute's EarthTrends web site
 The 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
 Population Data -- United Nations Population Fund
 With additional analysis by Rhett Butler of

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