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Malawi
A.NATIONAL COMMITTEE
1.

Mr. Winston Sataya
Malawi National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage
Department of Irrigation
P.O. Box 30797
Lilongwe 3

Email : winstonsataya@yahoo.co.uk

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COUNTRY PROFILE - MALAWI


Malawi is a landlocked country, lying in Southern Africa between latitudes 9°22’S and 17°03’S and longitudes 33°40’E and 35°55’E. It is bordered by the United Republic of Tanzania to the north and northeast, Mozambique to the east, south and southwest, and Zambia to the west. The country has a total area of 118 480 km2 with a total length of about 900 km and a maximum width of about 250 km. About 20 percent of its total area is covered by surface water bodies.

Malawi’s topography is characterized by extremely diverse physical features. It is divided into four major physiographic zones:

  • The highlands of Mulanje, Zomba and Dedza in the southern part of the country;
  • The plateau of the central and northern regions;
  • The rift valley escarpment;
  • The rift valley plains along the lakeshores of Lake Malawi, the Upper Shire and Lower Shire Valleys.

The soils of Malawi have been grouped into 28 classes, predominated by three major soil types:

  • The Eutric Leptosols, known as Lithosols, which occur in most areas of the country;
  • The Chromic Luvisols, generally known as Latosols, which are the red-yellow soils of the Lilongwe plain and some parts of southern region;
  • The Haplic Lixisols, which are the alluvial soils of lacustrine and river-line plains, the Vertisols of the lower shire valley and Phalombe plain and the Mopanosols in the Liwonde and Balaka areas.

The climate of Malawi is tropical continental and largely influenced by the huge water mass of Lake Malawi, which defines almost two-thirds of Malawi’s eastern border. There are two distinct seasons: the rainy season from November to April and the dry season from May to October. The dry season may be divided into the cool dry period from May to July and the hot dry period from August to October.

Annual rainfall in Malawi ranges from 700 to 2 400 mm with mean annual rainfall being 1 180 mm. Its distribution is mostly influenced by the topography and proximity to Lake Malawi. The highest rainfall is experienced in the high altitude and mountainous areas of Mulanje, Zomba, Dedza and the plateaus of Viphya and Nyika while the lowest rainfall is experienced in the low lying areas of the Lower Shire Valley and other rain shadow areas.

The main rain bearing system in Malawi is the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). This is a broad zone in the equatorial low-pressure belt, towards which the northeasterly and southeasterly trade winds converge. This system is responsible for most of the rain received in the country. Other rain bearing systems affecting Malawi are:

  • Tropical cyclones, which are essentially intense low-pressure cells that originate in the Indian Ocean and move from east to west, bringing widespread heavy rainfall mostly in southern Malawi, which can cause serious flooding.
  • The Convergence Ahead of Pressure Surges (CAPS) system, which develops as high-pressure cells continue to move over the southern tip of the sub-continent. This leads to the convergence ahead of the pressure surges causing isolated but locally heavy rains that normally precede the onset of the rainy season.
  • The easterly waves system, which is mostly active towards the end of the rainy season (March/April). The existence of easterly waves in the atmosphere causes isolated but locally heavy rains in some parts of the country.

Temperatures are greatly influenced by the topography and decreases with increasing altitude. The mean maximum and minimum temperatures are 28 °C and 10 °C respectively in the plateau areas, and 32 °C and 14 °C respectively in the rift valley plains. The highest temperatures occur in October/November while the lowest temperatures are experienced in June/July.

In 2004, Malawi’s population was about 12.3 million with an annual growth rate of 2.1 percent (Table 1). About 83 percent of the total population was rural. Malawi is the most densely populated country in the SADC region, with a population density of 104 inhabitants/km2. The population is not evenly distributed throughout the country, and the Southern Region has some of the highest population densities in the country. In 2002, 96 percent of the urban population and 62 percent of the rural population were using improved drinking water sources.


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