Explore historical and projected climate data, climate data by sector, impacts, key vulnerabilities and what adaptation measures are being taken. Explore the overview for a general context of how climate change is affecting Malawi.


Malawi published a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) in March 2006. The responsibility for addressing climate change measures falls to a number of ministries and groups in Malawi, including: the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs, the Ministry of Poverty and Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and a National Climate Change Committee, among others. Reliance on rain-fed farming is Malawi’s biggest adaptation challenge and the country's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) talks about increasing irrigation farming as a goal. The NDC also describes measures such as constructing multipurpose dams for water management, enhancing capacity of the health sector, promoting climate-resilient infrastructure. Additionally, it aims at mainstreaming the gender perspective into all climate change adaptation policies and programs. 

Adaptation Options for Key Sectors

  • Crop diversification and promotion of a wide range of food sources is vital. 
  • Increase access to crop storage and cash loans, to prevent selling crop yields for short-term gains when prices are low. 
  • Decrease reliance on maize, which is highly vulnerable to changes in average annual rainfall patterns. 
  • Flood management.
  • Demand side management through water allocation. 
  • Construct boreholes. 
  • Water harvesting. 
  • Water resource management. 
  • Improve nutrition for infants and other vulnerable groups, including crop diversification and food supplements for children under the age of five.
  • Prevent diseases such as malaria through increased distribution of insect treated bed-nets (ITNs), and diarrhea, through improved water treatment infrastructure.

Gaps and Needs

  • A better understanding of the differential nature of vulnerability within Malawi’s high-risk geographic regions is needed. Analyses of sector impacts must be better complemented by social, economic, and political assessments of vulnerability and resilience. A more holistic analysis of vulnerability and adaptation to extreme weather events is also vital for developing climate-resilient development interventions.
  • Research is needed on the costs and options for ensuring adequate water supply for rural communities, especially those dependent on maize production.
  • Rampant HIV/AIDS in Malawi will have far-reaching effects on disaster management in Malawi, although exactly how these effects will impact disaster-related institutions is uncertain. HIV/AIDS erodes human capital and leads to high vacancy rates and absenteeism, which will likely have broad implications for organizational capacity to manage climate change adaptation.
  • Despite the significant number of adaptation activities currently underway in Malawi, certain gaps remain. As mentioned, the country is currently affected by a range of environmental challenges—deforestation, soil erosion, sedimentation in rivers, etc.—that further exacerbate the country’s vulnerability to climate change and compromise its agricultural productivity. However there are few projects that focus on these issues.
  • It is notable that Malawi explicitly identifies the impacts of climate change on women as a concern in its National Adaptation Program of Action; however, none of its current adaptation projects have addressing gender issues as one of their explicit objectives. 
  • There is a need for improved weather forecasting and climate modeling in the country in order for Malawi to properly anticipate the impacts of climate change; although there are a few current initiatives that touch on this need there likely is room for expansion.
  • Additional gaps include projects focused on health, forestry and other issues that play a role in the success of adaptation in the country.
  • The planning and management of climate change and disaster management is currently conducted on a sectoral basis, and the involvement of relevant stakeholders, including local community members, is limited.
  • Traditional coping mechanisms have included shifting homes to higher ground, storing grain in local granaries, hunting small animals, gathering and eating wild fruits and vegetables, sinking boreholes, and using traditional medicines to cure various ailments and diseases.
  • Malawi’s Initial Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change provides a list of ongoing and proposed adaptive measures to manage these changes in the agriculture, water, forestry, fisheries and wildlife sectors.
  • Securing adequate water supplies to future generations will require the installation of appropriate irrigation infrastructure. Irrigation has contributed to the significant increases in maize production since 2005. However, the limited availability of meteorological information on the upper reaches of key rivers and a general lack of flow gauges prevent the appropriate design of the necessary irrigation infrastructure.