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Climate Change Impact on Lake Malawi

Climate Change Impact on Lake Malawi

In Malawi, climate change is negatively affecting economic growth, long-term prosperity and the livelihoods of an already-vulnerable population. According to a recent report by the World Bank, Malawi is among the top ten countries in Africa most at risk from climate change, with cyclones and floods among the major threats. Extreme weather threatens the region’s ecosystem and its fragile agriculture-based economy. Climate change severely affects Lake Malawi, home to more species of fish than any other freshwater body in the world. Unfortunately, decades of overfishing and resource exploitation continue to decimate this natural wonder, known by its moniker, the “Lake of Stars.” 

The third largest body of freshwater in Africa, Lake Malawi is a major regional food source and is crucial to the local economy. Bordering three countries - Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique - Lake Malawi stretches across more than 11,000 miles and boasts a rich biodiversity of more than 1,000 species of fish. But in the past decade, receding water levels and dwindling fish stocks have taken a large toll. Fishing is the primary source of income for the lake’s shoreline villages, and with a 90% decline in fish stocks in the last two decades, people are seeing their livelihoods slip away.

Aerial view of fishing boats on the shore of Lake Malawi at the Senga village. (Photo: Gianluigi Guercia, Associated Foreign Press.)

Aerial view of fishing boats on the shore of Lake Malawi at the Senga village. (Photo: Gianluigi Guercia, Associated Foreign Press.)

In Senga Bay, a fishing village in the northern part of Lake Malawi, is just one example of a community whose economic well-being is highly dependent upon the well-being of the lake. As a result of declining fish stocks, fish is now more expensive, affecting roughly 14,000 people, who rely on fishing for income and sustenance.

Fishermen at Senga Bay work through their catch after returning to the shore of the Lake. (Photo: Gianluigi Guercia, Associated Foreign Press.)

Fishermen at Senga Bay work through their catch after returning to the shore of the Lake. (Photo: Gianluigi Guercia, Associated Foreign Press.)

Additionally, increasingly strong winds and unpredictable torrential rains make it more difficult for fishermen on the lake. According to USAID, the amount of rainfall incidents in the aid-dependent country is likely to decrease, but each rainfall will be more intense. Rainfall has a higher chance of leading to droughts and floods, as we saw earlier this year when Cyclone Idai hit southern Africa, claiming more than 1,000 lives and leaving thousands displaced.

As climate change intensifies, Raising Malawi is proud to support UNICEF Malawi in emergency response and meeting the humanitarian needs of families and children impacted by natural disasters. We applaud any and all efforts of citizens, community organizations, local government and NGOs to address the impact of climate change in the impoverished region.