Malawi is vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events (EAD, 1998, 2002a, 2004). The Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment Report of 2001 (EAD, 2002b) has clearly indicated that Malawi is experiencing a variety of climatic hazards, which include intense rainfall, floods, seasonal droughts, multi-year droughts, dry spells, cold spells, strong winds, thunderstorms, landslides, hailstorms, mudslides and heat waves, among many others.

Currently, the majority of rural communities are experiencing chronic food deficits in many parts of the country on a year-round-basis owing to the effects of floods and droughts. This situation has been compounded by the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS that has created a large number of dependant orphans, and has also adversely impacted on rural household food production systems, as well as the quality of life and sustainable livelihoods.

The increasing prevalence of the recurrent floods and droughts is of major concern to the Government of Malawi because of their far-reaching consequences on food, water, health and energy. Erratic rains have resulted in acute crop failure, despite concerted efforts to improve seasonal weather forecasting at the beginning of the rainy season. Crop failure has resulted in food insecurity and malnutrition, especially among vulnerable rural communities. On the other hand, floods have resulted in the disruption of hydroelectric power generation, water pollution, and increased incidences of diseases, such as malaria, cholera and diarrhea. It is against this background that the government has put in place several policies and strategies to address the adverse impacts of climate change on food, water, health and energy, as articulated in Vision 2020, MPRSP, and the Malawi Economic Growth Strategy (MEGS), among many other documents.

Related Content

Gender Assesment

Saving Lives and Protecting Agriculture Based Livelihoods in Malawi: Scaling Up the Use of Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems

Gender Action Plan

Saving Lives and Protecting Agriculture Based Livelihoods in Malawi: Scaling Up the Use of Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems

Funding Proposal

15 October 2015

Funding Proposal - Scaling Up the Use of Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Malawi


FAA GCF Malawi

Funded Activity Agreement (FAA) dated 10 May. Saving Lives and Protecting Agriculture based Livelihoods in Malawi: Scaling Up the Use of Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems.

Feasibility Study

This report outlines the feasibility of implementing the "Saving Lives and Protecting Agriculture based Livelihoods in Malawi: Scaling Up the Use of Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems". It was prepared by the Government of Malawi and the United Nations Development Program.

Timetable of project implementation

The project on "Saving Lives and Protecting Agriculture based Livelihoods in Malawi: Scaling Up the Use of Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems" will be implemented over 7 years. This document provides a timeline of when activities will be implemented to acheive the outcomes of this project.

Environmental and Social Impact Assessment

This document describes how the project on "Saving Lives and Protecting Agriculture based Livelihoods in Malawi: Scaling Up the Use of Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems" contributes to strengthening social and environmental sustainability and ensures gender equality in Malawi.

Map of Project Location

This map documents the location of project activities that comprise the project "Saving Lives and Protecting Agriculture based Livelihoods in Malawi: Scaling Up the Use of Modernized Climate Information and Early Warning Systems".

Gender, Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Africa

Women represent the main source of agricultural labour in Africa (Denton, 2002) and the fact that agriculture in tropical and subtropical areas is one of the sectors most vulnerable to climate change (Mendelsohn et al., 2006) explains why some women remain vulnerable and poor. In fact, women represent the majority of people living on less than a dollar a day (Denton, 2002; UNDP, 2010). For instance, women account for 65 percent of smallholder farmers in Zambia and they are particularly exposed to food insecurity. Therefore, providing them with agricultural advice informed by climate and weather information is of crucial importance (ActionAid, 2015).

Moreover, because of systemic inequities between women and men, there are commonly, but wrongfully, held views that women’s economic, political and social status is inferior to that of men. Consequently, women have been traditionally absent from decision-making processes regarding climate policy (Lambrou and Piana, 2006). Furthermore, cultural norms have also affected the ability of women to adapt to climate change because of the restrictions these norms impose on women (UNDP, 2010). This is counterintuitive since women are more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods than men are and this renders them more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Considering this context, several UNDP-GEF projects on adaptation and in particular on climate information and early warning systems (CI/EWS) have been designed to incorporate gender aspects in their implementation. On the one hand, the projects aim to invest in women’s empowerment within the national hydromet and disaster risk reduction services and on the other hand, the objective is to ensure women’s access to climate information and early warnings for adaptation purposes.

In what follows, country-specific highlights of the CI/EWS projects are presented.


To start with, the CI/EWS project in Zambia is targeting communities in districts where women are most vulnerable to climate change. Besides this, women working at the Zambian Meteorology Department have benefited from several short- as well as long-term training courses. Specifically, 3 out of 12 staff members being sponsored to undertake a three-year diploma programme in weather forecasting, data processing, analysis and climate applications at the Zambian Air Services Training Institute are women. This represents progress in terms of gender empowerment as meteorology has been a traditionally male-dominated profession in Zambia. Moreover, there have been significant efforts to balance the participation of men and women in all of the short-term training courses organized by the project and in particular, the aim has been to count at least 30 percent female participants. Similarly, 30 percent of the project’s leadership at the community level is represented by women. Furthermore, by means of supporting the generation of hydro-meteorological and environmental information, the project is enabling Zambia’s Disaster Mitigation and Management Services to conduct vulnerability assessments and effectively carry out relief interventions from which women and children are the main beneficiaries due to their disproportionately high exposure to risk. Last but not least, preliminary findings from a national project-led survey revealed that women and men are nowadays equally using weather information for decision-making and they represent 41% of the surveyed population. This is a marked improvement from previous records suggesting no use of such information.


In Malawi, the CI/EWS project integrates gender considerations by making sure that women are adequately involved in the implementation of the early warning systems and that they benefit from climate information which is relevant to them, presented and transmitted in a way that is accessible and easy to understand. Specifically, the climate data collected by the 10 newly installed weather stations benefits men, women, children and vulnerable groups equally. Moreover, since women have been traditionally responsible for water collection in rural Malawi, they will also benefit from the improved management of water resources that this project is facilitating. Furthermore, gender-sensitive household surveys will verify that women are targeted accordingly by the established systems. To date, thanks to this LDCF project, women have benefited from various sessions on sensitisation and awareness creation in early warning systems and disaster risk management which were carried out in the Chikwawa, Dedza, Kasungu, Mangochi, Nkhatabay, Nkhotakota, Nsanje, Phalombe, Rumphi, Salima and Zomba districts. Out of the 550 community members that have participated, 302 were women. Lastly, several training sessions have also been organised for the Civil Protection Committees of 11 districts, namely: Chikwawa, Dedza, Karonga, Mangochi, Nkhatabay, Nkhotakota, Nsanje, Phalombe, Rumphi, Salima and Zomba. They have all targeted men, women and youth equally.


To ensure an effective early warning system that caters to all vulnerable persons in a community, the sites for the implementation of the CI/EWS project in Uganda have been all selected while being mindful of gender assessments. A toolkit for the dissemination of early warnings is being developed and it will include a gender-based analysis of the national and local media that are used to disseminate weather and climate alerts. Moreover, based on gender-sensitive consultations with end-users, the project aims to supply climate information that is tailored to the specific needs of decision makers and local communities.

With an objective in mind to ensure gender mainstreaming at all levels of project execution, 3 of the 11 Project Board members and 5 of the 12 Technical Committee members are women. Moreover, 30 percent of the participants in the sub-National Committee are women and in fact, all of the meetings and workshops organized by the project have had a minimum of 30 percent participation from women. Furthermore, in terms of human capacity and women’s empowerment in the context of national hydromet and disaster risk reduction services, the project reported the following:

  • 12 staff members working at Uganda’s synoptic stations have been trained on the use of the recently installed equipment: barometers, thermometers and sunshine cards. 7 of them were women.
  • 7 staff members from Uganda’s National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) have been trained by the supplier itself on the operation of the newly acquired automatic weather stations. 2 of them were women.
  • 27 UNMA staff members have received training on the operation of the automatic message switching system. 6 of them were women.
  • 12 smartphones were delivered to each of UNMA’s 12 synoptic stations. The recipients have also been trained on the use of smartphones to relay weather data to the National Meteorological Centre. 7 of them were women.
  • 23 staff members from UNMA and the Directorate of Water Resources Management (DWRM) have been trained in Kenya or India on weather data management and flood forecasting. 3 of them were women.
  • 8 staff members from UNMA, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries and DWRM have been trained to become trainers themselves on hazards and vulnerability mapping. 3 of them were women.

The project is also adopting an evidence-based approach to evaluating its impact and the first step has been to collect baseline data. A survey was conducted for this purpose and 6 out of the 16 data collectors were women. A second round of data collection is planned for the end of the project and it will be mindful of gender aspects.

Last but not least, various events for awareness-creation regarding adaptation to climate change in the agricultural sector have been organised and 12 of the 30 UNMA members that were involved in their organisation were women. 

All in all, an increasing number of female staff members at UNMA and DWRM have acquired the hydromet skills that are necessary to make use of new technologies in Uganda. What is more, their role is only to increase upon the gender-sensitive implementation of activities following the installation of the newly purchased equipment. In addition, there will be opportunities for women to be trained as data collectors and analysts. Gender-based associations as well as NGOs will be increasingly involved in the dissemination and interpretation of early warnings and climate information. As the project matures, it will emphasize the gender component of emergency-response planning and districts as well as municipalities will be monitored for gender mainstreaming into plans for the management of hazards.


In Ethiopia, a survey conducted by the National Meteorological Agency revealed that women are making use of climate information to a significantly lesser extent than men are. In this context, the Agency emphasizes the need for increased awareness at the level of local communities, in schools and during stakeholder meetings. In fact, women and young staff have been encouraged to participate in national capacity building sessions as well as in regional workshops. Moreover, with the purpose of ensuring the local ownership of the newly acquired automatic weather stations, the project implementation team has conducted participatory consultations with local representatives and sought out the input of women.


The CI/EWS project in Benin has invested in public campaigns to increase awareness of project activities, early warning systems and the importance of community involvement in the maintenance and protection of hydromet stations. 740 people have participated, of which 125 were women. Moreover, the project has been supporting the involvement of NGOs in the efforts to strengthen gender equality, as measured by the ability of women to react to extreme weather and adapt to climate change. Whenever studies to inform project activities have been commissioned, the inclusion of women in the various research teams was a requirement. Women have also been encouraged to participate in project interventions and management committees and to voice their suggestions and concerns regarding the effectiveness of climate and early warning systems in Benin. Specifically, this UNDP-GEF project has been working with CARE International to promote activities dedicated to strengthening the capacity of women to use and capitalize climate information in the north-east region of Benin.

Concluding Note

The projects discussed above are young and therefore, progress was particularly noticeable in terms of the improved skills and increased presence of women in the national hydromet and disaster risk reduction services. However, as the projects mature and the systems disseminating climate information and early warnings are in place, the focus will fall on ensuring the balanced access of women and men to weather, climate and hydrological information and warnings.


ActionAid (2015). Delivering Women Farmers’ Rights. Policy Brief, ActionAid Int., Johannesburg.

Lambrou, Y., & Piana, G. (2006). Gender: The missing component of the response to climate change. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Denton, F. (2002). Climate change vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation: Why does gender matter? Gender & Development, 10(2), 10-20.

UNDP (2010). Gender, Climate Change and Community-Based Adaptation, UNDP, New York.

Mendelsohn, R., Dinar, A., & Williams, L. (2006). The distributional impact of climate change on rich and poor countries. Environment and Development Economics, 11(02), 159-178.

Thematic Area: 
Gender Impacts