Ecosystem-Based Approach to Adaptation in Malawi


Malawi’s high dependency on rainfed, maize dominated agriculture, combined with poor urban planning in rural towns makes 85% of its populations highly vulnerable to climate change induced droughts, floods and post harvest grain losses. The government has embarked on two highly ambitious programmes: one on national agricultural input subsidy, to increase the use of inorganic fertilizers and maize production; the second on decentralized governance, making the District Councils and other local institutions the primary focus for delivery of developmental services to the rural populations.The effectiveness of these programmes is however being weakened by inadequate consideration of climate change induced risks to local development, particularly floods, droughts, pests and diseases affecting harvested but badly stored grains

This UNDP-GEF project is using two components to facilitate the use of an integrated package of ecological, physical and policy measures to reduce climate change related risks and improve the effectiveness of the baseline initiatives in Mangochi and Machinga Districts, in the upper Shire Basin. Ecological and physical infrastructure measures for water management will be adopted to regulate baseflow and  reduce risk of climate change driven floods while mitigating against droughts. In addition, climate safe post harvest management technologies and practices will reduce grain loss and increase food security. Replication and sustainability of these initiatives will be secured through mainstreaming climate change considerations and financing into local development programmes and a capacitated extension service

Project Details

The project will improve the effectiveness of the baseline programmes by securing the productivity gains in spite of climate change driven risks, primarily in two districts (Mangochi and Machinga), which cover an area of over a million hectares with a total population of about one million people, with a roughly 50:50 distribution on gender lines. The project is expected to work directly in villages with about 25% of the population (up to 250,000 people). Women and youth constitute a large percentage of farmers; broad participation of all relevant groups will be secured through formulation of a gender strategy to guide targeting of project initiatives. Specifically, it will improve household food security, nutrition and incomes by increasing and diversifying farm productivity with low input costs and expansion of irrigation. Adoption of the climate safe post harvest management technologies and practices will increase food security by reducing post harvest losses of grains.

Improved water harvesting will modify water flow during both droughts and heavy rains, further reducing the impacts of droughts and floods on farmers and food security. Together with increased water harvesting by rural dwellings, these measures will increase water availability, reducing the cost (labour, illnesses) incurred through the current difficulties in regulating water for domestic use throughout the year.

Level of Intervention: 
Key Collaborators: 
Primary Beneficiaries: 
Rural and urban population of Machinga and Mangochi Districts in Malawi.
Implementing Agencies & Partnering Organizations: 
Ministries of Local Government, Malawi
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Project Status: 
Source of Funds Pipeline
Funding Source: 
Financing Amount: 
Co-Financing Total: 

Key Results and Outputs

Outcome 1.1: Public and domestic water harvesting, storage and distribution reduces climate change driven flooding and regulates availability of water throughout the year in  flood & drought hotspots

  • Output 1.1.1: Public water harvesting and storage: 3 community based check dams constructed in strategic places to capture and store water, reducing risk of climate change induced floods while regularizing availability of water through wet and dry seasons
  • Output 1.1.2: Water harvesting from dwellings: percentage of farmers harvesting water from rooftops increase by at least 50% and boosts the percentage of farmers accessing clean domestic water in years of drought from a low of 10% to at least 25%
  • Output 1.1.3: Water harvesting and use on farms: percentage of farmers adopting improved water harvesting and retention (such as pools, dams, pits, retaining ridges, etc.) and using it to irrigate crops in the pilot communities increases by at least 25% and increase yields of key crops by more than 30%;

Outcome 1.2: Landscape level ecological measures complementing physical water management infrastructure to reduce risk of climate change induced floods and enhance resilience against unusually harsh and frequent droughts in selected hotspots (covering over 500,000 ha of farmlands and 6 urban centres)

  • Output 1.2.1: Rehabilitation of badly degraded lands in selected hotspots improves land cover, infiltration and base flow;  increasing the ability of the landscape to regulate water flow during droughts and floods, offering ecological protection from climate change induced droughts and floods;
  • Output 1.2.2: Adoption of conservation agriculture practices, integration of agroforestry species, short-cycle, drought-tolerant crop varieties and multiple-use tree species by more than 30% of the farmers increases water retention capacity by the soils, reducing impacts of climate change intensified drought by at least 30%
  • Output 1.2.3: Water use efficiency in small scale irrigation systems improved by over 40% to address climate induced irregularity of rainfall patterns (drought) while improving productivity of the land by more than 10%.
  • Output 1.2.4: Establishment of small-scale flood reduction infrastructure  in selected urban areas (such as water diversion structures, gabions, culverts) integrated with ecological measures (such as protective vegetation, hillside terraces planted with perennial trees and shrubs, stone bunds) improve water drainage and reduce damage from intense climate change induced floods.

Outcome 1.3: Adoption of climate safe post harvest management technologies and practices by > 50% of grain farmers reduce climate induced grain loss by > 30%

  • Output 1.3.1: Skills and institutional arrangements for individual and/or communal climate safe post harvest management practices and storage facilities disseminated, leading to adoption of improved practices by more than 50% and a reduction in post harvest losses of more than 30% of current baseline (baseline to be established at ppg);
  • Output 1.3.2: Financing institutions, local artisans,  marketing channels and the extension service set up to support the demonstration, upscaling and sustainability of the improved climate safe post harvest management practices and technologies

Outcome 2.1: Capacity of District level technical officers to support implementation, maintenance and monitoring of the activities under component 1 and to mainstream climate risks into all local developemnt process (skills, legislation, information)

  • Output 2.1.1: The extension service capacitated with skills (though training) and other support systems to integrate up-to-date information and techniques for mainstreaming climate change risks into the current and future extension support to land users and farmers;
  • Output 2.1.2: Research on local impacts of climate change and adaptation techniques supported to provide a scientific backbone to the mainstreaming of climate change considerations into local development, and linked to extension service for dissemination of more up to date information on weather, risks of drought and flooding to farmers and urban dwellers.
  • Output 2.1.3: A participatory M&E system formulated and implemented to monitor effects of the project on the baseline investments and livelihoods; lessons drawn and disseminated through the regional and national platforms (as well as used to support adaptive management);
  • Output 2.1.4: District councils, local authorities, district planning units and officers of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and National Housing Development Authority trained to recognize climate risk problems in new and existing investment projects and apply/recommend/enforce targeted risk reduction and risk management measures;
  • Output 2.1.5: Structural engineers, urban and rural infrastructure planners and teaching staff from technical colleges and vocational training institutes provided with skills on climate-resilient construction, land use and water resources planning

Outcome 2.2:– Local and national development policies influenced by the project supported pilots to strengthen policies and policy enforcement for climate consideration in development

  • Output 2.2.1: Two districts revise local development policy making it mandatory to integrate climate risk considerations  in the design, appraisal and approval process of district development, including the implemenaiton of the agricultural input subsidy programme and civil works (infrastructre and building);
  • Output 2.2.2: Agreement on, and operationalization of district level institutional arrangement for the long-term implementation of the ecological and physical measures and management plans, including enforcement of environmental regulations identified, and operationalized;
  • Output 2.2.3: Two Districts review planning processes to provide greater coherence, coordination and integration between climate change, agricultural-led local development and food security policy processes;
  • Output 2.2.4: A national “Year of Land Care ” launched to promote wide scale awareness of the cost effectiveness of  integrating ecological and physical measures as a means of  mitigating impacts of climate change driven floods and droughts;
  • Output 2.2.5:  Lessons generated at the project/district level fed into the national climate programme, SLM platform and other national planning debates, to lobby and influence the adoption of climate risk considerations as minimum criteria for accessing agricultural input subsidy benefits.



Jan Rijpma
CO Focal Point
Veronica Muthui
Regional Technical Advisor