Context for integrated catchment management

In 1995, in response to Agenda 21, the Malawian Government developed the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) as a framework for development that proposed a set of actions that should be taken in order to redress the escalating environmental degradation and facilitate sustainable utilisation and management of natural resources. In this process, nine key environmental issues were identified, namely: soil erosion, deforestation, water resources degradation and depletion, threat to fish resources, threat to biodiversity, human habitat degradation, high population growth, air pollution and climate change. The plan has strategies to address each area of concern. Considerable work has been undertaken in Malawi since then to address these issues, and numerous aid and funding organisations have partnered with the Malawian Government to achieve this. Regrettably, recent studies[1] have confirmed that the key issues raised in the NEAP are still prevalent, and that environmental degradation is still evident.  It is apparent that these key issues are all inter-connected and to a large extent can be attributed to poverty and high population.

In managing Malawi’s natural resources, including water resources, all of these concerns and aspects as well as others, must be taken into consideration. Integrated catchment management (ICM) as a process of managing natural resources within the catchment/watershed unit, promotes this co-ordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximise the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.


[1] Government of Malawi (2014). 2014 Millennium Development Goal Report for Malawi, Government of Malawi, Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Lilongwe. URL:, Accessed 10 November 2015.

Government of Malawi (2010). Malawi State of Environment and Outlook Report Environment for Sustainable Economic Growth, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment, Lilongwe, URL:, Accessed 10 November 2015.