Soil erosion, deforestation, poor agricultural practices, loss of soil fertility, lack of runoff management and gully formation each contribute to the degradation of Malawi’s land resources. In order to reduce land degradation, mitigate degradation and implement sustainable land use practices, this chapter provides technical guidance covering various aspects of sustainable land management.
One of the most important natural resources is the soil. Healthy and fertile soils produce good yields of crops; whereas poor or degraded soils produce low and unreliable yields. Soil health is a function of rooting depth, nutrient fertility, structure, organic matter content, below-ground biodiversity and water holding capacity – all of which are related. Ensuring soils remain healthy and fertile requires a variety of management techniques including: “natural farming” (permaculture), good rangeland management, soil fertility management, erosion and runoff control measures, gully management, and stream/river bank management. Implementing these techniques and practices will minimise the loss of topsoil (through erosion) and degradation (causing nutrient loss and reduced water holding capacity) of healthy soils; changes in weather will have less impact, risks of crops failing will be reduced, and soils throughout the catchment will be protected and retained in place.
Water is critical to life and to farming. Two key issues affecting water are: access to water, and managing water. Access can be improved through household or community storage of water. Access to water is also improved through water efficiency, i.e. using the water wisely to make it last longer; and through recycling water.
These guidelines provide techniques on water use efficiency and recycling, water harvesting and storage, infiltration, small dams, and small-scale irrigation schemes. By improving access to water, water can also be managed more sustainably, which is beneficial both to the community and to the catchment at large.
In order to ensure that catchment management activities and good farming practices can be implemented, it is important that activities around the household, farm and village are also sustainable and of a high standard.
These include activities such as improved grain storage, borehole pump maintenance, plant nurseries, living fences, sanitation, alternative energy sources, efficient energy use, and waste management.
Communities rely on natural resources to live and earn an income. Over utilisation leads to the depletion of natural resources. Therefore natural resources need to be managed and utilised in a sustainable manner, in order to maximise the goods and services received from them, while still maintaining their function and production capacity. Natural forests, fishing and wetlands are finite resources that must be managed unsustainably; similarly invasive alien vegetation can provide useful resources but needs to be managed to prevent uncontrollable spread.
This section provides guidance on the sustainable and efficient management and utilisation of these various resources.
Disasters and emergencies can happen anywhere and anytime. However in areas where natural resources are degraded or where no disaster planning has taken place, the communities are more vulnerable to the effects of the disasters. Fires can damage and destroy houses, forests, crops and grazing land. Floods can cause personal danger to communities, and can also wash away good farming soil if there is no village-level emergency planning in place. Floods can cut off access to clean water supply, and contribute to the spread of illnesses such as cholera.
These guidelines provide techniques for practical firefighting. The guidelines also provide information about waterborne diseases such as bilharzia, cholera and malaria - and how to provide basic treatment for these. Guidelines provide techniques for emergency planning to ensure preparedness for future disasters and emergencies.