About the dambos in Malawi


We promote sustainable use of wetlands which are locally known as dambos in Malawi. These are defined as any permanently or seasonally wet land in valleys, depressions, or floodplains with open herbaceous vegetation, mainly grasses and sedges, and an absence of trees. They are an important source of water and nutrients necessary for biological diversity and often support livelihoods of many communities.

Climate change and vulnerability

Since the 1970s, Malawi has experienced significant variations in weather patterns, ranging from severe drought (1978-79, 1981-82, 1991-92) conditions to extreme flood events (1996-97, 2000-2001, 2002-2003) and strong winds.

As a result, increased utilisation of fragile wetlands has intensified as households attempt to grow food in the dry season. On the other hand, uplands have become degraded with increased permanent cultivation.

Hence, these areas which provide critical adaptive survival strategies under conditions of climate change are being degraded while upland crop yields are declining.

The challenges of climate change and degrading ecosystems interact in dry sub-humid areas in Malawi, where high population densities and poor environmental governance is the norm.

Illustration: how water flows into the dambo (click to enlarge)


Upland degradation