July 08, 2022

Catchment management plans to support vulnerable communities in Malawi

The Malawi Watershed Services Improvement Project (MWASIP) aims to increase the adoption of sustainable landscape management practices and improve catchment management across the Shire River Basin in southern Malawi.

The Malawi Watershed Services Improvement Project (MWASIP) aims to increase the adoption of sustainable landscape management practices and improve catchment management across the Shire River Basin in southern Malawi.

Currently only about 4 per cent of the cropland is irrigated and the areas are increasingly susceptible to both droughts and flooding. In recent years, flooding events have caused major damage and loss of life.

SMEC has been engaged by Malawi’s Ministry of Water and Sanitation, with funding from the World Bank, to prepare catchment management plans and village level action plans for 3 catchment areas. The team will work with the client and key stakeholders and develop strategies to help communities build climate resilience, improve carbon sequestration capacity, and enhance livelihoods.

The project scope consists of three related components:

  • Scaling up landscape restoration to build climate resilience for smallholder farming communities
  • Improving watershed services and to help develop irrigation schemes, small dams, boreholes, roads and bridges, and market centres in the basin.
  • Project Management and building institutional capacity to strengthen the capacity of Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources through technical assistance.


As part of the scope, SMEC will deploy a team of specialists with expertise in hydrology, forestry, environmental management, civil engineering, agri-business, and GIS. The team will work together to study value chains and local markets with the aim of improving conditions for smallholder rainfed farms, livestock production and silviculture. The project’s financing preparation report estimates that the catchment management plans will directly benefit about 350,000 people.

SMEC’s role and responsibilities includes:

  • Developing a Geographic Information System database and map hotspots of environmental degradation and inventory of existing infrastructure
  • Identifying opportunities to improve ecological functions including afforestation / reforestation
  • Analysing agriculture-related value chain opportunities
  • Preparing infrastructure plans, including soil and water conservation, irrigation, rural access roads, gully control, farmers’ market centre
  • Developing three large-scale Catchment Management Plans for Mangochi, Balaka and Machinga districts, 18 Sub-Catchment Management Plans, and Village Level Action Plans (VLAPs) within the Sub-Catchments.
  • Preparing capacity development plans and appropriate training materials to support capacity building in the areas.

Client: The Government of Malawi, Ministry of Water and Sanitation

Funding: International Development Association, World Bank

Location(s): Upper and middle Shire River Basin, which includes the Mangochi, Balaka and Machinga catchments.


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