Strengthening resilience to climate change in rural Malawi

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Changes in Malawi’s climatic patterns have led to severe drought and flooding which has resulted in loss of life and economic hardship. For a country heavily dependent upon its rain-fed agriculture, hydro-electric power, fisheries and wildlife sectors for survival, such dramatic weather changes wreak havoc on the economy, with the livelihoods of rural Malawians the most affected.  

Since 2014, the Malawi Sustainable Rural Water and Sanitation Infrastructure for Improved Health and Livelihoods (SRWSIHL) project has worked to support the country’s water users associations and water point committees adapt to climate change. The project is supported by the African Development Bank, the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI )Trust Fund, the World Bank, UNICEF, the European Union Investment Bank, the European Union, and the Australian Government and aligned with Malawi’s National Adaptation Programme of Action.

The EUR 3.5-million contribution from the RWSSI Trust Fund will support the design of catchment management plans and the establishment of catchment conservation committees to improve the resilience of water resources and empower the local economy. Through the program, local communities will receive climate awareness training and be encouraged to join climate change adaptation activities, such as the planting of 250,000 trees in project catchment areas to reduce erosion and mitigate carbon emissions. Five groundwater monitoring stations will be also installed, in addition to eight hydrometric monitoring stations on rivers flowing in the districts of Rumphi, Nkhotakota, Ntcheu, Mangochi and Phalombe. At the same time, water-monitoring assistants will be trained to help track the quality of water resources in these districts, where a total population of 575,000 will benefit from improved water and sanitation facilities.

For the 84 percent of Malawi’s population that live in rural areas, rural water supply remains a key priority for ensuring sustainable livelihoods and social and economic development. Since its first country-based water and sanitation commitments in 1976, the AfDB has focused primarily on supporting marginalized rural areas to increase resilience and to improve access to sustainable water supplies. RWSSI pursues a “furthest behind first” approach to meeting Sustainable Development Goal Number 6 by favouring actions in the regions where they are needed most.