The Shire River Basin is Malawi’s single most important water resource, supporting the country’s key economic sectors including food production, transport, energy, tourism, agriculture and fisheries. The Shire River Basin Management Program (SRBMP) aims to increase sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits by effectively and collaboratively planning, developing and managing the Shire River Basin’s natural resources. LTS and consortium partners implemented the first phase of the SRBMP by Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development. The World Bank financed projectwas implemented to improve land and water management and protect and enhance the Shire River ecosystem, while providing livelihood benefits in target areas.
The programme was made up of three components – Shire basin planning, catchment management and water related infrastructure – and the consortium was responsible for the catchment management component. In order to achieve its objectives, LTS assisted the Government to:
This aimed to rehabilitate four catchments – Upper Lisungwi, Upper Wamkulumadzi, Kapichira Falls and Chingale – covering a combined area of approximately 133,000 ha. The consortium developed methods to reduce soil erosion, utilise soil conservation methods and improve and diversify livelihoods.
Some of the major challenges being faced in the Shire River Basin were deforestation in upper catchments & along river banks resulting from fuel wood harvesting, charcoal production and conversion of land to agricultural use. Droughts are frequent and there is high reliance on rain-fed agriculture which results in food insecurity in dry years. To address these issues, four sub-components involving planning, capacity development, water and soil interventions, small economic activities and ecological management were implemented under Catchment Management.
The solutions to the challenges fall under three key stages at the catchment level:
LTS worked closely with MottMacdonald and CDM on across these components, playing a leading role in supporting capacity building for planning (working with village level planning institutions and communities), delivering an environmental assessment plan of income generating activities, and providing training and technical support to local enterprises in the non-agricultural sector.
Activities on rehabilitation and management of degraded catchments were implemented in four priority catchment areas of Upper Lisungwi (25,956 ha) in Ntcheu district; Upper Wamkulumadzi (29,556 ha) in Neno district; Kapichira (33,157 ha) in Blantyre district, and; Chingale (41,258 ha) in Zomba and Machinga districts. Ecological management of protected areas activities are also being implemented in Forest Reserves and National Parks within the Basin.
Value and Benefits:
The Shire River Basin is Malawi’s single most important water resource, supporting the country’s key economic sectors including food production, transport, energy, tourism, agriculture and fisheries. The aim of the programme was to increase sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits of the basin by effectively and collaboratively planning, developing and managing its natural resources. Since the activities promoted ideally require a longer time horizon than the project duration, this project aimed to institutionalize a successful approach and show early results that will be expanded upon and consolidated through the next phase in the program.