This profile provides an overview of climate risks in Malawi, including how climate change will potentially impact three key sectors in the country: agriculture; health and nutrition; and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The brief also includes an overview of USAID Food for Peace program area livelihood zones and weather trends and future climate projections in Malawi.
Malawi has the lowest per capita income in the world. The heavy reliance on rainfed agriculture and high burden of disease make the country’s poor extremely vulnerable to climate shocks, and climate variability and change. An overreliance on the cultivation of cash crops and drought-sensitive maize has posed a challenge to reducing malnutrition. Rapid population growth in the south has been accompanied by widespread deforestation for fuelwood and conversion into farmland. Agriculture contributed 26 percent of GDP in 2017, down from a high of nearly 40 percent in 2002, in part due to repeated episodes of delayed rains, prolonged dry spells and pest infestations. The number of weather-related disaster events has been increasing since 1974. Rising temperatures coupled with more frequent and intense weather extremes (e.g., floods, droughts) will increasingly put the livelihoods and health of Malawi’s rural populations at risk.