Population Dynamics, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Malawi

The combined effects of climate change and population dynamics are escalating food insecurity, environmental degradation, and poverty levels in many African countries,including Malawi. However, these two issues are not prioritized in broader development plans and resource allocation, and interventions to address them are implemented separately.

Malawi is one of the 15 countries categorized as a population and climate change “hotspot” because of its rapidly growing population, water scarcity and falling food production. Malawi’s population has grown from 6 million in 1966 to about 15 million now and the United Nations Population Division projects that it could more than triple to 50 million by 2050, and reach 129 million by 2100. This population growth is due to high and slowly declining fertility levels. The number of births per woman is currently 5.7. Though there is increasing demand for smaller families, about 26 percent of all married women who want to postpone or avoid pregnancy still lack modern contraception. Twenty-six percent of all recent births were unwanted while 19 percent were mistimed.

Rapid population growth places increased demands on natural resources such as land, forests and water. The wellbeing of the majority of Malawians is dependent on natural resources and highly vulnerable to climate change.Improved policies, better coordination, and adequate financial and human resources are needed to ensure effective implementation of programs. Meeting women and their partner’s needs for family planning and enhancing resilience to climate change effects should be priorities for development in Malawi. Unless this happens, it will be very difficult for Malawi to achieve sustainable development.