Malawi is a small and landlocked country whose economy is mainly based on agriculture. 49% of the total land is agricultural land, 81% of the total population is rural and the majority of the agricultural sector is made up of farmers cultivating small plots of land for their own consumption.   

The constitution of Malawi establishes that all land belongs to the state and that every citizen has the right to property and use land for economic activities.  There are several laws governing land tenure in terms of recognition of types of land tenure, conversion of customary land for agricultural development and means of land dispute resolution over customary land, title registration system and the prohibition for non-citizens to purchase land. The 2002 Land Policy has as main objectives to ensure tenure security and equitable access to land without discrimination, to define rules for land allocation and market transactions, to promote the decentralization of land administration, to create a new land registration system and encourage the community management of natural resources. However, more specific laws to enforce the provisions established in the Land Policy have never been passed. Customary law still regulates land allocation, use and transfer; it has been recognized by the Land Policy of 2002, which calls for the incorporation of traditional customary land structure in the formal land-administration structure.

Land disputes in Malawi generally occur over land transactions, land access and inheritance land rights. The majority of these disputes are resolved by traditional leaders and courts that are recognized by the Constitution. 


The Farmer Calling for Equal Land Rights for Women in Malawi

On Tue, Aug 30, 2016

Date: August 26, 2016 
Source: Action Aid press release

In Malawi, women’s land rights are often governed by customary laws, which are unwritten and lead to the marginalisation of women. Incredibly, women own just 1% of Africa’s land. In the village of Chikojo in Malawi, Maureen Adson is taking a stand.
Find out how you can support women like Maureen here!

Date of publication
December 2010

Southern Africa is one of the most well endowed regions in the continent in terms of mineral and natural resources. However, the region is facing serious environmental challenges such as land degradation, deforestation and water stress in specific areas.

The population of Southern Africa is estimated at 185 million people (Democratic Republic of Congo not included). The population is growing rapidly, mainly in urban areas. The rapid urbanization rate is challenged by the need to develop relevant socio-economic infrastructure. In the absence of effective response from the state and local government, informal settlements are mushrooming in urban and peri-urban areas across the region. 

The colonial legacy continues to exert a profound influence on land issues in Southern Africa. The entire region was affected by the consequences of colonial land policies such as legal dualism. In addition, former settler colonies in the region suffered massive land dispossession. Accompanying the history of land dispossession was the imposition of hierarchal, inequitable and racially discriminatory land tenure systems. Therefore, key land policy challenges in the region include re-establishing national sovereignty over the land and redressing unequal and race based land distribution. The protection of the commons against land-grabbing and privatization are also major land policy challenges in most countries in the region. 

Southern Africa is known as the epicentre of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and the world. In most countries in the region, the HIV/AIDS prevalence ranges from 12% (Tanzania) to more than 33% (Swaziland). The pandemic has clear impacts on land use, food and tenure security. In affected households, financial resources are diverted from agricultural production to pay for health care and funerals, leading, in some cases to the abandonment of farmlands.

Since the 1990s, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the demise of the socialist system in other countries in the region and the advent of more market-friendly economic policies have driven an intensive process of land policy reform across the region. National land policies are in place in some countries while others have just developed them. The land policy development process is far from being uniform: some countries are considered as models in terms of participatory processes while others followed top-down approaches. 

Generally in the region, land is vested in the state. Consequently, the state possesses extensive powers over the land held and used by people under customary law. However, the ongoing land policy development trends give greater recognition to customary tenure systems, even if the development of effective land management systems which protect the rights of local people remains a major challenge.

However good land policies may be, they will be rendered useless if the implementation systems and institutions are not functioning. The implementation process falls under the domain of land administration, a domain where the capacity of countries in the region is very low. The situation is also highly contrasted within the same country as well as within the region. For example, Mozambique is widely regarded as an example of best practice for the implementation process of the 1997 land law, but there are strong concerns about the weakening of local land rights as a result of the awarding of land concessions in certain areas. The fallout from the manner in which Zimbabwe’s fast track land reform programme was carried out since 2000 continues to reverberate through whole the region. 

Independent of the individual countries initiatives the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as a regional organization, has established a Land Reform Support Facility. This facility aims to provide support to member states in the formulation and implementation of land policies and programmes in line with their national development priorities. The facility has conducted an assessment of land issues in member states and developed a five-year phased programme that started in 2007 and covers the following four major areas: policy formulation and implementation; capacity building; information and communication; and research.

Malawi: 'New Land Laws to Empower Chiefs, People '

On Tue, Aug 2, 2016

By: Malawi News Agency
Date: August 1st 2016
Source: / Malawi News Agency

The recent budget sitting passed land administration related bills which have raised controversy and at times outright misinformation. The Minister of Information, Communications Technology and Civic Education, PATRICIA KALIATI, provides some insights into the pieces of legislation and other related matters.


Date of publication
August 2012
Geographical focus

The report requested by the government
of Malawi updates the poverty assessment completed in March
1990. It will guide policy and investment priorities, and
inform the design of programs intended to improve living
conditions and increase incomes of the people in Malawi. A
greater understanding of the magnitude and the profile of
poverty will also make it easier to implement a monitoring
system to evaluate the effects of programs and track the
progress of key indicators of poverty. The profile confirms
that the level of human resource development in Malawi is
dismal and that poverty is widespread and severe. Health and
education indicators in Malawi are among the worst in the
world. Strategies to reduce poverty in Malawi will require
substantial efforts in every sector.

Date of publication
August 2012
Geographical focus

Malawi, a landlocked country in
southern, central Africa, depends on its natural resources,
especially the agriculture sector, to meet the demands of a
population of about 11 million people. The country has
developed a remarkable fishing industry, keeping in mind
that about 20 percent of the area is covered by water,
including the famous Lake Malawi (called Lake Nyasa by the
riparian states, Mozambique and Tanzania). Lake Malawi/Nyasa
is the eighth largest freshwater lake in the world, and has
the highest known biodiversity of fish species, an estimated
1,000 plus, of any lake in the world. Other important water
bodies in Malawi are Lakes Chilwa, Malombe, and Chiuta, and
the Shire River system. Fish is an essential part of the
nutritional requirements of the population, supplying most
of the animal protein consumed, especially for low-income
households. More than 90 percent of the catch is landed by
the artisanal fisheries sector; and it is estimated that
about 250,000 to 300,000 people from the primary and
secondary sectors depend on the success and failure of the industry.

Date of publication
April 2014
Geographical focus

This study reviews Malawi's
policies in the biomass, rural electrification, and
non-biomass renewable energy sub-sectors to identify
problems and constraints to progress and to propose
policies, initiatives, and institutional structures to
overcome those problems and constraints. The main
recommendations of this report to the Government of Malawi
are as follows: 1) reform the present legislative and
regulatory framework to permit and encourage local
management of woodlands on a commercially viable and
environmentally sustainable basis, 2) devolve the exclusive
authority and responsibility for the exploitation and
management of forest cover other than that pertaining to the
gazetted forests (that is, forests that are assigned or
marked out by the government) to the local rural population.
3) Provide real incentives (including penalties, where
applicable) for private sector tree planting, in particular
on the tobacco estates. 4) apply a stumpage fee system to
achieve environmental (sustainable management) and energy
policy (efficient conversion and end use) objectives. 5)
create a regulatory and institutional framework within which
private sector initiatives and large-scale rural
electrification can proceed in a financially viable manner.
6) establish a mechanism for the provision of technical
assistance, promotion, and support in cases where off-grid
rural electrification is to be executed by the private
sector. 7) create a mechanism for the cofinancing of rural
electrification. 8) Create an enabling environment within
which the development and dissemination of non-biomass
renewable energy sources can be accelerated. 9) provide
fiscal relief (for example, remove import tariffs, and
provide preferential VAT treatment on renewable energy
technology systems and their components) and other
incentives for the use of renewable energy sources. And
finally, 10) Where cost-effective, promote the use of
renewable energy in rural electrification projects, and
specifically in government-sponsored rural social
investments in, for example, health and education.


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