Lake Malawi/Niassa/Nyasa

Bio-physical and demographic characteristics

  • Shared by Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique

  • Third deepest freshwater lake in the world

  • The basin is densely populated at 106 persons per km²

  • Prevalence of water borne diseases such as schistosomiasis and typhoid fever

Values and investment opportunities

  • Lake home to 800-1000 fish species making it the most fish species-rich lake in the world

  • Fishery is artisanal and dominated by small pelagic species

  • The lake employs 56,000 fishers who harvest ~116,000 tons per year

  • Fishery supports livelihoods of >1.6 million people

  • Opportunity for aquaculture (especially cage fish farming, but using native species)

Ecological and economic concerns

  • Threatened by over-exploitation, invasive species, habitat degradation, pollution and climate change

  • Deforestation on steep slopes and cultivation (e.g. sugar plantations), as well as uranium extraction and the planned exploitation of oil, may stimulate proliferation of water hyacinth

  • Susceptible to climate change which is a threat to lake’s unique biodiversity and other ecosystem services of the lake


  • Riparian countries have policies and regulations that guide development and conservation of natural resources and are parties to international treaties which bind them to establish mechanisms for managing the threats to biological diversity

  • Lack of regional institution to coordinate harmonization of management interventions across the basin

  • Limited funding from national governments and international groups

Potential sustainable development interventions

  • Put into place a mechanism for regional cooperation in management of natural resources

  • Develop mechanisms for sustainable funding

  • Increase awareness through sharing of information and best practices

  • Strengthen capacity of managing institutions

  • Promote livelihood diversification to divert population from limited sources of livelihood

  • Create an enabling environment to tap into sustainable investment opportunities