Maniche Balami and BVC secretary Scotch Stevens on the lake bed at Lake Chiuta in the Machinga district of Malawi

FISH Malawi

FISH works to increase freshwater lake conservation in Malawi and to build the resilience of people who depend on them for their livelihoods.

Lake Malawi is the most bio-diverse lake in the world, but the country’s lake ecosystem is under considerable stress due to population growth, catchment degradation, climate change and unsustainable harvest and poor management practices.

FISH supports fishing communities in the four major lakes. We aim to see individuals, communities and institutions engage in good practices that improve biodiversity conservation, increase resilience to climate change and at the same time adapting and strengthening livelihoods, so that Malawi’s freshwater lake ecosystems can be sustained.

The $13.9m five-year project runs until September 2019 and is funded by USAID from the United States Government.

It is implemented by PACT Inc in consortium with Christian Aid and the University of Rhode Island.

By 2019, the project aims to benefit 70,000 households; strengthen 45 institutions at community, local government and national level; and improve the management of 250,000 hectares of natural resources in the lakes and surrounding fishing communities.

Key information


Lakes Malawi, Malombe, Chilwa, Chiuta in four of Malawi’s eastern districts- Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi and Zomba


5 years, from September 2014

Programme value

The $13.9m project is funded by USAID from the United States Government

Target population

70,000 households

Implementing partners

Emmanuel International (EI)

Wildlife Society of Malawi (WESM)

Consortium partners

PACT, is providing overall technical support, assisted by Community Initiative for Self-Reliance (CISER) and the Center for Environment Policy and Advocacy (CEPA)

The Coastal Resources Center-University of Rhode Island (CRC-URI) provides scientific support: it is working with WorldFish, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and University of Malawi (UNIMA) to research best practices.

Funded by

USAID logo


Our approach

The FISH programme adopts a holistic approach, tackling multiple challenges to make sustainable changes.

With our partners, we work with local communities to reduce threats to freshwater biodiversity by training and supporting Beach Village Communities (BVCs) to play a key role in the future of their lakes. BVC’s monitor illegal fishing, confiscate illegal fishing traps and create protected areas for fish stock.

Malawi has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation. As people fell trees for wood, charcoal and farmland, this increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, exacerbating the rate of climate change.

The decline in Malawi’s forests leaves communities exposed to threats such as heavy and erratic rainfall, more frequent flooding and landslides, as well as rising temperatures and dry spells.

We are mobilising communities to preserve the country’s remaining trees, start natural resource based enterprises (NRBE), reduce their reliance on wood, and adapt to their changing climate.

Our partners support communities to set up village saving and loans associations, and village natural resources management committees to support habitat restoration and wetlands conservation. We provide training in conservation agriculture and encouraging communities to switch to fuel affordable efficient cookstoves.

Bees provide an alternative income to logging. Our partners are training groups in beekeeping management, giving them the skills and knowledge to set up beekeeping enterprises.

Members of the Kimu beekeeping group in the Machinga district of Malawi

Key achievements

  • 145 village savings and loans associations have been formed and are providing essential loans to members in fishing communities to pay for school fees, meet household needs and buy food. In 2018 alone, 42 groups saved more than £16,000, and provided nearly £15,000 in loans. 
  • 76 groups are trained to construct efficient cook stoves, and more than 1,350 stoves have been built so far.  
  • 267 people have been trained in beekeeping and 345 beehives hung. A manual in honey production training has also been developed. 
  • 4352 farmers have adopted conservation farming techniques, including rain-fed and winter cropping.
  • 57 Natural Resource Management Committees are trained and more than 110,000 trees planted in nurseries. Nearly 19,000 bamboo trees have been planted along river banks to help protect the lakes and control erosion. 
  • 419 people have been trained in techniques to restore degraded riverbanks and shorelines. So far, 63.5 hectors of riverbanks and shoreline have been replanted to reduce siltation and protect breeding areas.
  • Over 100 BVCs have been trained to register those using the beaches, promote legal fishing and good sanitation on the lake shores.  To date, 57 sanctuaries have been established in the lakes, these ‘no take zones’, help to increase fish stocks.
  • Some BVCs now have power to take legal action against illegal fishing. In the last year, nearly 3,000 illegal fishing items were confiscated, and offenders were fined. 
  • A total of 1,651 farmers are now growing drought resistant crops on just under 300 hectares of land. This includes oranges, sweet potatoes and pigeon peas.  


Namaso Village VSLA members

Contact us

Want to know more? If you have any enquiries about our work, please contact us