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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 supported fishing communities in the four major lakes. We worked with individuals, communities and institutions to engage in good practices to improve biodiversity conservation, increase resilience to climate change and at the same time adapt and strengthen livelihoods, so that Malawi’s freshwater lake ecosystems can be sustained.

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

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

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

List Funders, collaborators, sponsors - Particle


Our approach

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

With our partners, we worked 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 mobilised 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 supported communities to set up village saving and loans associations, and village natural resources management committees to support habitat restoration and wetlands conservation. We provided training in conservation agriculture and encouraged communities to switch to fuel affordable efficient cookstoves.

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

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. 
  • 1691 people now use efficient cook stoves in their homes, significantly decreasing the amount of time they spend collecting firewood.   
  • 13,863 farmers have adopted conservation farming techniques, including rain-fed and winter cropping.
  • 57 Natural Resource Management Committees are trained and more than 465,314 trees planted. Nearly 19,000 bamboo trees have been planted along river banks to help protect the lakes and control erosion. 
  • 2779 people have been trained in techniques to restore degraded riverbanks and shorelines. In total, 91.7 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. 
  • 3739 farmers are now growing drought resistant maize on just under 1026 hectares of land. 

Contact us

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