Malawi Launches Poverty Report
Malawi has great opportunities to reduce poverty and obtain substantial returns on investments in environmental sustainability shows new study
Malawi is a land-locked country in Africa with a large rural population that is mainly dependent on agriculture. The well-being of Malawians and the country’s economy thus depend on the well-being of the country’s natural resources including good nutrient soils for agriculture, healthy fisheries and forestry ecosystems. Unfortunately, population pressure, poverty and climatic variations are increasing the pressure on cultivable land and accentuating the degradation of these natural resources.
A new study by the Poverty-Environment Initiative and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Planning finalized in December 2016 and officially launched in Lilongwe on 15th June 2017 quantifies the poverty-environment connections in Malawi and identifies sustainable pathways for poverty reduction and economic growth.
The study finds that among rural and peri-urban households, 18% of incomes come from natural resource products, such as charcoal, fuel wood, honey and mushroom, and another 17% of incomes are derived from agricultural produce. This means that healthy environments and natural resources are essential for household incomes as well as people’s well-being.
The poverty-environment nexus also has bearings at the national or macroeconomic level. For example, the study finds that a one percent increase (US$ 300,000) in public investments for sustainable environmental and natural resource management would increase the annual gross domestic product (GDP) by US$ 17 million. That is a significant return on investment that makes both environmental, social and economic sense.
On the other hand, a one percent reduction in forest cover alone translates to a loss in income of nearly US$ 24 million per year. This is crucial as Malawi currently has the highest deforestation rate in southern Africa. Moreover, solid fuels (fuel wood and charcoal) meet 98.7% of the total energy needs for local populations. Concerted efforts to reduce deforestation rates and promote alternative green sources of energy are needed.
The study calls for a more integrated approach to environmental, poverty and economic development in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In light of the findings it recommends increased investments in environmental and natural resource sustainability to achieve poverty, food security, economic as well as sustainability goals.
Ben Botolo, Secretary to Treasury, highlighted at the launch of the report that it has “come at an opportune time, when the country is developing the successor strategy to the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy and that the report will inform its formulation.” He emphasized the need to “recognise that the future landscape of poverty reduction and development requires environmental protection and climate change mitigation as its foundation”.
The UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Ms. Claire Medina, complemented by highlighting that “from the findings of the study it is clear that Malawi can significantly reduce poverty and the vulnerability of people to food insecurity by increasing budgeting and public expenditures to the most important sectors of the economy including the environment and natural resources”.
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