The Past, Present, and Future of Land Use in Malawi: A Background Review

First release: November 24, 2020

The paper traces the history of land use, ownership, and development in Malawi from the colonial era to the present. A common theme is the usurpation of large swaths of land to create estates by large companies initiated in the 19th century and with social and economic effects that have endured well into the 21st. Crucially, following independence, many of these practices continued. The paper reviews and highlights the current availability, land use patterns and changes over time in Malawi. It then identifies the key challenges currently limiting the productive and sustainable use of land for both estate owners and smallholders, highlights potential ways forward, and presents several examples in which companies and smallholders have attempted to take that path in Malawi and neighboring countries. The account closes by reflecting on lessons learned and potential next steps for land development.

Photo: Romita Shah

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Romita Shah

Richard Ferguson

Makaiko Khonje