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Map of the district of Thyolo in Malawi
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Location in Malawi
Coordinates: 16°04′S35°08′E / 16.067°S 35.133°E / -16.067; 35.133 Coordinates: 16°04′S35°08′E / 16.067°S 35.133°E / -16.067; 35.133
CountryFlag of Malawi.svg  Malawi
Region Southern Region
District Thyolo District
 (2018 Census [1] )
Time zone +2
Climate Cwa

Thyolo is a town located in the Southern Region of Malawi. It is the administrative capital of Thyolo District. Traditional Authority Mphuka in Thyolo District is one of the 10 Traditional Authorities in Thyolo District in Malawi. [2] There are a number of non sustainable activities that communities in the area do that are detrimental to development. [3]


Malawi being an agricultural based economy production is dependent on natural resources whose availability and stability cannot be guaranteed in the area. Livelihoods are affected by non sustainable practices such as wanton cutting down of trees, shifting cultivation, and poor agricultural practices. The drivers of deforestation and soil erosion are interrelated with growing human population, increased demand of firewood and limited job opportunities being the main ones. The State of Environment Report of 2000 for the district identified five pressing environmental issues for the district and these included: overpopulation, encroachment in water catchment areas, poor public place sanitation, declining fish catch from natural water bodies and loss of biodiversity. One other thing that has exacerbated the social economic status of the people in this district is the introduction of tea estates a long time ago which took almost all cultivatable land away from the inhabitants leaving them only with casual labouring in the estates as an alternative for survival. The estates do little, if not nothing, for the lives of these vulnerable people.

Mwala wa Nthunzi (rock of the shade), on the roadside to Thyolo. Mwala wa Nthunzi, on the roadside to Thyolo.jpg
Mwala wa Nthunzi (rock of the shade), on the roadside to Thyolo.

Geography of the area

Thyolo District is located in southern region of Malawi on the Shire highlands. It borders Mulanje to the east, Blantyre to north, and Nsanje to the south. Thyolo receives an average total rainfall of 1,125 mm (44 in) per year. The terrain in Thyolo District is transverse. The climate is dry and with savanna type of vegetation. Generally the area terrain is sloppy surrounded by mountains and rivers/streams. The soil is roam clay and some parts are rocky. TA Mphuka is about 40 kilometres from Thyolo District Council (60 km from Luchenza). The road network is relatively good but the quality of the roads is poor. This is compounded by the undulating nature of the plain that is characterised by steep descents and the rocky formation of the road surface.

Climate data for Thyolo (1961–1990)
Average high °C (°F)27.7
Daily mean °C (°F)22.5
Average low °C (°F)18.7
Average precipitation mm (inches)225.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.3 mm)181617117764251016119
Average relative humidity (%)82848481777877695962688075
Mean monthly sunshine hours 189.1173.6195.3210.0232.5207.0217.0260.4264.0266.6231.0176.72,623.2
Mean daily sunshine hours
Source: NOAA [5]

Population of the area

There are 39 villages in TA Mphuka. These villages fall under 5 Group Village Headmen (GVH) also known as Village Development Committees (VDC) and 1 sub VDC. [6] Average household size is 4.2. There is an approximate total population of 63,710 in 15,071 households in scattered nuclear settlements. The majority of the people are Amang’anja and partly Alomwe tribes.


YearPopulation [7]

Environmental Challenges

Severe and widespread environmental degradation is taking place in TA Mphuka and surrounding areas. [8] The main root cause of environmental degradation in the area is poverty coupled with dwindling crop production due to scarcity of land for agricultural activities. This problem has forced the local communities to encroach the forest reserve and cultivate in the buffer zone of the rivers and streams.

Effects of deforestation

The deforestation has resulted to siltation on the rivers hence reducing the quantity of water in the rivers. The quarterly flows measures being undertaken by Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development in conjunction with Thyolo District Council through District Coordination Team (DCT) quarterly flow measure report of October to December 2010 revealed that flows are declining. The depletion of natural resources at Mphuka is causing a series of problems which include; poor quality of water supply hence high incidences of water borne diseases within the area and loss of biodiversity.

There are cultivations in the river beds and banks which are detrimental to biodiversity. The practice accelerates siltation and the rivers will eventually dry up. It is feared that if pragmatic measures are not put in place to address this problem, it can become worse.

Major causes of environmental degradation

The major causes of this environmental degradation include poverty and high population growth. Some of the notable environmental problems in Mphuka include:

In addition, deforestation and agricultural expansion taking place in Mphuka due to population growth has lowered the water table of the entire Mphuka Area. Besides poverty and low crop production, it appears that general lack of environmental education and communication has also compounded the spread of environmental degradation. It was envisaged that many people think that nature takes care of itself hence no need for local communities to conserve environment. It is therefore believed that local communities' needs, assets, interests, and aspirations are taken into account, and there is need to promote and yield substantial and long lasting solutions to nature conservation in the area for the benefit of the present and future generations.

Related Research Articles

Deforestation Conversion of forest to non-forest for human use

Deforestation or forest clearance is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land that is then converted to non-forest use. Deforestation can involve conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or urban use. The most concentrated deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests. About 31% of Earth's land surface is covered by forests at present. This is one-third less than the forest cover before the expansion of agriculture, a half of that loss occurring in the last century. Between 15 million to 18 million hectares of forest, an area the size of Belgium, are destroyed every year. On average 2,400 trees are cut down each minute. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines deforestation as the conversion of forest to other land uses. "Deforestation" and "forest area net change" are not the same: the latter is the sum of all forest losses (deforestation) and all forest gains in a given period. Net change, therefore, can be positive or negative, depending on whether gains exceed losses, or vice versa. The removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in habitat damage, biodiversity loss, and aridity. Deforestation causes extinction, changes to climatic conditions, desertification, and displacement of populations, as observed by current conditions and in the past through the fossil record. Deforestation also reduces biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, increasing negative feedback cycles contributing to global warming. Global warming also puts increased pressure on communities who seek food security by clearing forests for agricultural use and reducing arable land more generally. Deforested regions typically incur significant other environmental effects such as adverse soil erosion and degradation into wasteland.

Desertification Process by which fertile areas of land become increasingly arid

Desertification is a type of land degradation in drylands in which biological productivity is lost due to natural processes or induced by human activities whereby fertile areas become increasingly arid. It is the spread of arid areas caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and overexploitation of soil as a result of human activity.

This is an index of conservation topics. It is an alphabetical index of articles relating to conservation biology and conservation of the natural environment.

Environmental degradation Any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable

Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as quality of air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution. It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable.

Land degradation Process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by human-induced processes

Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or disturbance to the land perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. Natural hazards are excluded as a cause; however human activities can indirectly affect phenomena such as floods and bush fires.

Land development Landscape alteration

Land development is altering the landscape in any number of ways such as:

Environmental issues in Colombia

Environmentally, Colombia is a mega-diverse country from its natural land terrain to its biological wildlife. Its biodiversity is a result of its geographical location and elevation. It is the fourth largest South American country and only country in South America to have coasts on the Pacific and Caribbean Sea. Colombia's terrain can be divided into six main natural zones: The Caribbean, the Pacific, The Orinoco region, The Amazonia region, the Andean region, and the Insular region. 52.2% of the environment is predominately the Andes, Amazon, and Pacific Basins, followed by the Orinoco basin 13.9%, the Andes and the Caribbean. The Tropical Andes, Choco, and the Caribbean are considered biodiversity hotspots which puts these areas at high risk of concentration of colonizing activities. Colombia hosts over 1800 species and at least one new species is detected every year. Decades of civil war and political unrest has impeded biological and environmental research in Colombia. The political unrest in Colombia catalyzes the alteration of land patterns through the cultivation of coca and opium crops, the redirection of extractive activities, and land abandonment in some areas.

Environmental issues in Haiti

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Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) is a low-cost, sustainable land restoration technique used to combat poverty and hunger amongst poor subsistence farmers in developing countries by increasing food and timber production, and resilience to climate extremes. It involves the systematic regeneration and management of trees and shrubs from tree stumps, roots and seeds.

Ecological resilience Capacity of ecosystems to resist and recover from change

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  1. "2018 Population and Housing Census Main Report" (PDF). Malawi National Statistical Office. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  2. Traditional authority (also known as traditional domination) is a form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a ruling regime is largely tied to tradition or custom. The main reason for the given state of affairs is that it 'has always been that way.
  3. Bell and Morse (2003) "An opportunity that promotes capabilities of people in the present on economic, social and environment without compromising the capabilities of future generations" (p. 2). Measuring sustainability: Learning from doing. London: Earthscan
  4. "Mwala wa Mthunzi (Rock of the Shade/Shadow)". December 2013.
  5. "Thyolo Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration . Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  6. Is the lower administrative part of its local development ministry. Each district has several VDCs, similar to municipalities but with greater public-government interaction and administration. Retrieved on 19 February 2013.
  7. World Gazetteer: Malawi: largest cities and towns and statistics of their population
  8. Honadle, G. and VanSant, J. (1985). Implementation of sustainability. Lessons from integrated rural development. West Hartford: Kumarian Press: Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife. It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable.

Works cited