Access to modern energy in Malawi remains low and is often limited to relying on traditional biomass sources such as fuelwood and charcoal. Biomass accounts for 89 percent of total energy consumption in Malawi while 95 percent of Malawian households (both city and rural) heavily rely on charcoal as primary source of energy for cooking. As the government continues to strive for sustainable economic growth, and affordable and reliable modern energy, the country faces the challenge of insufficient energy generation and supply. Currently, making charcoal in Malawi relies on traditional, inefficient systems where the conversion of biomass to charcoal is 11 : 1, which means 11 kg of forest wood is needed to produce just 1 kg of charcoal. Efficient kilns have a conversion ratio of 3 : 1.
High rates of deforestation have been recorded over the last two decades in Malawi. The reasons for the deforestation are attributed to agricultural expansion, dependence on wood fuel for energy, lack of suitable forest management measures, and of course high population growth and poverty levels. Forest cover of the country reduced from 47% in 1975 to 22% in 2019. This is the highest deforestation rate in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, representing a net loss of some 30,000 to 40,000 hectares per year. Malawihas an agro-based economy, land degradation and deforestation does not onlyreduce productivity but also affects the fisheries industry, as water washesmore silt into the lake [Lake Malawi].
With over three-quarters of the country’s soils at risk, soil loss in Malawi represents a major threat to food security and nutrition, agricultural growth, the provision of ecosystem services and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since the Malawian economy is highly dependent on agriculture, soil loss is a significant hindrance to theoverall economic development of the country. Soil loss is fuelled by agents of erosion (wind, runoff, gravity) and further influenced by factors such as unsustainable soil management, land use/cover management, topography, and soil type. Some of these factors are often modified by human activities in ways that can increase or slow down the rate of soil loss process.
·Known as a "silent killer", over 1.6 million children die annually throughout the developing world from the consequences of exposure to biomass fuel smoke. Malawi is rife with organic waste material that is mostly managed through burning (e.g. Rice bran, maize bran, sawdust and groundnuts shells). These will end up being aimlessly burnt and destroyed, most of the time beside homes, producing large amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and particulate matter that are extremely harmful to one's respitory health. The Malawi government is encouraging policies to establish waste re-processing and disposal facilties. This would ensure that the collected waste would be processed and recycled rather than dumped and burnt, thus creating jobs opportunities for the youths while uplifting the health standards of the population.