RCE Zomba - 2019

Lack of resources hinders sustainable development in lake Chilwa wetland: A case of the Mwayi wa Mbalame bird hunters association
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Lack of resources hinders sustainable development in lake Chilwa wetland: A case of the Mwayi wa Mbalame bird hunters association
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Zomba
Contributing organization(s) : 
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Organizational Affiliation: 
Format of project: 
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Friday, May 10, 2019
Additional resources: 
Lake Chilwa Wetland extends from Zomba mountain down to the lake. It is a fragile ecosystem because it is prone to environmental shocks brought about by the cyclic drying nature of the lake. The wetland is home to over 1.5 million households whose livelihoods depend on fishing, farming and bird hunting. It spans three administrative districts of Machinga, Zomba & Phalombe covering several traditional leaders. 85% of the population in the wetland are poor and depend on natural resources for a living (Malawi Government, 2018)
The wetland is a UNESCO double designation site. It is a Ramsar site under the Ramsar convention due to its high bird population and it is also a Man and Biosphere reserve under the UNESCO MAB programme. The Lake Chilwa wetland is under customary tenure and not gazetted as a protected area. Under this setting, resources are co-managed with the help of village natural resources committees, VNRCs. This implies that communities are an integral part of natural resources management as consumers as well as guardians.
Over the past 20 years, several projects have been implemented in the wetland as a way of addressing environmental challenges such as poverty, effects of climate change, sustainable production and consumption, land degradation, deforestation and habitat loss. Some of the interventions have not been sustainable due to lack of resources. A case in point is the Mwayi wa Mbalame bird hunters association. Mwayi wa mbalame is loosely translated as ‘luck of birds’.
The Lake Chilwa Bird Hunters Association (BHA), known locally as the “Mwayi wa Mbalame”, was formed in September 2001 by eighteen bird hunters’ clubs in and around the Lake Chilwa basin to promote CBNRM activities for birds and thereby promote sustainable utilization. Twenty-nine bird sanctuaries, where trapping and shooting of birds are not allowed were established to provide secure breeding areas and roosting sites for birds (Wilson 2001). This a community based committee that was set to regulate bird hunting in the wetland. It was set up during the DANIDA wetland project which phased out in 2004. The project provided resources in form of finances and equipment such as binoculars but crucially also provided capacity building by training communities in techniques related to bird management. The result was that 29 bird sanctuaries were set up in the marshes surrounding the lake, inventories of bird species were produced and bye-laws for bird hunting were developed. This led to regulated consumption and conservation of waterbirds, some of which are migratory. Upon the end of the DANIDA project, the department of Wildlife and National parks acted as the overseer of the activities and assisted the association with funding. Over the years, that funding has ceased due to lack of resources which affects nearly all government departments. The Lake Chilwa Basin Climate Change Adaptation Project (2010-2017) also worked closely with the Association.
Forward to 2019, the bird hunters association is still in place but only due to the passion of a few commited members. Once in a while, the leaders have to use own resources to move from one sanctuary to another as a form of monitoring and this is a challenge because of poverty levels. The data available on bird inventories needs to be updated e.g.. The recent drying up of the lake made matters worse because there was added pressure on bird hunting. A dry lake meant that the fishery collapsed and bird hunting became an alternative source of income. As the drying prolonged due to effects of climate change, people resorted to charcoal making thereby exercebating deforestation. Arrival of the rains has helped to restore some of the economic activities such as fishing thereby easing pressure on natural forests and birds.
The association is open to new interventions so that a sustainable mechanism is put in place which does not depend on external funding. It is hoped that the revival of UNESCO MAB activities in the wetland will continue to empower communities that depend directly on natural resources within the wetland e.g. the structures are already in place which should ensure sustainable hunting and management of birds in the marshes and grasslands around the lake.

At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
Africa and Middle East
Target Audience:

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 
Traditional Knowledge  
Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development – Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level