Catchments and wetlands: A functional landscape approach to sustainable use of seasonal wetlands in central Malawi

Adrian Wood, Patrick Thawe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Cultivation of seasonal wetlands makes an important contribution to rural livelihoods in many parts of Malawi. However, these wetlands are under increasing pressure due to population growth, the development of markets for wetland crops, and land degradation both in wetlands and in their catchments. These pressures are likely to increase with the challenge of climate change. A multicommunity process of developing a consolidated understanding of wetland functioning, especially the links between wetlands and their catchments, and identifying specific innovations, which can help improve the possibilities of sustainable wetland use, is described in this chapter. It shows that over the generations rural communities have built up an understanding of wetland functioning to varying extents, and that when consolidated and supported by appropriate external scientific knowledge, this can provide a basis for community identification of specific measures that will improve the sustainability of wetland use. Together, the upland and wetland technical measures form a functional landscape approach (FLA) which takes a system-wide view recognising ecological and socio-economic processes. However, while technical measures may help address specific problems, the critical need is for the development of community institutions to ensure landscape-wide coordination of these measures in both wetlands and their catchments, as well as for economic incentives to increase the value of wetlands and make the application of the FLA worthwhile. Lessons from this experience feed into the debates about institutional development and economic motivation as critical elements of wetland management for sustaining livelihood benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWetland Management and Sustainable Livelihoods in Africa
EditorsAdrian Wood, Alan Dixon, Matthew McCartney
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780203128695, 9781136470639
ISBN (Print) 9781849714112, 9781849714129
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2013


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