Malawi Country Guide

The Malawi Country Guide was produced by the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and Citizens for Justice Malawi (CFJ).

The Country Guide is a compilation of publicly available information from international institutions, local NGOs, governmental agencies, businesses, media and universities, among others. International and domestic sources are identified on the basis of their expertise and relevance to the Malawian context, as well as their timeliness and impartiality.

The initial survey of publicly available, international sources was carried out by DIHR from January to December 2014. The draft was then updated and localized by CFJ from January to March 2015.

The completed Country Guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview, on the basis of the information available, of the ways in which companies do or may impact human rights in Malawi. The current Country Guide is not meant as an end product, or a final determination of country conditions. It is intended to be the basis, and the beginning, of a process of dissemination, uptake and modification. DIHR and PILER seek further engagement with local stakeholders, and intend to update the Country Guide on that basis.

Download the Human Rights and Business Country Guide Malawi here

Read the full Country Guide here

News Feed

Malawi: Report on how media campaign reduced land acquisition for agribusiness at expense of peasant farmers

12 May 2017 — In Chikhwawa and Nkhotakota Districts in Malawi, there have been grave reports of land grabbing and land related conflict due to the expansion of sugarcane cultivation. LandNet Malawi conducted a successful media campaign resulting in the minimisation of land grabbing and dispossession of inhabitants of their land.

Full report

12 May 2017 — “Media outreach campaign minimises land grabbing” In 2009 the government of Malawi started promoting commercial agriculture and supporting the acquisition of land on behalf of investors interested in conducting large-scale farming. This took place profusely in areas such as the Chikhwawa and Nkhotakota districts along the Shire River and Lake Malawi respectively, whose soils are fertile and conducive particularly to sugarcane cultivation. As a result of this, pressure on land in these areas increased massively, leading to elites scrambling for land in these areas to benefit from financially…This trickled down to the village level, and manifested itself in local chiefs using their power to grab land from members of their communities, and selling the land to investors and elites. This became a major problem as entire communities, in losing their land, lost their livelihood. LandNet Malawi collaborated with eight media houses…to launch a media campaign and raise awareness nationally on this situation. Together, they visited the affected areas to hear the villagers’ accounts with regards to what happened to their land, and also to find out what was being done in response to the challenges they were facing.

So. Africa: Mineral Governance Barometer for Southern Africa launched; pilot study reviews mining regulations in 10 countries

8 May 2017 — This pilot study provides a barometer of mineral governance in ten Southern African countries: Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The barometer takes stock of mining regulations in place at the end of 2015, the extent to which they are implemented, and features of supporting institutions. It is based on the observation that while regulations impose obligations on mining companies, in doing so they directly impose obligations on the state to monitor and enforce compliance, and they also indirectly impose obligations for citizens and civil society to hold the state and mining companies accountable. The barometer includes indicators of mineral governance across four main issue-areas: national economic and fiscal linkages; community impact; labour, and the environment, with artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) treated as a special topic. The barometer also includes indicators of state capacity and state accountability with respect to mineral governance...

Afrique: La Fondation MasterCard soutient les petits paysans afin de réduire la pauvreté et améliorer la sécurité alimentaire

11 Mar 2017 — "Amélioration de la productivité agricole : Plus de 23 milliards de FCfa de la Fondation Mastercard à 11 pays africains", 7 mars 2017 The Mastercard Foundation et trois organisations leaders établies en Afrique (AgDevCo, Icco Cooperation et Root Capital) s’associent pour améliorer les conditions de vie de 1,1 million de petits producteurs africains. Selon Mark Wensley, gestionnaire principal du programme Mf, ladite fondation octroie 38,3 millions de dollars américains (23.678.209.000 F Cfa) à Agdevco, Icco- Organisation inter-églises de coopération au développement et Root capital dans les programmes d’amélioration de la productivité et de l’accès au marché pour de petits exploitants agricoles dans 11 pays africains...Selon Idrissa Bâ, chef de file pays Sénégal à Icoo cooperation, ce programme Stars vise à transformer la vie de 210.000 producteurs ruraux dont 50 % sont des femmes du Burkina Faso, de l’Éthiopie, du Rwanda et du Sénégal, en facilitant leur accès aux crédits de marché et services de conseil agricole...[Selon le] Directeur du groupe opérations Agdevco...[la]...structure a pour mission de réduire la pauvreté et d’améliorer la sécurité alimentaire. A ce jour, elle a investi plus de 90 millions de dollars (55.640.700.000 FCfa) dans 59 entreprises agroalimentaires en Afrique sub-saharienne. Agdevco a facilité l’accès aux marchés à des dizaines de milliers d’agriculteurs et généré plus de 3.000 emplois. Amélioration de la productivité agricole : Plus de 23 milliards de FCfa de la Fondation Mastercard à 11 pays africains - See more at:

Malawi: NGOs urge president to sign law to allow communities impacted by extractive activities access information on environmental, health & safety risks

28 Jan 2017 — "Malawi: Information Bill Aids Mining Communities" Malawi’s recently passed information bill could help communities affected by the extractive industries get information about related environmental, health, and safety risks, Human Rights Watch, Malawi’s Natural Resources Justice Network, and the Centre for Law and Democracy said...The Malawian Natural Resources Justice Network has been advocating for more than a decade for access to information that helps communities make informed decisions and hold duty-bearers accountable in the extractive industries. “The new law means that people in Malawi’s mining communities should be able to get vital information they need to protect their lives and livelihoods,” said Katharina Rall, researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The president should sign the law, and the government should act quickly to put it into effect.” In a 2016 report, Human Rights Watch documented that families living near coal and uranium mining operations face serious problems with water, food, and housing, and that the families in the area have been left in the dark about health and other risks from nearby mining operations. Human Rights Watch found that Malawi lacks adequate safeguards to ensure that development efforts are always consistent with protecting the rights of local communities, and that weak government oversight and a lack of information leave local communities unprotected.

HRIA Monitoring Summary: Paladin Energy’s Kayelekera Uranium Mine

23 Jan 2017 — “Kayelekera HRIA monitoring summary”, 2015 Paladin Energy’s Kayelekera Uranium Project in North Malawi is the largest foreign investment project in Malawian history…[and] the country’s first uranium mine. The Company has struggled to ease fears about the Project, but it has made extraordinary efforts to ensure that all concretely impacted rights are being addressed. Schools, clinics, housing, and water access have all been significantly improved by the Project, and the vastly improved roads and communications networks…have contributed to the development of a money economy that was previously inconceivable in the area. Project efforts to mitigate the impact of HIV in the area exceed the efforts of any other corporation in the country, though work is not comprehensive on that front…This is a summary of findings from a 2015 monitoring visit to Paladin Energy’s Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Karonga District…and the communities affected by it. It builds on the findings of a 2009 human rights impact assessment (HRIA)…

Malawi: Columnist questions Malawi's readiness to mitigate negative environmental & public health impacts of coal mining

16 Jan 2017 — “Should Malawi be celebrating a coal plant?” I recently read this feature article headline ” Malawi in Coal Fired Power Plant MOU with China Group: To Boost Economy”…[We] are talking about burning coal right? Have we considered all the long-term effects of burning coal on the people living in the area earmarked for the plant? What about the surrounding environment? Have we considered the air, rivers and ground water? Where would villagers collect portable water from, if these sources get contaminated? Is this really worth it?... Coal has negative impacts on public health. Clean demystifies it this way. “Burning coal is a major source of fine particulate, acid rain, air toxics and greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Links have been made between exposure to pollution from coal-burning power plants and serious health impacts such as heart disease, respiratory diseases and different types of cancers. Not only has that, burning coal also contaminated drinking water with mercury and other metals”. Does Malawi have a plan for how it’s going to dispose of hazardous coal combustion waste? If yes, can this administration articulate what it is to array our fears? The simple reasoning behind this argument is, if hazardous coal combustion waste is disposed of in unlined pits, dangerous chemicals like arsenic can leach into drinking water supplies causing catastrophic public health problems.

Malawi: Tenancy system benefits investors but leaves tobacco farmers "trapped under poverty line"

16 Jan 2017 — “Minister Mussa trashes tenancy labour system in Malawi tobacco production: ‘Evil’" [The] Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Henry Mussa has argued…[that the] tenancy labour in tobacco production [is “]…detrimental to the country’s development drive whose beacon lies in agriculture,”…“ We cannot expect to effectively grow our economy when a large proportion of our farmers remain trapped under the poverty line,” he added. Under the tenancy system, estate owners, normally called landlords, recruit farmers from distant districts to grow tobacco for them on their estates. The tenants are offered accommodation and food rations on monthly basis as well as a cut of the earnings from sales proceeds. According to a 2015 study by the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC), tenants crucially provide the largest labour input in tobacco farms, accounting for 63 percent of the required labour force to produce tobacco and prepare it for sale. However, the study—titled Tobacco Production and Tenancy Labour in Malawi—observes that tenancy labour in its current practice is characterised by very low returns and often exploitative arrangements that marginalise and degrade the workers. Minister Mussa trashes tenancy labour system in Malawi tobacco production: ‘Evil’ - See more at:

Malawi activist say oil drilling near Lake Malawi could compromise livelihoods for about 1.5 million people

24 Nov 2016 — "Oil frontiers: British government uses aid money to back oil drilling in UNESCO World Heritage Site"  In Malawi, campaigners and NGOs have expressed serious concerns over the consequences of any oil exploration. Most of Malawi’s oil license blocks overlap Lake Malawi, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. The vast body of water is home to Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus, monkeys, and African fish eagles, as well as supporting the livelihoods of more than 1.5 million people living on its shores.  Its southern-most shores are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site and local experts have expressed fears that oil exploration anywhere on the lake could have devastating results. Rafiq Hajat, chair of the International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa, a network of civil society organisations across the continent, explained:  “If there was any spill on Lake Malawi it will ruin a pristine, aquatic ecosystem. It would take up to 700 years to replenish. It is an incredibly fragile system.” ...Malawian campaigner Godfrey Mfiti has travelled around the borders of the lake talking with villages chiefs in the area. “People are not happy with the situation at hand,” he told Energydesk. “They depend on the fisheries for their livelihoods, and their families have lived there for centuries. Even though drilling hasn’t happened yet, in the areas where exploration is being done we’re already seeing low counts of fish.” He is calling on Surestream to produce a human rights impact report, exploring the impact any drilling would have on local communities.    

Activists urge UK to promote clean sustainable energy sources instead of oil drilling in Malawi

24 Nov 2016 — "UK aid money spent trying to boost British role in Malawi oil sector" The British government spent thousands of pounds of aid money on a project aimed at “establishing the UK as the partner of choice” in the nascent oil and gas sector of one of the world’s poorest countries. Malawi is believed to have substantial oil deposits, including under Lake Malawi, a pristine freshwater lake – the third largest in Africa – whose southern shores are a protected Unesco world heritage site. Unesco has warned that any oil activity near the lake risks causing an ecological disaster. Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, said: “The issue isn’t the amount of money...But using money that’s supposedly for sustainable development to encourage oil exploration seems highly questionable.” Greenpeace’s senior climate advisor Charlie Kronick told the Guardian: “The UK government is using aid money supposed to promote, among other things, clean energy and climate projects to help the fossil fuel industry that’s causing the climate problem in the first place. “What’s worse, this is happening in a country that’s extremely vulnerable to climate change and where oil exploration is largely concentrated around Lake Malawi, a Unesco world heritage site and one of Africa’s largest and most biodiverse lakes.” He added: “Instead of using aid money to grease the wheels of the fossil fuel industry, the UK government should help Malawi develop the clean, sustainable energy sources many African countries are racing to exploit.”