Samuel Nyanyale

Lake Malawi National Park




LMNP World Heritage Site Summary Report 2005


1.0        Background


The Department of National Parks and Wildlife is mandated to manage 5 national parks, 4 wildlife reserves and 3 nature sanctuaries located in different areas of the country. Among the national parks, Lake Malawi National Park (LMNP) is the smallest park with a total area of about 94.1km² and it was established in 1980 under the National Parks Act. Before that, the mainland component of the park was managed as forest reserves since 1935. Lake Malawi National Park lies at the southern tip of Lake Malawi and out of the 94.1km² of the total area coverage, about 7km² is aquatic ecosystem. The terrestrial component of the park is composed of mostly disjointed landforms. The largest component of LMNP is the hilly Cape Maclear Peninsula on the mainland at the tip of Nankumba Peninsula.


LMNP is the only park established for the purpose of conserving fresh water fish fauna of the lake. It was for this reason that a 100m wide strip of the lake was included in the national park mainland and the islands. The aquatic zone includes the water column and lakebed surrounding the Cape Maclear Peninsula and its islands and hills. Out of the 350 described species of fish in Lake Malawi National Park, about 98% are found nowhere else in the world with many species endemic to particular islands.


The park was proclaimed as a World Heritage Site by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1984 due to its unique features, in particular, the diverse species of cichlids fishes and their high degree of endemism.


2.0        Nomination of LMNP as World Heritage site


Lake Malawi National Park was listed as a natural heritage site, in the Wild Heritage List, as of outstanding universal value by the Convention and LMNP meets criteria VIII, IX and X (2005 Operational Guidelines) as below:


(VIII)   Outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;

(IX)       Contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

(X)        Contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.


The Malawi Government provided the following justification for inscription of Lake Malawi National Park as a natural property:

i)     Exceptional natural beauty. Lake Malawi as a Rift Valley Lake has a backdrop of mountains which fall directly into the deep, clear waters of the lake.

ii)   Habitats of rare and endemic species. The great diversity of fish and the pronounced endemism are unmatched. Lake Malawi National Park contains over 350 species of fish with almost 98% of them being endemic.


It can also be noted that the following conditions of integrity were also met when the park was inscribed as a world heritage site:


¬Σ        The terrestrial part of LMNP regulates deposition of sediment into the aquatic ecosystem from soil erosion forces.

¬Σ        Fresh water was to be maintained by ensuring that there was no serious water pollutants and protection of the woodland (catchment area).

¬Σ        The park has high diversity of fish species with high endemicity



3.0        Current Management Status of the Park


The park has three operational camps located in Monkey Bay and Cape Maclear in Mangochi District and in T.A. Maganga in Salima District. The Salima camp is responsible for the management of three group of islands (Maleri, Nakantenga and Nankoma) and wildlife human conflict in the area. The park is being managed through its four sections including:

¬Σ        Management and administration section: management and administration section coordinates activities of the park and other institutions and stakeholders and also handles administration issues for the park.

¬Σ        Wildlife management section: wildlife management is mainly responsible for undertaking law enforcement activities and also implements problem animal control programmes among others.

¬Σ        Education and extension section: education and extension caters for the dissemination of conservation and environmental information to school groups and undertakes outreach programmes to the community surrounding the park.

¬Σ        Research and planning section: research and planning section partakes different research projects aimed at generating information necessary for the proper management of LMNP programmes. It is also the planning arm of the park.


4.0        Management Programmes


The park has maintained the human component within its boundaries since its establishment in 1980 and there are 5 ÄúfishingÄù enclave villages. These people settled in these areas as far as mid 19th century and the early settlers were the chewa people and the tumbuka and tonga people immigrated to the areas in the 1940s. The population of these people has been increasing overtime and is now estimate at 18,000 and they have very limited alternative economic opportunities apart from fishing. These people depend on park resources, mainly firewood for cooking and smoking fish. Such Äúenclave villagesÄù include Chembe, Msaka, Mvunguti, Zambo and Chidzale village. The latter, is the smallest village immediately north of Monkey-Bay. This village comprised a small temporary fishing camp at the time of the establishment of LMNP in 1980 and was not excised from the National Park as an enclave village.


Being fishermen culturally, the enclave communities depend on fishing for their livelihood even though minority depends on the natural resources from the park and small scale subsistence farming. The fishing is done in the open-waters since the 100m aquatic zone is protected. Sustainable collection of fuelwood and thatchgrass is done in an organised manner where the park issues permits and the harvesting activities are monitored.


The comprehensive study which was conducted in 2002 on the conservation status and management of mbuna fish in Lake Malawi National Park established that almost all the mbuna habitats are in favourable state, the bottom substrate was free of litter in most of the sites surveyed except for the areas where the fishermen had been camped for fishing. The study also established that species diversity of mbuna is still high in both protected and non-protected areas and their distribution have not changed since the establishment of permanent transects in 1983. The study recommended that the 100m zone control mechanism is effective in that except for a few species, most of the mbuna fish are distributed in the shallow areas that are within the 100m zone and are abundant within 2m to 5m water column.


5.0        Collaborative Management


Since the establishment of LMNP there has been continuing and escalating conflicts with adjacent communities and enforcement of the park legislation was a problem. To achieve better management of natural resources, Lake Malawi National Park Management Plan emphasises on the involvement of stakeholders, particularly, local communities in managing park resources. Instead of a management strategy based on law enforcement, DNPW has adopted a policy of co-management whereby communities share responsibilities for managing the national park. Among other strategies selected to achieve co-management, the park adopted the formation of Village Trusts in and around the park to be assisting in park management and in turn, benefit from the park resources. So far, three village trusts have been formed and are operational and in near future, three more village trusts are to be established. With the introduction of co-management, the park introduced revenue sharing scheme in that the communities through the Trusts get 50 percent of the revenue generated from park entrance and concession fees and this money supports development activities in their areas.



6.0        The Challenges / Constraints


The park which comprises of many isolated components operates on very limited resources to be properly managed. For instance Law Enforcement fails to patrol all disjointed components (especially distant islands) such as Chinyankhwazi and Chinyamwezi due to shortage of fuel.


By the nature of the ecology of most of the rock dwelling fish with respect to distribution and localization and their breeding biology, they are vulnerable to human influences such as small scale artisanal fishing for consumption by fishermen camping in the Islands located far from the parksÄô operational camps. Exploitation for ornamental trade and localised pollution on the rocky shore habitats are some of the problems as regards to the management of mbuna fishes.


Monitoring programmes of aquatic habitats are always a problem because of lack of resources and most of the times, the park rely on the external researchers who do their research in the park. And also the park researchers lack some basic diving and monitoring skills since most of them have not been trained.


Population increase in the enclave villages pause a threat to the management of the park. Increase in fishing population means the increase demand for natural resources from the national park and automatically increase monitoring and patrolling of the site.



7.0        Conclusion

As a World Heritage Site of outstanding universal value, the LMNP enjoys the international recognition and that it has been getting financial assistance from WHF. For the fact that the site has a management plan, it is being managed according to the stipulated National ParksÄô legal framework and strategies. The lack of resources for both research and law enforcement are impinging on the implementation of parksÄô programmes. Population increase in the enclave villages is threat to the better management of park resources.



LMNP World Heritage Site Summary Report 2005