The programme area comprises three districts in Malawi’s Southern Region namely, Nsanje, Thyolo and Chiradzulu.
Topography and Climate. The total land area of the district is 1 715 sq. km with an estimated population of the district is 435 000 persons and a population density of 250 persons/sq. km. Land in the district is under forests 45 sq. km, estates cover 280 sq. km and the rest is under smallholder farming. The average land holding is 0.6 Ha. The altitude of the district varies from 300 m in the plains in the central and north to 3 500 m for the hills to the south bordering the Rift Valley. There are two distinct seasons in the district, the October-March rainy season and the dry season for the reminder of the year. The hilly areas receive rainfall ranging from 1 200- 1 600 mm while the plains receive 800 to 1 200 mm annually.
Agriculture. It is estimated that 93% of population in the district derive their livelihood directly or indirectly from agriculture. Both cash and food crops are grown. The main food crops are maize, groundnuts, sorghum, pigeon peas, beans, bananas, sweet potatoes and cassava. Minor food crops include cow peas, Soya beans, sun flower and vegetables The main cash crops are tea and coffee while the minor cash crop is tobacco. Most of the cash crops are grown in estates and are foreign-owned with Malawians benefiting through wage employment. Food crops are produced by the smallholders whose production is constrained by limited use of improved technologies as a result the soils are poor due to over-use with little or no soil enriching nutrients added. This system of production is said to contribute to the high poverty levels in the district. Irrigation has recently been introduced and the main types of irrigation technologies under promotion are treadle and motorised pumps.
Natural Resources. There are five conserved forests covering 45 sq. km. Most of these forests have however, been heavily encroached as smallholders use the area for food crop cultivation especially bananas, maize, vegetables and fuel wood. The forest reserves are managed by the forest department but the estate own a large part of the tree plantations to be used as fuel wood for drying tea. There are three catchment areas; Thyolo Mountain measuring 13 sq. km, Kalulu Hills measuring 28 sq. km and Thyolomwani Hills measuring 9 sq. km. These catchments are threatened by problems associated with encroachments and deforestation.
Topography and Climate. The total land area of the district is 1 942 sq. km with an estimated population of the district is 195 000 persons and a population density of 150 persons/sq. km. There are three relief areas, the Rift Valley Escarpment in the West with an altitude of 500 rising to 900 in Malawi Hills, the Lower Shire Valley which constitutes the Rift valley floor with an average altitude of 61m above the sea level and the marshes which lie along the Shire river of which there are two main marshes, the Dinde marsh which covers 16 sq km and the Elephant marshes north of the Chiromo bridge. Land use distribution is as follows; 18% is under forests while 14% is game reserve, 9% marshland and 1% holding land. The rest is arable of which only 15% is under cultivation. The district altitude ranges from 500 m to 900 m above the sea level. The amount of rain received varies from 800-1 300 mm annually and the rainy season occurs in the November-April period, the rest of the year is dry. Temperatures vary from 170C in June to 380C in October.
Agriculture. Cash and food crops are grown. The main food crops fall into:- rain-fed crops including maize, sorghum, millet, ground nuts, Guar beans, pigeon peas, pulses, potatoes and cassava; wet land crops such as sugarcane, maize and vegetables. Wet land farming is dependent on residual moisture at the end of the rainy season and is practised in all the TAs in the district. There are no estates in the district. Smallholder agriculture is the main occupation of the local population and the farming is predominantly subsistence with traditional farming methods practiced. The main constraints to agricultural production is declining soil fertility, limited access to improved seeds, natural disasters especially floods and droughts and limited access to credit facilities. There are three irrigation schemes in the district; Muona Irrigation Scheme with a potential of 295 Ha with 200 under exploitation and producing rice, Ndiola Irrigation Scheme and Saptongwe Irrigation Schemes with a combined potential of 200 with only 12.5 Ha exploited in each scheme. There is a proposed self-help irrigation scheme proposed for the Chimombo TA which will benefit 80 farm families.
Natural Resources. Nsanje District has about 350 sq. km of forests and all the forest area also serve as catchment areas. Deforestation and encroachment are two problems observed in the areas. This was worsened by the Mozambican refugees during the civil war. The Matandwe forest Reserve is heavily encroached and although there have been efforts to stop the practice, there has been limited success.
Topography and Climate. The district is the smallest of the three programme districts measuring 767 sq. km has a population of 235 000 and density of 275. The topography of the district is characterised by two distinct areas; the Phalombe-Thuchira plain to the east and the Shire Highlands to the North. The annual temperatures range from 160C in June-July to 280C in October-November. The average annual rainfall ranges from 800mm in the plains to 1 000mm over the highlands.
Agriculture. Over 90% of the population of the rural population in the district derive their livelihoods from agriculture. Both cash and food crops are grown. The main food crops grown include maize, groundnuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, pigeon peas, and sorghum. Minor food crops include beans, peas, horticultural crops millet and chillies. The main cash crops are tobacco and coffee grown in estates and smallholdings. The total land under cultivation in the district is 54 500 ha and 54% is under is under maize inter-planted with pulses and sweet potatoes. The area under estate farming is about 1 800 ha. The main cash crop is tobacco. The average farm-size in the district is 0.5 ha.
Natural Resources. Forests in the district fall into two forest reserves 14 sq. km, Plantation forests covering 130 ha, Community forests covering 110 ha. The district is experiencing a number of environmental problems including deforestation due to high population growth, high fuel wood demand, limited resources to enforce conservation activities and uncontrolled bush fires.