The contribution of forest co-management to rural livelihoods in the Zomba-Malosa Reserve, Malawi

Gerald Meke of Chancellor College, Malawi, researched the effects on livelihoods of the introduction of co-management to conserve forest resources in the Zomba-Malosa Forest Reserve in Malawi.


The role of conserved forest resources in rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa has been well documented by various researchers. To ensure that resources are sustainably managed, a new management arrangement called co-management was introduced in Malawi in 2006, whereby members of the local community were invited to participate in the management and sustainable utilization of the conserved biological resources [1]. Since the introduction of the arrangement, there have been mixed results with respect to intended social, economic, and resource-recovery benefits [2]. This study examines the livelihood contributions made under a co-management arrangement in the Zomba-Malosa Forest Reserve in Malawi.


Using livelihood analysis as the conceptual framework and outcomes analysis as the methodological approach, the study used a household survey, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and project document review to examine the gains under the arrangement.

Results and Conclusions

The main findings of the study reveal that under this arrangement, the contribution of forest reserve to rural livelihoods as a major income-earning activity is small (6%), while complementary benefits are more substantial in comparison. These complementary benefits are either from direct support by the forest department to income-generating activities or from contributions from other players attracted by the efficient organization of the communities into local institutions that can implement community projects. There is a general perception among the local communities that the forest resources in the reserve and their community forests are improving. In general, communities seem to be satisfied with the program.


[1] Berkes F (2009). Evolution of co-management: role of knowledge generation, bridging organizations and social learning. Journal of Environmental Management 90, 1692–702.

[2] Zulu L (2013). Bringing people back into protected forests in developing countries: Insights from co-management in Malawi. Sustainability 5, 1917–1943.


André Pelser, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Raya Muttarak, World Population Program, IIASA

Wapulumuka Mulwafu and Sosten Chiotha, Chancellor College, Malawi 


Gerald Meke of Chancellor College, Malawi, is a citizen of Malawi and was funded by IIASA’s South African National Member Organization during the SA-YSSP.

Please note these Proceedings have received limited or no review from supervisors and IIASA program directors, and the views and results expressed therein do not necessarily represent IIASA, its National Member Organizations, or other organizations supporting the work.

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Last edited: 18 March 2015


Ulf Dieckmann

Principal Research Scholar Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Principal Research Scholar Systemic Risk and Resilience Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Principal Research Scholar Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

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