Malawi case study: Harnessing hydropower

This study draws on a literature review and in-country stakeholder consultations to understand the issues surrounding hydropower performance


How has hydropower performed in Malawi? How could climate change impact on existing and planned hydropower generation in the country?

This case study draws on a literature review and in-country stakeholder consultations to understand the issues surrounding hydropower performance and development in Malawi. The report includes sections on the case study context, systematic mapping of water-energy-food systems, hydropower performance and its influencing factors, and identifies interventions for increasing the positive impacts of hydropower schemes on water, energy and food security.

The case study found that existing run-of-river schemes have supported the country’s development, but there is now an urgent need to improve both access to electricity and the amount of electricity available. Hydropower could provide part of the solution at different scales from national to local, but the country faces a wide range of complex water, energy and food security challenges and particularly in the context of climate change. Storage-type hydropower schemes and community hydropower could increase access and provide additional benefits, while rehabilitation and upgrade of existing schemes and a link to the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) could provide sufficient electricity to support further national development.

Interventions identified which could help maximise the water, energy and food security benefits from Malawi’s hydropower potential were:

  • Expand the small off-grid hydropower sector.
  • Harmonise national Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements with those of international funding agencies.
  • Develop national compensation standards for involuntary displacement.
  • Research and develop payments for ecosystem services approach.
  • Promote soil and water conservation practices.

This report has been produced for Evidence on Demand by HR Wallingford with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited. It was produced for DFID’s Adaptation Knowledge and Tools programme.


Hurford, A.P.; Wade, S.D.; Winpenny, J. Malawi case study: Harnessing hydropower. Evidence on Demand, UK (2014) vii + 68 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_cr.september2014.hurfordaetal04]

Malawi case study: Harnessing hydropower

Published 1 January 2014