Area and People


The Republic of Malawi is a small landlocked and relatively densely populated country in south eastern Africa. It borders Zambia to the north-west and Tanzania to the north. To the south, east and west it is surrounded by Mozambique. It covers an area of about 46,000 square miles of which over 20% forms Lake Malawi, the third-largest lake in Africa. The climate is subtropical with very little rainfall from May to October. The official languages are English and Chichewa (national).

Malawi has very few exploitable mineral resources and its economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. The most important export crops are tobacco, tea and sugar. Its staple food is maize. Nearly 90% of the population is engaged in subsistence farming. This makes Malawi very vulnerable to external shocks such as drought and declining terms of trade.

It is a lovely country and is often referred to as the 'Warm heart of Africa' because its people are universally recognized as warm and friendly, but the humanitarian situation is very worrying. In fact, Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and for human development it is ranked by the United Nations as 151 out of 162. It is estimated that 6.8 million people, over 52% of the population, are living below the poverty line; over 2 million people live in ultra poverty. The greatest problems faced by people are related to debilitating illnesses and lack of education as well as poverty.

Diseases attributed to Aids are the leading causes of death amongst Malawian adults. Many estimates suggest that almost one million Malawians are infected with the HIV virus. Around 70,000 new cases of AIDS and 110,000 new cases of HIV infections are reported each year. Over 400,000 children have lost parents to AIDS. HIV has also resulted in a major increase in the incidence of tuberculosis, and so it is no wonder that life expectancy is around 38 years for both men and women. The impact in terms of human suffering and social costs has been devastating.

Nkhata Bay

Nkhata Bay is nestled amongst rolling hills and lies two thirds of the way up, and along the shores of Lake Malawi, and is predominately a small fishing town/village, and has a semi tropical climate. The people are from the Tonga tribe, and like the rest of Malawi, survive on subsistence farming and fishing. As most people still rely on fish from the Lake for their nutrition, very few vegetables are grown other than during the dry season which runs from June to October.

Stable crops which are grown are Cassava, Maize, Rice and Groundnuts with a few cash crops of tobacco, tea and coffee. You can gain access by road, though many villages on the lake shore still rely on boat transport. One of which is the ferry (Ilala) that travels up and down Lake. Major problems that affect the area are a basic lack of Infrastructure, Electricity, Health and Education facilities. Access to good drinking water is also a problem once you head inland from the lake.

Cobue, Mozambique

On the other side of the lake lies the small town/Village of Cobue which is situated in the province of Niassa. This is the most sparsely populated province in Mozambique, africa unplugged started its first project in the village of Cobue which is surrounded by rolling hills of untouched African bush. The water here is so pure you can drink it from the lake itself. Miles of endless beaches, flying fish and many eagles make the scenery a place to remember. However, within all this beauty life is still lived on the edge. Many people live from hand to mouth and, unlike Nkhata Bay; there is no electricity and very little health care. Education, transport and communication are also major problems.

Mbeya, Tanzania

Mbeya the capital of southern Tanzania situated in a narrow valley surrounded by high mountains. The altitude is around 1700m. It is about 120km to the northern Malawi border. Mybeya is close to Zambia and about 250k from Malawi, africa unplugged helped establish a successful market garden in Veta College.