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Lake Chiuta-Amaramba: Protecting freshwater ecosystems

Lake Chiuta-Amaramba straddles the border between Mozambique and Malawi, south of Lake Malawi-Niassa-Nyasa. The region contains a unique assemblage of wildlife, fish and waterbird species. Covering almost 541,400 acres, the area is extremely remote, served only by dirt roads that become impassable in the rainy season. Indicators for development are among the lowest in the country, with literacy at 15 percent and access to health care essentially nonexistent.

The lake figures largely in people's lives as a source of fresh water, protein, transportation and even a source of fertile soil through annual flooding. Recently, the sustainability of human livelihoods in the area has been under threat. The enormous wildlife resource has almost disappeared due to excessive hunting during the colonial period and years of poaching during the civil war. Fish stocks are under similar pressure, particularly from overfishing and the use of destructive fishing practices by illegal Malawian migrant fishermen.

Leaders in the area asked WWF for help in responding to these threats. In August 2006, WWF and Oxfam GB initiated a participatory design process with communities, the local and provincial government and the Coastal Security Commission to help establish a wildlife and lake reserve that will increase fish and animal numbers and diversify the livelihoods base.

Our goals for the next 5 years for the Lake Chiuta- Amaramba area:

  • Increase overall ecosystem productivity and reduce resource overuse and exhaustion, thereby providing secure livelihoods for Lake Chiuta area communities
  • Establish a formal lake reserve in Lake Chiuta-Amaramba that will safeguard the lake's fish and waterbirds, increase fish and aquatic resources for responsible use by local residents and protect the lake's resources for future generations
  • Improve the quality and quantity of foodstuffs produced by Lake Chiuta area residents
  • Create a community wildlife management system in the surrounding forest area that will allow for diversification of the rural livelihoods base as well as repopulation of wildlife species
  • Establish a market for local products