Malawi - An atlas of social statistics

The National Statistical Office of the government of Malawi was established to collect, compile, analyze, publish, and disseminate statistical information on a wide range of topics.The mission of the National Statistical Office is to provide and promote accurate, appropriate, high-quality, and timely statistical information for use in both the public and the private sectors for policy formulation, decision making, research, and general public awareness for the advancement of the socio-economic status of all Malawians.

A central focus of the work of the NSO is the living conditions of all Malawians - especially the poor, whose standard of living fails to meet their basic needs.This atlas was developed as part of efforts to increase our understanding of the living conditions of Malawi's poor as a basis for action to better provide for their well-being.Taken in their entirety, the maps in this atlas provide profound insights into the characteristics and living conditions of the population of Malawi and how they vary across the country, thereby enabling poverty reduction programs and policies to be appropriately targeted.It is our wish that all those working for poverty reduction and economic and social development in Malawi will find this atlas to be an important information source in designing strategies to direct our nation toward a brighter future.

The maps are drawn principally from the results of the 1998 Population and Housing Census for which NSO was responsible;however, data from other sources was also exploited, most notably the 1997-98 Integrated Household Survey.We gratefully acknowledge the institutions that provided technical and financial support in carrying out the 1998 census:the United Nations Population Fund, the Department for International Development of the government of the United Kingdom, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United States Agency for International Development.NSO further thanks the inter-ministerial Technical Working Committee of the Poverty Monitoring System for the guidance and support provided to NSO in carrying out the 1997-98 Integrated Household Survey.

Charles Machinjili
Commissioner for Census and Statistics
National Statistical Office
Government of Malawi


International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) researchers have worked in Malawi since the late-1980s, supporting policymakers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society in their efforts to help the poor and malnourished.The work presented in this atlas emanates from IFPRI's program of technical assistance to the Malawi Poverty Monitoring System undertaken between 1998 and 2001.

A key function of the Poverty Monitoring System is to provide policymakers with the information they need to formulate and implement policies that will benefit Malawi's poor.This work provides politicians, civil servants, members of non-governmental and civil organizations, economic and social researchers, and donors with basic information on the living conditions of Malawians that is necessary to construct appropriate policies and programs.While the information presented here will not be sufficient in itself, future policies must be grounded in a fundamental understanding of the conditions of life in Malawi, and the maps in this atlas significantly contribute to this understanding.

The mission of the International Food Policy Research Institute is to identify and analyze policies for sustainably meeting the food needs of the developing world. While our research efforts are geared to the precise objective of contributing to the reduction of hunger and malnutrition, the factors involved are many and wide-ranging, requiring analysis of underlying processes and extending beyond a narrowly defined food sector.The production of this atlas in collaboration with our colleagues at the National Statistical Office of Malawi is fully in line with our mission as an institution.I hope the atlas will assist others who share our goal of reducing hunger and poverty in Malawi by facilitating the targeting and the design of interventions for maximum effect on permanently alleviating the suffering of the hungry and the poor.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen
International Food Policy Research Institute


This atlas provides an extensive set of maps at a relatively disaggregated, localized level on the social condition of the people of Malawi over the past five years.Each map page presents statistics on the population at the level of the rural traditional authority (TA) or the urban administrative ward.There are about 350 populated TAs and wards in the country, so considerably more detail is presented in these maps than would be possible using the same statistics at the much larger district or regional levels. Figure 1 below shows the breakdown of the various rural and urban spatial groupings used in Malawi and found in this atlas.

The majority of the information presented here is derived from the Malawi Population and Housing Census carried out in September 1998 by the National Statistical Office (NSO).Table 1 below presents the individual and household population figures from this census for each TA or ward. A copy of the household questionnaire used in the census is presented in Annex 1.The national census is a wonderful data set in that it covers all individuals in the population.However, with such a broad scope it must be standardized and simple to administer, so the amount of information collected is limited. Nevertheless, as we hope most readers will agree, it does provide important insights to guide the country's development efforts.

Information from other sources is also presented.The Malawi Integrated Household Survey (IHS) of 1997-98 was used with the census data to develop maps of poverty for the country.Information from other sources on the location of health centers, educational facilities, Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF) projects, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) depots, and improved roads is also used to develop maps on the relative access of the population to these components of the social and economic infrastructure of Malawi.Finally, agricultural production estimates are used to develop two sets of maps on the cropping patterns and productivity of smallholder farmers.

The intended audience for this atlas is Malawians engaged in policymaking - that is, those involved in addressing the large economic and social development challenges Malawi faces.It is our desire, however, that all citizens and engaged non-citizens will recognize their own role in policymaking.In the developing democracy of Malawi, policy decisions will be made by an increasingly wider body of individuals than in the past.Consequently, this atlas is being distributed not only to key individuals in government, but also to parliamentarians, district assemblies, non-governmental and civil organizations, economic and social researchers, educational institutions, and donors.It is in everyone's interest that those involved in the policymaking process have as much information as possible as they debate Malawi's future development possibilities.Of central importance to informing policymakers is the provision of this atlas to educational institutions - both universities and secondary schools:Today's students will be tomorrow's policymakers, and this atlas provides a foundational understanding of living conditions across the country.

Considerations of poverty in Malawi motivate the content of this atlas.The atlas is itself an out-growth of work done as part of the activities of the government's Poverty Monitoring System.Chapter 3 wholly focuses on measures of poverty, and the subject matter in most of the other maps can be correlated to the poverty status of the population for each of the areas mapped.Readers are strongly encouraged to make direct comparisons between the maps of poverty measures with the other maps in the atlas to investigate to what degree poverty may or may not be reflected in the spatial patterns of these other maps.

Text accompanying the maps is quite brief, primarily because of limited space.The aim was to provide sufficient information to define the statistic being mapped, describe the broad spatial patterns shown in the maps, and highlight possible pitfalls in interpreting the maps.Considerably more interpretation is possible;the atlas will have succeeded if it leads others to pose new questions and to conduct new research on what accounts for the living conditions of Malawians and how their lives might be enhanced.

Finally, some notes on the maps themselves are needed:

1. Most of the maps are shaded-area maps.The colors used represent different data-value ranges. A TA will be mapped with a particular color if the statistic for that TA falls within the data-value range corresponding to that color.

2. Most maps have a six-category, two-color legend scheme, usually three shades of green and three shades of orange.The statistical bounds of the legend categories were chosen so that relatively equal numbers of TAs and wards would fall into each category;however, the color shift from green to orange occurs at the national value for the statistic being mapped.Simply by considering the color pattern, one can quickly assess which areas of the country are characterized by disproportionately high or low values for the statistic.Closer examination of the shades of color used will provide more detailed information on the spatial distribution of the statistic.

3. In most instances, green shading is used for statistical values that are judged to be socially desirable, while orange shading is used for those areas performing relatively poorly for the statistic being mapped.For example, areas with high literacy rates are shown in green shades, while areas with low literacy rates relative to the nation as a whole are shown in orange.For those statistics for which it is difficult to judge what might be socially desirable, an alternative color scheme to green and orange is used.

4. Unless otherwise indicated, the main map on each page presents data at the TA and ward-level, while smaller maps show the spatial pattern of the mapped statistics for a) the administrative wards of the four urban centers and b) the districts.The district maps are provided as a simplified view of the national spatial distribution of the statistic and to allow the map reader to assess how important within-district variation of the statistic might be.

5. For most maps of the variables from the census, areas with less than 100 households are left blank. This is done to respect the confidentiality of the information that households in these areas provided the NSO in the census.For such areas, individual characteristics are more readily seen in the aggregate statistics presented than is the case for more populous areas.

The base maps for Malawi: An atlas of social statistics were originally drawn by the staff of the cartography section of the National Statistical Office by updating maps from the earlier 1987 census with field reports from 1998 census mapping teams.Mr.K.A.Tchuwa led this effort.Most of these maps were drawn at the 1:50,000 scale or at more detailed scales.Mr.G.C.Mzembe of the District and National Land Management Mapping Project of the Department of Surveys digitized these paper maps, creating digital map shapefiles.Over 9,200 enumeration areas were used to organize data collection efforts for the 1998 census.The TA and ward maps were derived from the enumeration area shapefiles.

The base module and the spatial analyst module of the ArcView 3.2 geographic information and mapping software package produced by ESRI Inc.were used to create the maps.The maps were exported to Quark Xpress as PostScript files for final desktop publishing.

While care has been taken in mapping and in labeling, the boundaries and names shown on the maps do not imply an official endorsement or acceptance of the same on the part of the government of Malawi.

Todd Benson with James Kaphuka, Shelton Kanyanda and Richmond Chinula

National Statistical Office Government of Malawi
P.O.Box 333 Zomba, Malawi

International Food Policy Research Institute
2033 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006-1002 USA

Copyright =A9 2002 by National Statistical Office, Zomba, Malawi and International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC, USA.

All rights reserved.

Sections of this atlas may be reproduced without the express permission of, but with acknowledgement to the National Statistical Office, Government of Malawi, and the International Food Policy Research Institute.

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