Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa
Text and photos: Pierre Virot, former WHO Photographer
Bordered by Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique, Lake Malawi covers a total area of 22,490 square kilometers. The lakeshore people, particularly those in land- locked Malawi, rely on the lake for water, transport, recreation, electricity, irrigation, and most importantly, fish. Fish from the lake provides about 70 percent of animal protein consumption in the country. As the population grows, so does the consumption of fish, thereby creating pressure on the lakes fish. Lake Malawi is the ninth largest lake in the world. It is 560km, 80km wide and 700m deep and forms most of the eastern border between Malawi and Mozambique. It is a fresh water lake. The lake contains a greater variety of indigenous species of fish than any other lake in the world. World Wildlife Fund researchers have identified over 500 species to date that are not found anywhere else in the world.
Malawi has almost tripled its population from only 4 million at independence in 1964 to an estimated 11 million today. Malawi derives its name from the Maravi, a Bantu people who came from the southern Congo about 600 years ago. On reaching the area north of Lake Malawi, the Maravi divided. One branch, the ancestors of the present-day Chewas, moved south to the west bank of the lake. The other, the ancestors of the Nyanjas, moved down the east bank to the southern part of the country. By AD 1500, the two divisions of the tribe had established a kingdom stretching from north of the present-day city of Nkhotakota to the Zambezi River in the south, and from Lake Malawi in the east, to the Luangwa River in Zambia in the west. Hominid remains and stone implements have been identified in Malawi dating back more than 1 million years, and early humans inhabited the vicinity of Lake Malawi 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Human remains at a site dated about 8000 BC show physical characteristics similar to peoples living today in the Horn of Africa.
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