Vegetation and Flood Mitigation
The Shire is the largest river in Malawi, Southern Africa, originating from Lake Malawi. The river supports vast agricultural and socio-economic activities in its catchment. Climate change and human activities have altered its natural equilibrium, resulting in increased soil erosion, siltation, and extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. The river is an essential source of livelihood for many local people that use its waters for agriculture, domestic purposes, and electricity generation from a dam in its middle section.
Riparian vegetation, meaning the vegetation growing near river banks, is vital because of its many functions in river bank stabilization, water quality and ecosystem protection, thermal cover, groundwater recharge, and flood control. During flood events, riparian vegetation slows and dissipates flood waters, promoting water infiltration and preventing soil erosion. Frequent cycles of droughts and floods, and soil erosion in the area have drastically affected crop production, forcing people to cut down trees as a livelihood strategy.
Our Crowddroning operator Yamikani Nyoni mapped a section of the Shire River in Liwonde, Malawi. The map shows the prevalence of riparian vegetation surrounding the river banks, which plays a crucial role in flood mitigation. High-resolution drone maps like this are a valuable tool for assessing the river and vegetation status. They are used as base maps for spatial analysis during flood mitigation planning.
From sourcing water for homestead use to irrigation farming and electricity generation, Malawians have benefited from this ever-ending source of power for plants and the country's energy needs. It is a blessing and curse in some cases. With climate change, people living or farming along the river have had a hard time over the past years due to flooding, which has cost us a lot, including lives.