Malawi has not been spared from the severe impacts of climate change. In the past two decades, Malawi has experienced a number of adverse climatic hazards, the most serious being dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense and unpredictable rainfall, riverine floods, and flash floods. Some of these, especially droughts and floods, have since increased in frequency, intensity, and magnitude over the past decades, and have adversely impacted food and water security, water quality, energy, and sustainable livelihoods of most rural communities. With its narrow economic base, limited agroprocessing industries, over-dependency on rain-fed agriculture, and biomass for household energy, Malawi is highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. This situation is exacerbated by increasing poverty among rural communities, increasing population pressure on a limited land resource base, land degradation arising from agricultural expansion and the cultivation of marginal lands, and increasing deforestation to meet the increasing demands for energy, food, and construction purposes.

With all these issues, availability of data for decision-making was lacking, and the various agencies involved requested assistance to develop a geodatabase with hazards risk and vulnerability data to help them make more informed decisions, especially in planning for disaster preparedness. The government, through the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), brought together stakeholders from key agencies including the Survey and Mapping Department; the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services; the National Statistics Office; Ministry of Agriculture; Department of Water Resources; Ministry of Education, Science and Technology; United Nations Development Programme; the World Bank; and the World Food Programme to develop a national hazards and vulnerability atlas and a geodatabase to help the government and development partners identify areas of priority for resilience building to climate change.

This Hazards and Vulnerability modeling tool has been developed in conjunction with the atlas and the geo-database to facilitate the dissemination of products from this project including maps, atlas document, and data developed (raw and processed) during the course of the project. Further, this tool enables users to export maps in PDF and print them as wall maps and/or maps for reports, and gives users the ability to model vulnerability domains (exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity) to generate custom vulnerability maps. The approach presented here was borrowed from the work by CIESIN (Centre for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University) in West Africa, which was to map the generic vulnerability of the population rather than to develop separate vulnerability layers for individual systems (e.g., ecosystems), sectors (e.g., water or agriculture), or population sub-groups (e.g., pastoralists). Every quantitative vulnerability assessment clearly identifies its focus, the attribute of value, the external hazards of concern, and its temporal reference. Finally, during disaster periods, users with access to the photo upload functionality will be able to upload photos of situations on the ground for access to relief and emergency responders in near real time.

This work was done by Denis Macharia, Wondimagegn Beshah, and Michael Ngugi of the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development for Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA is seeking partners to further develop this technology through joint cooperative research and development. For more information about this technology and to explore opportunities, please contact Ronald C. Darty at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. MFS-33339-1


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the March, 2017 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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