The United Nations and Population Fund (UNFPA) says Malawi is losing over $191 million (about K32 billion) of its gross domestic product (GDP) annually to unsustainable use of natural resources.
UNFPA programme manager responsible for population and development Dr Thomas Chataghalala Munthali said this at a two-day climate change workshop for journalists in Salima.
The workshop, themed â€˜Population Dynamics and Climate Change in Malawiâ€™, was organised by UNFPA.
Munthali quoted an economic study commissioned by the then Ministry of Economic Planning and Development.
He said the K32 billion loss, which is about 5.3 percent of countryâ€™s GDP, results from unsustainable fishing, loss of agricultural productivity due to soil degradation, reduced economic activity due to indoor air pollution and deforestation of catchment areas, especially around main urban areas where trees are wantonly cut down for charcoal and firewood.
He said UNFPA is working with the media, government and other stakeholders to raise awareness on the impact of population growth which exerts pressure on natural resources.
“In Malawi, population growth has been and remains a binding constraint on socio-economic development.
“Government recognises efforts to slowing population growth are mutually reinforcing with those aimed at improving protection, reducing poverty and achieving economic progress.
“Resultantly, government is in the process of reviewing the National Population Policy and has reflected population issues highly in its development blue print,” he said.
He expressed the need to create an environment and provide resources that can empower families to responsibly choose the number and spacing of children.
“Choosing the number of children is a human right and it should neither be denied nor forced on people.
“But a small family has more socioeconomic advantages at both household and national levels. Families should be provided with information and means to do so. Otherwise, no significant strides can be registered in natural resource and economic sustainability,” said Munthali.
According to Population Connection, population growth since 1950 is behind the clearing of 80 percent of rainforests, the loss of tens of thousands of plant and wildlife species, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of some 400 percent and the development or commercialisation of as much as half of the earthâ€™s surface land.
Robert Engelma from Population Action International agrees with Munthali that: “Trends such as the loss of half of the planetâ€™s forests, the depletion of most of its major fisheries and the alteration of its atmosphere and climate are closely related to the fact that human population expanded from mere millions in prehistoric times to over six billion today.”