Protecting Vulnerable Populations Through Integrated Watershed Management

PCI recognizes that integrated water resources management is a critical step to protect at-risk ecosystems, resources, as well as the social and economic welfare of vulnerable populations.


In the last 50 years, the world’s population has nearly doubled, growing from 3.6 billion people to 7.8 billion. Most of this growth has taken place in less developed countries and has been accompanied by increased migrations from rural to urban settings, further fueled by climate change impacts such as deficient water resources management.

Increased populations have created a greater need for food and energy while dramatically increasing the demand for water in recent years. Proper integrated water resources management is key for reducing and even avoiding the impact of disasters.

A Look At Integrated Water Resources Management

PCI understands that proper water resources management is critical to protect at-risk ecosystems, resources, and the social and economic welfare of vulnerable populations.

Working alongside local and global partners, PCI uses Integrated Water Resources Management—a policy, planning, and implementation tool that helps to protect the world’s environment, foster economic growth and sustainable agricultural development, promote democratic participation in governance, and improve human health while improving the use of scarce freshwater resources.

Integrated Water Resources Management is an innovative, accepted alternative to the sector-by-sector, top-down management style that has dominated in the past. The Integrated Water Resources Management principles help govern water resources in order to meet present and future social and economic needs while ensuring the preservation of ecosystems.

Integrated Water Resources Management is founded on the premise that the unregulated use of scarce water resources is wasteful and inherently unsustainable. At the same time, many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent. For example, extensive irrigation demands and polluted drainage flows from agriculture mean less freshwater for drinking or industrial use. Or, if water needs to stay in a river to protect fisheries and ecosystems, less can be diverted to grow crops. And contaminated municipal and industrial wastewater pollutes rivers and threatens ecosystems and communities.

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PCI’s Njira Integrated Water Resources Management Program

In Malawi’s Shire River basin and Lake Chilwa, activities such as deforestation have degraded the environment, increased soil erosion, and reduced water availability and land productivity for local farmers. By bringing together community members from these affected areas, PCI helped build an understanding of the negative impact of deforestation and rehabilitated 20 watersheds in Balaka and Machinga Districts.

Through the community-based Njira Integrated Watershed Management program, PCI used a people-centered approach to help communities delineate their watershed and develop plans to manage natural resources.

Using large scale watershed approaches and adapting them to a micro-level context, Njira’s strategies are tailored to address each micro watershed’s unique needs. This process includes taking into account social, economic and environmental issues, as well as local community interests to mitigate short-term disasters and the longer-term impacts of climate change.

In this way, PCI can address the unique underlying causes of vulnerability by accounting for each individual community’s development goals, livestock management, pasture/fodder production, agricultural efficiency, rural energy management, and potential for natural resource-based enterprises like beekeeping.

Njira’s integrated watershed management approach fits within the five priority Forest Landscape Restoration interventions identified by the Government of Malawi, which are:

  • Agricultural technologies
  • Soil and water conservation
  • Forest management
  • River and streambank restoration
  • Community forests and woodlots

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