Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Uncovering human social networks in coping with Lake Chilwa recessions in Malawi

Nagoli, Joseph; Chiwona-Karltun, Linley


This paper provides an in-depth understanding of social dynamics in the form of kinship ties in matrilineal societies. It unpacks gender roles and relationships at the community level to understand how social structures, created by the pattern of relations, enhance or hinder coping initiatives during lake recessions in the Lake Chilwa socio-ecological system. Using qualitative and quantitative methods including in-depth interviews, Focus Group Discussions (FGD) and household questionnaires, this paper provides insights into how people in the Lake Chilwa social-ecological system prepare for and cope with Lake Chilwa water recessions by capitalising on their social networks. The findings have shown that during lake recessions poor households in the Lake Chilwa socio-ecological system are cushioned by fellow households through lineage networks. There is strong tradition secured through kinship ties where the generic term 'mwambo wathu' (our tradition) embraces a group of formative norms enforced via a series of rules and rituals. Based in a matrilineal system, women have strong rights over land allocation and use in which the female sorority group 'mbumba' is very stable. There is a great deal of reciprocity and food redistribution among the households. This self-organization provides deeper meaning about how people assimilate the dynamics affecting their social and natural environments. Specifically the findings provide evidence on how households, communities and their livelihoods in Africa are reconstructed as natural resources fluctuate. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Coping; Lake Chilwa; Livelihoods; Networks; Socio-ecological system

Published in

Journal of Environmental Management
2017, Volume: 192, pages: 134-141

      SLU Authors

    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG5 Gender equality
      SDG2 Zero hunger

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Human Geography
      Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
      Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

      Publication Identifiers


      Permanent link to this page (URI)