Emmanuel Likoya


I have been trained as an environmental scientist specialising in hydroclimatological research, specifically climate change impacts on hydrological and agroecological systems and the adaptation of such systems to climate change. My masters research focused on the attribution of the risk of extreme events (floods) to climate change in the context of changing land use and cover in the Shire River basin in Malawi. This was based on the fraction of attributable risk and how it varies for different climate-land use scenarios. For my first degree, I studied the methodological implications for estimating greenhouses gases in the livestock sector in Malawi, exploring differences in greenhouse gas inventories estimated using different IPCC methodologies. In between the two, I studied for an international gender equality postgraduate diploma programme offered at the United Nations University at University Iceland becoming a United Nations University (UNU) fellow.  Here I studied how climate change transcends the biophysical realms and how gendered climate change impacts are hence the need for gender-aware/sensitive adaptation strategies.

Since obtaining my first degree in 2012, I have gained some research experience working as an early career research assistant at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (formerly University of Malawi – Bunda College of Agriculture) between 2012 to 2017. I worked in a number of research projects most of which involved international research partners (e.g. London School of Economic/Grantham Research Institute, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, University of Leeds, and Sokoine University of Agriculture) and local stakeholders including both government and non-governmental organisations. Some of the projects are:

  • Uncertainty Reduction in Models for Understanding Development Applications (UMFULA)
  • Capacity Building for Managing Climate Change in Malawi (CABMACC)
  • Assessing Resilience of Conservation Agriculture Farmers to El Nino is Southern Africa (ACRES)
  • Food security, adequate care and environmental quality: Developing and Testing Eco-Nutrition Guidelines for Community Action in the Context of Climate Change

Research interests

Project Summary

As with most sub-Sahara African countries, Malawi’s agriculture is predominantly rainfed with production persistently limited by numerous challenges. Climate risks are among the most important of these challenges. Particularly, droughts and prolonged dry spells are recognised as a major challenge to agricultural production in Malawi and most of the region. The estimated yield losses in drought years are usually significantly very high. To alleviate this, the Malawi government and its development partners have made considerable investments in irrigation development and irrigation-focused food security plans. This is highlighted in the newly developed national resilience strategy, the Malawi growth and development strategy, as well as other sectoral policies such as agriculture and irrigation. It is evident from such plans and on-going investments that the food production system is undergoing an evolution of some sort, shifting from one that is predominantly rain-fed to one that relies on both rain-fed and irrigated systems.

Such irrigation plans and investments are supported by the irrigation masterplan and investment framework and the integrated water resources management strategy among tools/assessments. Such tools indicate the potential irrigable areas as well as the feasible irrigation volumes. The later highlights how much water can be drawn for irrigation from rivers while maintaining environmental flow requirements. While these assessments look at future water demand and supply under different development and population growth scenarios, they are limited in their consideration of future climate. With climate models indicating a warmer future with likely changes in other climate variables such as rainfall and evapotranspiration, it is imperative that agricultural water assessments be informed by available future information. Recently, through the FCFA-UMFULA project, efforts have been made to understand and evaluate what state of the art climate models say about the country’s future climate and how that can be used to inform decision making. That work has involved analysis climate change impacts on water resources in the Lake Malawi-Shire River Basin.

Notwithstanding these assessments, there is still limited understanding of how the risk of droughts and dry spells may change in future and how that may affect agricultural water demand and supply thus affecting the very food production systems designed to overcome them. By using outputs from a set of global climate models from the coupled model inter-comparison project 5 (cmip-5) experiment, and recent CP4A by the UK Met Office, this study will analyse changes in future drought characteristics i.e severity, duration, intensity and recurrence interval. Outputs from these models will be used to drive a hydrological model (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) in order to determine agricultural water demand and supply under different future climates, paying particular attention drought periods. Policy plans and strategies supporting irrigation-focused production systems will be reviewed to determine the extent to which such food production system withstand future drought impacts.


Topics of interest

Climate impacts on hydrological and meteorological systems; climate smart agriculture; climate change adaptation; extreme event attribution; climate model evaluation; catchment management; gender, livelihoods and climate change.


  • BSc, Environmental Science, University of Malawi
  • PG Dip, International Gender Equality Studies, United Nations University-University of Iceland
  • MSc, Climate Change and Development (Applied Climate Science), University of Cape Town

Research groups and institutes

  • Sustainability Research Institute