According to ejinhua, Malawi is inhabited by Bantu people who, starting from the sec. XIV-XV, in different waves they invaded the country, but perhaps overlapping pre-existing populations. For Europeans, the knowledge of these territories is linked to the explorations of David Livingstone, who reached the lake in 1859. Until the end of the nineteenth century the country was dominated by yao (wayao), originally from present-day Tanzania, in the service of merchants Arabs of slaves, who had absolute power over the local populations and were subdued only with harsh interventions by the British. The group of maravi (nganja or chewa) represents 57.4% of the population, while the lamwe (nyanja) make up 12.4%. To these are added the yao (10.1%), then the ngoni or tumbuka (9.5%), a Zulu tribe who fled from the current Republic of South Africa, which occupies the northern highlands. There are also the Sena (2.7%), the Lomwe (2.4%), the Tonga (1.7%) and other ethnic groups (3.8%), which also include small groups of Europeans and Asians, these last descendants of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent at the time of British colonial rule. In 1939 the number of residents amounted to 1,640,000, rising to just under 2,500,000 after World War II and to over 10,500,000 in 1999. Despite the high mortality rate, including infants, the population of Malawi is constantly increasing; Zimbabwe and South Africa above all. Consequently, population growth is relatively contained, but increasing in the five-year period 2000-2005. The health situation is very serious due to the spread of AIDS and the country ranks among the last in the world for human development, despite a fair level of education.
The country is one of the most densely populated in Africa (the density is 110 residents / km²), albeit with strong disparities from area to area; in the southern section there are the greatest concentrations, especially on the fertile and not excessively humid highlands to the left of the Shire and around the major inhabited centers. The most common form of settlement is the village, mostly small in size and surrounded by fields planted with millet, sorghum, cassava and sweet potatoes. In their structure, the villages repeat the enclosure plan of the kraalen Bantu; however, the fishing village of Malawi is quite different and often pile-dwelling. Urbanism is a recent and still very modest phenomenon (in 2005 only 17.2% of the population lived in cities), and the vast majority of residents live in scattered houses or in villages. The real cities are only Zomba, Blantyre and the capital Lilongwe. Zomba is located at 884 m above sea level on the Shire plateau, not far from the western shore of Lake Chilwa, and is a road junction of some importance. Located just SW at 1100 m on the same plateau, but in a better position than the communication routes, is Blantyre, the country’s economic capital: it is an important road junction on the line to Beira and has an airport. Finally, Lilongwe, the capital since 1975, also has an airport; it is located on the river of the same name and has the advantage, compared to Zomba, of being in a more central position than the territory.
The different distribution of precipitation is clearly reflected in the diffusion of plant associations. The rainforest is present on the wettest mountain slopes (at high altitudes, however, it yields to the prairie) and is characterized by precious essences such as teak, Rhodesian mahogany and Mlanje cedar; however, the wooded savannah dominates the country, dominated by acacias and baobabs, with more or less extensive grassy spaces. There are numerous animals that populate this land: elephants, zebras, antelopes, hippos, rhinos and giraffes, but also various species of monkeys, snakes, reptiles and birds. Malawi is also known for its fish heritage, which abounds especially in Lake Malawi. Most of these animals live in national parks, five in all, and in the country’s reserves, which make up 15.5% of the national territory. The Lake Malawi National Park in 1984 was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Over the years, the population’s need for firewood has caused a progressive increase in deforestation and soil erosion, which, at the beginning of the 2000s, is the most important environmental problem together with the pollution of drinking water caused from agricultural and industrial waste.