The national mapping agency in Malawi is the Survey Department (MSD) which is responsible for the publication of official mapping of the country including topographic and some thematic surveys. MSD was set up in its present form in 1950, but prior to independence in 1960 mapping was largely carried out in British colonial programs administered through the Federal Surveys of Rhodesia and Nyasaland by the British Directorate of Overseas Surveys (DOS) (now Ordnance Survey International (OSI)). 1:50,000 scale mapping was instigated in the 1950s, on the Transverse Mercator projection, modified Clarke 1880 ellipsoid, and using quarter-degree sheet lines. Contoured editions were introduced in the 1960s, the latest specification of this series had 50 ft intervals and the series was completed in 1971. Revision continued until the mid-1980s, when sheets in a new metric series on UTM grid zone sheet lines started to appear. This new map has 20 m contours and will eventually replace the old quarter-degree mapping, but sheets from the older series will continue to be available until the new series is completed. New 1:250,000 scale mapping in 10 sheets was completed between 1991 and 1996, replacing earlier mapping at this scale on different sheet lines. This scale also conforms to UTM specifications, and has 100 m contours. New single-sheet 1:1,000 000,scale mapping also follows UTM specifications and is published as a tourist edition, complete with inset town plans and a smaller scale map on the reverse.
Soviet military topographic mapping of Malawi exists at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (3 sheets, complete coverage, published in 1985); 1:500,000 (8 sheets, complete coverage, published 1983-1985) and 1:200,000 (30 sheets, complete coverage, published 1981-1984). These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.
Earth science mapping in Malawi is carried out by the Geological Survey Department (MGSD) in Zomba. Maps are issued with accompanying explanatory bulletins. 1:100,000 scale full-colour maps of the whole country were compiled in conjunction with DOS between 1958 and 1975. 1:250,000 scale mapping in the Geological atlas started in the 1970s and was completed in 1992. A More recent effort has focused upon the provision of geophysical maps and data. Complete coverage at 1:50,000; 1:100,000 and 1:250 000 scales was compiled in the 1980s in conjunction with Hunting Surveys and published as single-color maps showing magnetic contours, or four different radiometric contour themes. These data were interpreted into a single national series with sheets published in the late 1980s at 1:100,000 or 1:250,000 scales.
The Agricultural Department has carried out a number of resource mapping projects. These include 1:250,000 scale soil and agricultural mapping of the whole country, with some larger scale local surveys. An erosion map at 1:1,000,000 scale was prepared with funding from the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the detailed agroclimatic mapping of Malawi established in the 1980s and 1990s now represents one of the richest African bases for agricultural policy development. An electoral map of the country was recently published by Kachere Series, Zomba.
Thematic mapping is also issued by MSD. The national atlas published in 1985 includes numerous themes at 1:2,000,000 scale.
A wide program of larger-scale mapping is published as diazo prints for different townships, including orthophoto maps. Many of these plans are published at 1:2,500 scale and coverage around Blantyre has been digitized.