Research on Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) dynamics, and an understanding of the drivers responsible for these changes, are very crucial for modelling future LULC changes and the formulation of sustainable and robust land-management strategies and policy decisions. This study adopted a mixed method consisting of remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS)-based analysis, focus-group discussions, key informant interviews, and semi-structured interviews covering 586 households to assess LULC dynamics and associated LULC change drivers across the Dedza district, a central region of Malawi. GIS-based analysis of remotely sensed data revealed that barren land and built-up areas extensively increased at the expense of agricultural and forest land between 1991 and 2015. Analysis of the household-survey results revealed that the perceptions of respondents tended to validate the observed patterns during the remotely sensed data-analysis phase of the research, with 57.3% (n = 586) of the respondents reporting a decline in agricultural land use, and 87.4% (n = 586) observing a decline in forest areas in the district. Furthermore, firewood collection, charcoal production, population growth, and poverty were identified as the key drivers of these observed LULC changes in the study area. Undoubtedly, education has emerged as a significant factor influencing respondents’ perceptions of these drivers of LULC changes. However, unsustainable LULC changes observed in this study have negative implications on rural livelihoods and natural-resource management. Owing to the critical role that LULC dynamics play to rural livelihoods and the ecosystem, this study recommends further research to establish the consequences of these changes. The present study and future research will support decision makers and planners in the design of tenable and coherent land-management strategies.
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