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The United Republic of Tanzania (URT) is located in Eastern Africa.  The United Republic of Tanzania has an area of about 945,00 square kilometers with a population of about 43 million people based on 2002 Census. It is a union of two countries; the former Republic of Tanganyika and the former People’s Republic of Zanzibar which on April 26, 1964, merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania. The country shares international boundaries with eight countries; Kenya and Uganda in the North, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda in the west, Mozambique and Malawi in the South, Zambia in the south-west and a coastline along the Indian Ocean, which connects the country with the Comoros Islands, Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius (URT 2010).

Tanzania’s long-term economic growth is dependent on its many natural resources like wildlife, forestry, fisheries, mining, land and water.  However, the National Environmental Policy (NEP) identifies six major problems, which require urgent attention. These are: 1) loss of wildlife habitats and biodiversity; 2) deforestation; 3) land degradation; 4) deterioration of aquatic systems; 5) lack of accessible, good quality water, and 6) environmental pollution. Furthermore, the Government of Tanzania acknowledges that within this policy, the country needs to adopt environmentally sustainable natural resource management practices in order to ensure that long term sustainable economic growth is achieved (NEP: 1997). It can therefore be concluded that, the country’s long-term economic growth is dependent, among other factors, upon its coherent natural resource management.

One of the biggest environmental challenges of the 21st century is climate change. Climate change is poised to undermine national efforts to attain the MDGs and places poverty reduction efforts in jeopardy. The loss of human, natural, financial, social and physical capital, caused by the adverse impacts of climate change, especially severe droughts and floods, among many other disasters, are of great concern to Tanzania (Reference). The impacts of climate change on various sectors became the driving force for the preparation of the inaugural Tanzania National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) in 2007.

Due to climate change, the frequency and severity of droughts, floods and storms are projected to increase globally (IPCC, 2007), and this is likely to affect agricultural production and food security and GDP in the country. The impact that climate variability has on predominantly rain-fed agrarian economies is clearly evident in Tanzania, where gross domestic product (GDP) closely tracks variations in rainfall (Van Aalst et al., 2007).  About half of Tanzania’s GDP comes from agricultural production (including livestock), the majority of which is rain-fed and highly vulnerable to droughts and floods.  Both farmers and pastoralists are highly dependent on the climate for their livelihoods.

Where the Rain Falls field research in Tanzania was conducted in three villages (Bangalala, Ruvu Mferijini and Vudee) in the Same District, which lies in the Kilimanjaro Region. While the three villages reflect a wide range of agro-climatic conditions in the upland and lowland areas of the Pangani Basin, their residents share a high degree of dependence on crop and livestock production for their livelihoods. Local agriculture, in turn, is highly reliant on local rainfall, either directly or via local irrigation systems (including ndiva, micro-dams based on the concept of traditional local water reservoirs ), which shows a high degree of variability and unpredictability. Given that livelihoods in the research villages are almost entirely dependent on the local natural resource base, residents are very worried by the degradation of the local environment, brought on by recurrent droughts, continuing population growth, lack of enforcement of laws against logging, and other destructive practices in critical watersheds.

Across the three villages, research participants perceived a number of significant changes in rainfall patterns over recent decades. Most significant were: a shortening of the growing season; increased frequency of dry spells during the rainy season, and more frequent heavy storms. In addition, higher temperatures and stronger winds are seen as exacerbating local water scarcity. While an analysis of 60 years of local rainfall data does not show a statistically significant negative trend in total annual rainfall, it does provide evidence to support a number of negative changes in rainfall patterns over the last 20-30 years, including: a decline in long season (masika) and total annual rainfall; reduced number of rainy days and longer dry spells during the rainy season, and early cessation of rains. The data also provides dramatic examples of the unpredictability of rainfall, with several cases of extremely low annual rainfall followed by years of very high rainfall.

Under the conditions that prevail in Same District, changes in rainfall patterns translate directly into impacts on crop and livestock production and food security. Water scarcity is the most commonly identified problem by the residents of this area, and research participants consistently identified drought as the biggest threat to their livelihoods. Given the dearth of alternative local off-farm employment opportunities, migration is a very important risk management strategy for households in these villages.  Migration patterns vary across the three villages, but seasonal migrants overall outnumber those migrating for more than six months. While the largest migration flows seem to be rural-rural, nearly one-third of survey respondents identified Dar es Salaam as the most common destination. The elderly and women with young children are most likely to be left behind with less support and more work and can thus be seen as most vulnerable to the negative impacts of rainfall variability on household food security.

© 2007 Brendan Bannon/CARE

© 2007 Brendan Bannon/CARE