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Climate change is impacting Africa now. Tanzania is grappling with frequent flooding and recurring drought, which exacerbates other issues, including food and public health.

In Tanzania, flooding threatens infrastructure in Dar es Salaam worth $5.3 billion, according to the World Bank. Home to more than 4.5 million people, the nation’s commercial capital is vulnerable to flooding, which cripples the ability of poorer city residents to access clean water and better sanitation.

Meanwhile, approximately 80 percent of Tanzania’s population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, income and employment. The sector accounts for around 56 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The farmers’ dependence on rainfall, its weak infrastructure and its lack of social safety nets will add momentum to the problems brought on by climate change.

Frequent and severe droughts in many parts of the country are being felt with their associated consequences on food production and water scarcity among others. The recent severe droughts which hit most parts of the country leading to severe food shortages, food insecurity, water scarcity, hunger and acute shortage of power signify the vulnerability of the country to impacts of climate change. The extreme drop of water levels of Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Jipe in recent years and the dramatic recession of 7km of Lake Rukwa in about 50 years, are associated, at least in part, with climate change, and are threatening economic and social activities.

Eighty percent of the glacier on Mount Kilimanjaro has been lost since 1912 and it is projected that the entire glacier will be gone by 2025. The intrusion of sea water into water wells along the coast of Bagamoyo town and the inundation of Maziwe Island in Pangani District, off the Indian Ocean shores, are yet another evidence of the threats of climate change. 

In June, the government announced the completion of construction of         2 400m of sea walls in seven different sites along the coast. These sea walls are designed to protect vulnerable villages and towns – including Dar es Salaam, with its population of five million – from the threat of rising sea levels.

“To take steps to combat climate change is a must for us as a country … So now building this wall is our way to defend and reduce the effects of climate change,” said Vice-President Samia Suluhu.

$5 million came from the Adaptation Fund, which was “established in 2001 to finance concrete adaptation projects and programs in developing (countries) that are particularly vulnerable to climate change”. Another $3.34-million came from the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund. This investment is negligible when the potential costs of not taking adequate precautions are considered. “Sea level rise is expected to cost about $200-million per year by 2050 in lost land and flood damage,” concluded the United States Agency for International Development in its latest climate risk report for Tanzania.

As part of its strategy, the government will develop a “Resilience Academy,” in which the concept of resilience will be taught at university level to help younger generations tackle natural disasters and other threats, officials said.

Temperature increases in the region are projected to be higher than the global mean temperature increase; regions in Africa within 15 degrees of the equator are projected to experience an increase in hot nights as well as longer and more frequent heat waves.

Global warming of 2˚C would put over 50 percent of the continent’s population at risk of undernourishment. Projections estimate that climate change will lead to an equivalent of 2 percent to 4 percent annual loss in GDP in the region by 2040. Assuming international efforts keep global warming below 2°C the continent could face climate change adaptation costs of US$ 50 billion per year by 2050.

If the global mean temperature reaches 2° C of global warming, it will cause significant changes in the occurrence and intensity of temperature extremes in all sub-Saharan regions.

Climate change impacts in Tanzania include higher temperatures, more flooding and droughts, and a rise in sea level and threatens agricultural production and livelihoods for millions of Tanzanians. USAID is collaborating with the national and local governments to address key climate change vulnerabilities in the management of the Rufiji River Basin, from the headwaters to the estuary, and mainstream resilience-building measures into better water resource management and climate-smart agricultural practices. USAID is also working with pastoralist and conservation groups to manage the complex relationship between grazing, range land health, fodder availability and wildlife dispersal areas in northern Tanzania.

Tanzania deforestation

Deforestation Impacting Tanzania

Africa’s forests can be a part of the solution. Forests cover nearly 20 percent of the African continent, including the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest, the Congo Basin forest, which is known as the lungs of Africa.

Since forests absorb and sequester tons of carbon dioxide, which would otherwise trap heat in the atmosphere, they are one of the primary tools for climate change mitigation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that by 2050, forest cover must increase by more than 10 million sq. kilometers to stabilize global temperatures. The UN has recommended reforesting the Kilimanjaro ecosystem. Sacred Seedlings and its partners in Kenya and Tanzania have plans to tackle the job.

But Africa’s forests are under threat. Huge tracts of the continent’s rich forests and grasslands are destroyed for industrial and infrastructural development. Rural communities are also clearing land for settlement and subsistence farming rapidly — the scale might be small and isolated, but this shift in land-use fragments wildlife habitats and restricts the movement of certain species.

By 2030 water scarcity will impact as much as two-thirds of Africa. Reforestation initiatives help recover Africa’s lost forest cover and when focused around riverine areas, they create shade and stop the erosion of river banks, helping to improve water flow and quality for wildlife and people.

In southern Tanzania, organizations such as African Wildlife Federation have supported water user associations with training to manage their water resources, restore riverine forest areas, demarcate riverine boundaries, and assess the quality and flow of their rivers with affordable tools that involve all members of the community. This is just one component of the watershed management plans that are designed with the input of multiple local stakeholders in line with national policies and natural resource management goals. AWF also equips Maasai households with tools to harvest rainfall — instead of digging shallow wells or scooping riverbeds.

Meanwhile, Tanzania is constructing the Stiegler’s Gorge dam, which will cost an estimated $3.6-billion. When complete, this mammoth hydropower project – it will be the second biggest on the continent – will produce 2,100MW of electricity, more than double what the country currently uses. The dam will be built in the middle of the Selous Game Reserve, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Site.

“Considering the high likelihood of serious and irreversible damage to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property resulting from the Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower project, and noting the inclusion of the project in the updated 2016 national Power System Master Plan, (the World Heritage Committee) strongly urges the state party to permanently abandon the project,” said Unesco’s World Heritage Committee in 2017.

But the issue of climate change looms even larger than that of conservation over the future of the project. Hydropower relies on a steady supply of water to be effective – but climate projections for East Africa suggest that rainfall is likely to vary wildly.

Tanzania water supply

“Hydropower in Tanzania has a poor record. The country’s regular, months-long electricity blackouts are caused by drought years that leave reservoirs with less water. Building such a large hydropower project, therefore, carries risks of making Tanzania more weather dependant at a time when climate change is likely to make rainfall increasingly variable,” said Barnaby Dye, an African hydropower specialist at the University of Manchester, writing in the Citizen, Tanzania.

The World Wildlife Fund found similarly in a study: “Climate change is predicted to impact southern Tanzania by increasing rainfall variability that will reduce the security of hydropower schemes in this region. The documents put forward on the project have not taken this into consideration.”

This is not just a Tanzania-specific issue. The UK-based Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment published a study in August which looked at the potential impact of climate change on 43 planned large-scale hydropower projects in East and Southern Africa.

Its conclusion was unambiguous: “Many hydropower plants will be located in river basins that are exposed to similar climate-related disruptions that not only pose a risk to generation capacity but are also set against structural challenges presented by weak governance. Without management responses or strengthening of governance systems that can adequately manage climate impacts, existing weaknesses could deepen. This could risk aspirations to maximise many of the economic and social development opportunities presented by reliable and predictable electricity supply.”

Climate change demands that we rethink the relationship between energy and development. This is crucial in sub-Saharan Africa, where 621 million people lack access to electricity. The carbon-intensive energy systems that drive our economies have set us on a collision course with our planetary boundaries. Now we have an opportunity in Africa to avoid that collision. The Africa Progress Report, 2015, Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, identifies a range of practical measures for supporting low-carbon development while expanding power generation and accelerating progress towards universal access to energy. It also sets out an agenda for the Paris climate summit, linking international action to African strategies for climate-resilient development.

More significant climate related population shifts are expected from rural to urban areas. The potential for future movement is substantial, since most Tanzanians are engaged directly in agriculture.

According to a recent World Bank report on greening Africa’s cities, protecting fast-degrading environments in growing cities like Dar es Salaam can make them more livable, and help them cope with extreme weather.

“Restoring forest areas and rehabilitating river systems could alleviate urban flooding problems, and make cities more pleasant and productive places to live,” Bella Bird, the World Bank’s country director for Tanzania, told the urban program launch.

Climate change provides African governments with an added incentive to put in place policies that are long overdue – and to demonstrate leadership on the international stage.

Mellowswan Foundation has plans in place to help secure Tanzania’s future. Please join us. Learn more through this link.

We also train and organize groups to develop alternative livelihoods from non-timber forest products and beekeeping, depending on their priorities. By providing alternatives to communities reliant on forests, we help to protect key forest resources while providing benefits to communities.

For rural small-scale farmers, this involves learning new sustainable farming techniques that ensure higher crop yields, promote soil health, retain water and ultimately increase incomes.

Mellowswan Foundation Africa Tanzania

The Mellowswan Foundation is devoted to community service and the responsible stewardship of Tanzania’s natural resources. Formed in 2011, the Foundation partners with organizations and governments across Tanzania and around the world to accomplish its mission and serve its stakeholders.