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Ecosystems, Development and Climate Adaptation: Improving the base for policies, planning and management

Multiple Authors


Tanzania hosts a variety of ecosystems, including mountain, drylands, wetlands, coastal and marine ecosystems. These ecosystems directly support the livelihoods of many Tanzanians and much of the country’s economy as a whole, providing goods and services including food, water, medicine, building materials, fuel and numerous natural attractions that support tourism. The pressure placed on Tanzania’s ecosystems has been steadily growing as the human population increases, the economy expands, and more ecosystem goods and services are appropriated, traded and consumed. Shifts in the climate are placing additional strain on already degraded ecosystems, undermining the goods and services many people rely on.Observations of rainfall over Tanzania show statistically significant decreasing trends in annual rainfall, notably in the ‘long rains’ (March to May), however future climate projections suggest that this trend might be reversed. Since 1960, the mean annual temperature has increased by approximately 1.0 ºC and this increase is projected to accelerate. Natural variations and human-induced changes in Tanzania’s climate manifest as, amongst other things, different lengths of crop growing seasons, pest outbreaks, coral bleaching, extensive flooding, prolonged droughts and changes in malaria risk.In light of this, WWF and SEI Oxford teamed up to investigate the role of ecosystems in meeting the inter-linked challenges of climate change adaptation and development in Tanzania, and changes in the governance system required to address issues of environmental degradation, poverty alleviation and climate change in a more integrated way. The Great Ruaha Catchment within the Rufiji River basin was used as a specific case. People working in water management recognise numerous changes occurring in the Great Ruaha Catchment including: heavier rain events causing more flash flooding; later onset of rains; more prolonged droughts; and more regular occurrences of droughts; springs drying up; reduced flows in rivers and satellite lakes shrinking. In response there is increasing migration of pastoralists in search of water and pastures for their livestock and more people are moving to lakes areas to engage in fishing. In an effort to maintain agricultural outputs more people are farming vegetables and maize in wetlands, particularly in the dry season, contributing to high nutrient and sediment loads downstream and algal blooms. Conflicts over water use in the Rufiji, especially between hydropower and agriculture, are escalating. However, a major scarcity of baseline data makes analysing such changes and undertaking evidence-based planning difficult. Various qualitative methods and tools were employed to explore questions of ecosystem-based adaptation and climate resilient development with key stakeholders in Tanzanian government and civil society. Workshops included the construction of scenarios to explore different drivers of change and of a ‘governance action matrix’ to identify key areas for policy, planning, networking and resourcing innovations. One of the key findings from this work was that, while on paper Tanzania is making notable progress at the national level in mainstreaming climate change into public sector decisions and activities (e.g. through the Environment Management Act, Water Resources Management Act and the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty), there is still very little institutional capacity to operationalise these new directives. In effect climate change is still dealt with as an environmental concern considered to be separate from and secondary to development priorities.

This work was collaboratively undertaken by SEI Oxford, WWF Tanzania and WWF UK. As part of this study similar work also took place inNepal andBelize. For the key lessons drawn from comparing the 3 country studies read this article: Key lessons about strengthening governance to adapt to climate change

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