Challenges facing Water sustainability in Tanzania

February 26, 2014

United Republic of Tanzania is home to more than 47 million people and economically is driven by agricultural production that largely depends on water and biodiversity resources, the products of ecosystem service. Water in Tanzania’s agricultural areas is made available to farmland through below-the-surface runoff system and in semi arid areas like Shinyanga and Dodoma by irrigation system. Since the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere introduced a Swedish style of socialism in late 1960s, Irrigation systems has improve productivity of water in the country by making it usable in productive land. During his tenure as country’s head of state, Benjamin William Mkapa investment in irrigation system sought to optimize the coverage area of the water use to maximize Tanzania’a productivity. Under the current administration of Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzanian government investment plans for agricultural water have focused on the construction and expansion of irrigation infrastructure.  Tanzanian government has invested effectively to secure the availability of water to support the agriculture sector, and to protect food crops from too much water availability especially in southern regions of the country. Tens of thousands of hectares of rice fields experience drought in Lake region of Mwanza while other area faces floods are increasingly becoming frequent.

Every year Tanzanians hear about dams not being able to provide water for rice fields in Mwanza region or produce electricity for so many hours per day due to drought in kilombero area in Morogoro. It is time for Tanzanian government to reform the approach for water resource governance and management system toward a more decentralized system. Government needs to implement regulation for ecosystem service management that has a more sensible sharing of costs and benefits for ecosystem products, especially water. However, the building of dams and irrigation networks assuming that water will be available forever is ill thought. There has been a significant decline in number of water springs within catchment areas and increasing frequency of drought in some parts of the country and scientific data shows that those are clear signs that Tanzania is facing the risk of increasing water scarcity in the future. Degradation of more than 60 percent of the protected forest area designated for water catchment and ecosystem that are being largely blamed by local scientist and researchers as the main cause of the increasing water scarcity. For example, those who have been to Moshi where the forests is gone, the soil no longer hold large amounts of water for an extended period, hence flooding during the rainy season. Tanzania has also seen climatic seasons shift.

The dry and wet seasons now are more difficult to predict and the seasons are getting shorter but peaking with intensity. In areas like Tanga, Chalinze, Bagamoyo and Dar es salaam have a short wet season but with extremely high intensity while in northern regions of Manyara and Arusha there has been recorded cases of short dry season with extreme heat which has significantly increases forest and dry land fires in pastoralist areas of Longido region. Climate change has made dealing with water issues more challenging but thanks to organizations like Water Aid Tanzania the situation has not been catastrophic. To maximize its value and productivity as a local resource, water availability and provision in Tanzania will only be sustained if governed and managed to represent the primary interests of local stakeholders and that’s why local governance and management of the resource is an absolute prerequisite to ensure its sustainable supply. That why Dar es salaam water supply company well known as DAWASCO can represent local interests, govern and manage well the water catchment area or protection forests in every corner of Dar es salaam’s water areas.

Investment in irrigation should ensure good governance and management of the catchment area as well as continue to maintain control over irrigation infrastructure by giving very little room for local authorities and stakeholders to assert their interests. Tanzania’s irrigation infrastructure has suffered degrading quality due to lack of maintenance despite the government investing heavily in the sector. As more money is always associated with more control, the Tanzanian government has very little incentive to invest in maintenance and operation.In order for Tanzania to have a more sustainable agriculture sector, it is inevitable to look at the water issues in a comprehensive manner. It must be prioritized as agriculture will continue to be important in Tanzania’s economy and society as well as the whole of East African region where it accounts for 52 percent of total land mass. Me think that decentralizing effectively the operation and maintenance of irrigation infrastructure and institutionalize cost sharing arrangements. It is also important that the future water infrastructure development covers investments in both physical capital and the natural capital to ensure water availability. Developing land and water accounts for annual monitoring of agriculture sector sustainability as part of the overall move toward a green economy.

Contador Harrison