Bhavna Dahiya
Research Intern at Jindal Centre for the Global South
O.P. Jindal Global University

iStock: Tea Farmers
iStock: Tea Farmers

According to The State of the Climate in Africa 2021, rainfall trends are changing, glaciers are melting, and important rivers are getting smaller. Only 40% of Africans now have access to early warning systems against the consequences of extreme climate change and weather change. This paper endeavours to excavate the possible ramifications of aggravated Climate Change on the primary livelihood source of Tanzania, i.e., Agriculture, and the possible policy prescriptions to potentially abate those effects and modify conventional agricultural practices to incorporate sustainability. 

Tanzania, initially recognized as Tanganyika, is among the biggest nations in East Africa, and both its population and economy are expanding quickly. A third of the population lives in cities, and the rest of those people do so in squatter settlements that are increasingly vulnerable to water shortages, inundation, and intense temperatures. Even though economic progress has recently made a substantial contribution to the elimination of poverty, 28 per cent of Tanzanians still live in poverty. Tanzania ranks amongst the top 30 countries in the world which are the most susceptible to climate change given the extended drought periods, prolonged rainfall periods, high sea level and extreme heat. By 2050, the existing population of 56 million people should reach 130 million.

The basic existence of the country remains under serious threat given the population’s primary dependence on Agriculture and fisheries; both being severely affected due to climate change. Agriculture is prominent with a strong reliance on rainfed agriculture in rural areas, and meagre accessibility to electricity, health care, or other amenities. In the ensuing decades, it is predicted that yields for important crops including maize, beans, sorghum, and rice would decline, posing a threat to food availability and livelihoods. Fisheries, Tanzania’s livelihood source, on the coast and inland, are harmed by rising sea levels causing Inundation, salinization, storm surge, and freshwater temperatures, as well as silt from recent heavy rains. This intensively endangers the 1/4th population of Tanzania and the coastal ecosystem. Tanzania has significant water resources, but there is a geographical and temporal water shortage that will be made worse by climatic impacts on the continent’s three largest lakes and the nation’s nine major river basins. The hydroelectric system in the nation is also at risk as a result of these reasons. The prevalence of diarrheal illnesses and malaria, two of Tanzania’s major causes of mortality, is anticipated to rise, especially in urban areas where inadequate infrastructure increases the risk of flooding and high heat.

Tanzania’s ability to produce crops and raise cattle is threatened by rising temperatures, extended periods of drought, and more heavy and frequent rains. According to estimations, Tanzania’s agriculture industry, which has historically been the engine of the country’s economy, will perform worse owing to ongoing global climate change. About 75–80% of Tanzanians are employed in the agricultural industry, which accounts for about 25% of Tanzania’s GDP. 80 percent of agricultural output is produced by small, monsoon fed farms that are low-input but very weather-vulnerable. Maize, which makes about 4 million hectares of cropland and 40% of the country’s caloric consumption, is grown on this territory. While rainfed maize in the highlands may prosper from rising temperatures, national productivity is expected to decline 8–13 percent by 2050 as a result of increased heat stress, dryness, erosive damage, and degradation. Estimates for bean, sorghum, and rice yields all show the typical patterns, with declines of 5 to 9 percent by 2050.

Investments in irrigation agriculture is one of the mitigation strategies suggested to combat climate change because seasonal rainfall is insufficient and unpredictable. Given that most farmers are underprivileged, subsidised agriculture should receive more attention in national policies pertaining to the sector. Increased subsidies may also help farmers’ adaptation techniques, making them less sensitive to climate change. Additional measures include the enhancement of emergency preparedness, improved use of climatological data, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and spreading awareness of climate change and adaptation measures.

Some initiatives to promote sustainable agriculture are –

  • limit the number of livestock by retaining only a few productive animals,
  • whenever it’s feasible, increase intense agro-pastoral practices like zero grazing,
  • Persistent attempts to reforest the nation, restore the environment, and control wildfires,
  • Incorporating and striving to improve precautionary measures, such as early alert systems, displacement of vulnerable people, mangrove recovery,
  • Cooperation between the government and civil society and their accountability,
  • The initiation of crop species resilient to climate impacts like drought, to protect livelihoods from emergency situations.

Under the garb of a changing climate, Tanzania’s current agricultural practices cannot guarantee food security, in part because they depend on increasingly variable and unpredictable rainfall. Additionally, shifting farming worsens deforestation, leading to poor yields and environmental harm. Without considering potential synergies, the currently recommended strategy for coping with climate change has been to either adapt or mitigate. The moment is now for an investigation that combines strategies for mitigation and adaptation to battle the consequences of climate change, with a concentration on bringing policies in place to boost food security, minimise emissions of greenhouse gases and build sustainable livelihoods. Tanzania presents an interesting situation for studies focused on the consequences of climate change. This is because of several factors, including the economic significance of the agricultural sector to Tanzania’s economy.  Even though agriculture still employs a significant portion of the country’s workforce, its value to Tanzania’s GDP has been declining over time. Agriculture is also still largely dependent on climatic circumstances because irrigation and other contemporary agricultural methods are still not widely used.

Climate adaptation measures have been carried out at the local and national levels as Tanzania primarily needs to deal with climate change primarily, among other concerns. The government and its institutions, the commercial sector, and the general public must all take varying levels of climate change mitigation strategies for the country to make significant progress in reducing poverty. Due to each group’s unique geographical, sociological, and economic qualities, climate change adaptation measures in Tanzania will typically vary from community to community.

Locals in various regions of Tanzania have switched from agriculture to other occupations as a proportional result of climate change. People from traditional rural villages are frequently seen performing additional farm tasks in places where climate change has caused repeated agricultural failures to increase survival. Depending on the geographic area and season, these activities could include fishing, producing bricks, burning charcoal, and light work (Shayo, 2006). Climate change has forced people to relocate/migrate from their villages to urban areas in search of employment. Additionally, farmers and pastoralists alike have adjusted to various regional methods of anticipating short- to long-term climate shifts, such as drought. As soon as the drought is anticipated locally, pastoralists typically disperse animals and/or move their herd to safer areas to minimise danger. Transhumance is a process of pastoralism or nomadism wherein the livestock is seasonally moved from a highland pasture/grazing ground in summer to the lowlands in winter. It has been a central feature of Tanzania’s northern societies, particularly Barabaig and Masaai (Shayo, 2006). Farmers typically cultivate conventional drought-resistant grains like sorghum, cassava, and millet in place of maize when a drought was anticipated. Additionally, intercropping with the intention of increasing harvest is becoming more popular. In times of insufficient rain, Tanzanians are watering their crops in areas where irrigated agriculture is feasible. In addition, some farmers have also adjusted their planting schedules in response to a projected drought (Orinda and Murray, 2005).

Tanzania has made some action to combat climate change in a broad sense. The UNFCCC, or United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was ratified by Tanzania in 1996. Tanzania has negotiated numerous regional and international environmental treaties that are part of the larger order to tackle climate change. In general, Tanzania’s efforts to combat climatic variability have made significant strides. The Tanzanian government has made significant efforts to address the serious problem of climate change and other environmental problems in the nation. (UNEP, 1999).

Tanzania is already experiencing the social and economic effects of climate change. The country has drastically underestimated the effects of climate change. According to this paper’s conclusion, Tanzanian rural residents are more susceptible to the consequences of climate change than urban residents, in part due to their few resources, restricted access to new technology, and excessive reliance on natural resources that are under threat from climate change. The country’s poor have benefited little from survival techniques and regional reactions to climate variability. Should these effects persist and/or worsen, they are unlikely to be helpful. To counteract the effects of climate change, local efforts, such as seed preservation, can be included in national strategies. There is a dire need for immediate action in the realm of ‘clean and green agricultural’ practices with a special focus on the rural populace given their vulnerability.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Jindal Centre for the Global South or its members.

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