Approximately 10% of Tanzania’s landmass is covered by freshwater.
This essentially means that nearly 4,868,424 million hectares of wetlands can generate billions of dollars in revenue earnings for the country if harnessed correctly. When looking at this in the greater context of East Africa, Tanzania is the leading country with the largest freshwater reserves, an economic advantage over its neighbors.
The Great Lakes region of East Africa, that encompasses Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania as the main countries, are currently undergoing dynamic changes with respect to various water demands occurring across the region.
Still, Tanzania remains to reap significant rewards. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) place Tanzania to be an owner of 96. 27 km3 of renewable water resources per year, which corresponds to 2,266 m3 per person and year, despite being unevenly distributed over time and space, still these numbers give way more financial leeway to Tanzania’s economic strategies to be acquainted on how to make billions from fisheries, irrigation, tourism, and energy production.
The economic ramifications of water resource management are of paramount importance, especially when it comes to harnessing natural resources. For each of the East African nations, efficient water management provides numerous goods and services to the local population living in its periphery but also communities living outside wetlands. There are four valuable areas that can stimulate local economies.
Tanzania owns 47 percent of Lake Victoria, 45 percent of Lake Tanganyika and 20 percent of Lake Nyasa, these number outshines its neighbors, who have less freshwater bodies compared to Tanzania.
Tanzania Fisheries Sector report (2016) shows that; all fishing resources spheres including wetlands, supply livelihood to more than 183,000 people, while more than 4 million people are indirectly involved, such as boat-builders, fish processors, net and engine repairers.
With the right-incentives introduced: institutional frameworks, finance, and fishing technological subsidy, the sector can attract more money and labor into the economy. As of now, the fishing sector accumulates approximately 2 trillion shillings annually, hence with specific incentives more foreign currency will be attracted.
With much attention paid to ocean and great-lakes (Tanganyika and Victoria), it is imperative to recognize that: mangrove forests and estuaries ecosystems (wetland ecosystems) in finishing and shellfish fisheries, could extend local fishermen economies and diversify labor. A few examples of these fishing spots can be found in Bagamoyo, Kisiju, Rufiji, and Sadani, which are associated with Wami and Ruvu rivers.
However, Eminata Kamoga, a University of Dar es Salaam, lecturer finds an economical spot, in vitalizing wetland potential across Tanzania. “80 percent of fish production is taking place in freshwater, the Bahi swamp is valuable in breeding birds and fish, as well as Malagarasi-Moyowosi system and its southern extension into the Ugalla Game Reserve, are breeding areas for fish and other wetland products”, she adds.
FAO wetland analysis on Tanzania shows that; in the past years, wetlands were wastelands, communities didn’t get the gist of cultivating on them. However, over time it was unveiled that, wetlands do harbor plenty of soil fertility and water which is a valuable criterion for agriculture and a huge deal for Tanzania agrarian development which accounts for more than USD 13.9 billion to its GDP.
A careful study executed by a group of researchers from Sokoine University and Ghent University (2011), found out that; the Kilombero Valley flood plain(which is also a bread basket cluster), has attracted a lot of large farming investment, whereby still local farmers placed labor on 23 percent of the entire plain and supporting more than 80 percent of the community’s livelihood. Rice and maize are crops that are cultivated with less additional fertilizer introduction, which entails for fewer direct-costs in farm management.
This could be replicated over space and explore other agrarian breakthroughs for small-scale farmers in Tanzania. For starters, swamps are a good start as they do support agricultural production, specifically paddy cultivation.
Irrigation development in the major river basins is a component to observe that can levitate the agricultural sector. Water and high fertility are valuable elements that can catapult cultivation in flood plains and riparian zones, which eventually stimulate sustainable production and eliminate poverty among low-income earners across wetland communities in Tanzania. With high demands for staple food across the country and abroad, it is inevitable for wetlands farming programs to be initiated.
The latter can be substantiated by Salum Bwashi, a water engineering learner and a keen environmentalist. “Environmental assessment should be carried out on the sustained management of the development projects, people should appreciate the true socio-economic, biological and scientific importance of wetlands and assisted to change from harvesting to a management approach”. Bwashi added.
Earlier this year, the Deputy Minister of Water Hon. Jumaa Aweso, insisted on the cease of well drilling across regions surrounding Lake Victoria, and opening up the sustainable use of Lakes across the country to enrich communities water supply projects and save billions spent on borehole drilling.
On the other hand, wetlands are always a reliable source of water, for human and livestock consumption. Water data shows that- Tanzania possesses enormous areas of permanent and seasonal freshwater swamps, marshes and seasonal floodplains, which are distributed over most of the country’s major river systems and covering 2.7 million hectares.
With this realization in the fold, Tanzanian water supply and sanitation authorities are positioned to draw in billions of revenues from water supply to significant numbers of unprivileged people in semi-urban and rural Tanzania.
Taking a real-life case of the Kilombero River, which caters for more than 80 percent of the population adjacent to the wetland communities. Tanzania stands at a winning stance, just by, introducing independent, water programs for such communities would levitate water access tremendously and diversify local economies on various parameters such as irrigation schemes and aquaculture.
Weighing the East African region water resources, Tanzania seems to dominate the race, as it has over 12 lakes of which only 4 are shared by it’s neighbors (Lake Victoria, Lake Amboselli, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa).
Where as, according to available data, Tanzania accumulate 49 percent of Lake Victor (African Great Lake), while its counterparts, Kenya 6 percent and Uganda 45 percent.
Wildlife Resources in Tanzania
Water resources are a perfect spot for wildlife that have made Tanzania renowned, especially the migratory animals, which inhibit a dry and rainy season habit that includes wetlands-habitation, giving the country’s tourism corridor much leverage in providing recreational upper-hand to tourists.
With more than 20 species of African large mammals in our disposal, found across Tanzania’s natural areas; national parks, marine parks, and conservation areas, it is lucrative to strengthen, tourism interaction primarily our favorite mammals (hippopotamus, waterbuck, crocodiles, elephants, and water-birds) who tend to enjoy wetlands.
Kamoga adds up on the latter, by citing the leverage wetlands provide for wildlife ecosystem. “95 percent of all game corridors migration routes are between wet and dry seasons wetlands, for instance, Usangu basic corridor and the great Serengeti wildebeest migration”, she adds.
Tanzania’s tourism sector actors can capitalize on this and reinvent wildlife recreation over space and time, whereby local communities can also be placed at the table to spread the benefits evenly and make the sector sustainable.
Tanzania stands to gain much when water resources especially the underutilized wetlands are converted into a viable natural capital that can levitate communities’ economies.