This article was originally published on the NatuRes website and cross-posted here
The Pangani basin in the North of Tanzania is increasingly water-stressed. Climate change is impacting regular rainfall patterns, and catchment degradation is leading to reduced water flows. Meanwhile, water demand is increasing due to population growth and economic development. Additionally, decreasing water quality, partly due to pollution from agricultural practices, and poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions is affecting the health of riverain communities. Combined, these dynamics are reducing the resilience of riverain communities to consequences of climate change, as well as to global shocks such as COVID-19.
NatuReS Tanzania supports partnerships in the Usa and Weruweru sub-catchments, which are part of the Kikuletwa catchment in the Pangani basin. To improve communities’ resilience towards climate change and health hazards like the current pandemic, NatuReS supports the Pangani Basin Water Board in working closely with the local government, community organizations and businesses to address the water-related challenges in the sub-catchments.
Currently, three initiatives are improving water conservation in the upper parts of the sub-catchments and increasing the efficiency of water use in the lower parts of the sub-catchments, particularly within irrigation furrow systems. By doing so, these initiatives are addressing environmental risks impacting the health of the river and of its inhabitants.
Maintaining healthy forests remains one of the most effective ways to ensure the health of catchment ecosystems. A tree-tracking app, developed in cooperation with the NGO Greenstand, supports communities willing to reforest degraded areas. Communities are trained to track the growth of the trees they are planting and receive a monetary compensation for their efforts. Additionally, the app serves as a communication channel to inform communities on preventive measures against COVID-19.
Most inhabitants of the sub-catchments are smallholder farmers. The Tanzanian civil society organization Shahidi wa Maji is conducting a WASH assessment within the DOMIKWA and MKUFI irrigation furrows in the Kikuletwa catchment to detect risk sources for deteriorating quality of water meant for human consumption. Pollution hotspots will be identified and farmers’ WASH situation – both in the furrows and at their homes – will be assessed following the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) standards. Based on the results, Shahidi wa Maji will be able to implement the necessary actions needed to improve WASH conditions both at the farms and at peoples’ homes.
Finally, Rikolto, an international NGO, is training 1,026 smallholder farmers within the Usa and Weruweru furrows on good agricultural practices, such as pesticide and fertilizer use. The aim is to improve water use efficiency and reduce water pollution within the furrows. Reducing water risks such as scarcity and pollution will turn the furrows into a healthy source of water and therefore enhance the communities’ resilience.
Water scarcity and poor WASH, as spotlighted by the current COVID-19 pandemic, are posing serious challenges to local communities in the Usa and Weruweru sub-catchments in Northern Tanzania. Enabling communities to improve their resilience to such shocks is essential. Therefore, the WASH assessment will provide guidance on how to increase the health of local populations; trainings on agricultural best practices will decrease the health risks users of the furrows are currently facing; and afforestation will contribute to better absorb climate change-induced shocks in the long-term.