An In-Depth Look into Ongoing Drought In Tanzania

By Alais Morindat

Northern Tanzania, where most Maasai pastoralists live, has experienced dramatic changes in climate whereby temperature patterns have been on the increase.  Rainfall shifts and changes have affected pasture growth resulting in serious drought.  The climate of Tanzania is influenced by the monsoon winds, which are the southerly monsoons and the northerly monsoons. The southerly monsoons begin in March through April, and end in August. They are usually strong and bring lots of long rains to the country. The Northerly Monsoon is characterized by high air temperature and brings lighter rains of November through December. It is the longer rains that have failed this past year and influenced severe drought in Northern Tanzania. 

According to the most recent resilience assessment study (IIED, 2022), Monduli District, where Arkaria Village is located, has a high level of inequality. Almost 70% of the community own very few assets and are dependent on others for survival, particularly in our division of Kisongo. It is also extremely difficult for the poor to improve their circumstances independently, requiring large amount of support from development partners, the government or family members. It is this 70% of the community that has remained highly vulnerable to climate change without intervention. These are the people who have been hit hard by drought this year and are in need of support in order to survive the current drought and the ones to come.

Climate change threats cover a range of sectors and can occur over a diverse set of timescales. Extreme weather events such as intense rainfall is likely to cause flooding. At the same time, there is a risk of increased frequency of severe and prolonged droughts. Both will force people to use unsustainable coping strategies, weaken the asset base of pastoralists and ruin farmers. Gradual climatic changes include alteration of seasonal rainfall patterns and increase in average temperature. While these do not cause direct harm in themselves, they are having a range of impacts that are constraining the practice of dominant livelihoods. These can include increased spread of human, livestock, and crop diseases, lower crop yields, loss of biodiversity and degradation of land quality, as well as other yet unpredicted issues. Taking into account these threats, community members clearly identified five factors which support resilience to both immediate and gradual threats from climate change:

    1. Social CapitalStrong relations with clan, family or neighbors are key to survival in times of food insecurity and water stress. Among pastoralists, communal restocking ceremonies (Ewoloto) exist to support those who lose all their livestock during the drought. In a common practice, the richest community members steward off the weakest animal of poorer families as an act of support. Across the whole community, request for help from those less-well off is rarely refused.

    2. Availability of Assets –Ownership of assets (in the form of cattle, sheep, or goats) provide insurance during drought. They provide opportunities to generate extra income or support remaining stock in the herd. The same is true of farmland. Diverse availability of farmland means that flooding does not undermine a household’s subsistence, or that the failure of the rains in one area is not necessarily disastrous.

    3. Mobility – Mobility is fundamental to pastoralist abilities to both survive and prosper. The ability to access nutritious grasses and water across large distances allows livestock keepers to thrive and contribute economically despite harsh conditions.

    4. Access to resourcesResilience is tied to the ability to access key resources such as water, pasture, seeds, and natural fertilizers. Access may be limited by expense, distance, or scarcity, but the ability to access resources quickly offers more time to dedicate to other income-generating activities where necessary.

    5. WealthWealth mitigates many problems caused by climate hazards. It can buy access to resources, emergency supplies during drought, and reduce the need for mobility or high levels of social capital. Having wealth makes a person more versatile, able to save money for a later date, invest it in businesses less affected by the climate, or to prop up livelihoods when they are threatened.

    The dam near Arkaria Village completely dried up during the latest drought in Tanzania.
    Our Problems During Last Year’s Drought

    The past five months have brought hardship to Maasai Pastoralists and farmers within the drylands districts of Northern Tanzania. This brought economic activities to a standstill, according to the CITIZEN newspaper (28th November 2022 –  in its special report on drought in Tanzania. Prolonged drought has in recent months wreaked havoc on agriculture and animal husbandry in Northern Tanzania, bringing these economic activities to a virtual standstill.

    Among the villages that have been affected by this drought is the Arkaria Village, which enjoyed stable rain patterns over the last 15 to 20 years alongside significant development.  Arkaria village was hit hard by what we can call the worst drought.  By October this year almost all the water dams were dry, including the Nanja water Dam depended on by over 10 villages. People were thirsty, livestock and wildlife died, and all economic activities in the area were at standstill. It was no longer even possible to sell the remaining Livestock heard (cattle, goats and sheep) because they had lost weight and were very skinny. Following the death of their livestock, pastoralists’ capacity to purchase food, and more importantly water alternative livestock feeds, was seriously constrained.

    The District council, through the member of parliament, provided water for a limited period of time and to specific villages only, and although that helped, the drought prolonged way beyond the district plans. It is at that point that given our long-term partnership and the trust and love that has existed between us, we approached Global Partners and asked if they could help people at least to have drinking water and water for cooking food.  Although we knew that was not the most sustainable intervention for addressing the water problem, it was the most powerful intervention at the moment that delivered water directly to people in need and on time. It also kept families together and enabled women to look after children and their bomas rather than walking miles and miles away to search for water. The water was also clean, helping families to avoid waterborne diseases which are normally rampant during drought periods. This service also allowed school kids to continue with schooling when schools were closed in early December.

    My Role as a Community Facilitator

    My role has been one of a facilitator. My commitment in this process is to enable and increase the power and consciousness of our local community. To strategically open doors and the possibility for them to talk with our own government/CSOs and Local Council Authority.  We want to ensure that our peoples’ experiences of their painful problems are at the core of all discussions with government entities and rather than them prescribing solutions to the peoples’ problems, they should build peoples’ confidence and trust–which is a crucial element in any process of transformation. This type of dialogue provides space, integrity, hope, freedom, and an optimistic opportunity for communities to join together for radical social transformation as they develop the highest consciousness themselves. Therefore, when determining solutions to their problems, they are better able also to take control of their own lives and circumstances towards their own goals in life.

    Word of Thanks

    On behalf of our people, I want to take this moment to sincerely thank you and all our Global Partners brothers and sisters for your generosity and for your continued support. ASANTE SANA.  Your generosity and support are an encouragement and a strong reminder of the value of our long-term partnership and friendship, which is based on trust and Love. Finally, to end poverty we must try to do something to stabilize CLIMATE.


    More about GPFD

    Related Posts

    Scroll to Top