The impacts of climate change are taking hold in Tanzania’s Pangani River basin. The snow cap of Mount Kilimanjaro, which towers over the basin, is melting rapidly and is projected to disappear completely by 2025. Water flow in the basin has also declined dramatically but there are still many demands on the dwindling supplies, the main one being irrigation.
The basin is hit by frequent cycles of droughts and floods and the consequences are felt by the more than 2 million people who live here, 80% of whom rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. From the irrigation fields in the centre of the basin and the electricity producers further downstream, to the coastal communities that see saltwater moving inland and their fish stocks decline, everyone is feeling the strain. Pressure is increasing with the growing awareness that in future even less water may be available.
Fortunately, this growing awareness has also led to action. Tanzania is now promoting a decentralized approach to water management that reaches the grassroots level. The government is creating basin institutions where representatives of competing water users – farmers, hydropower, fishers and residents help decide how to allocate water. Combining a local sense of who needs what, when and where with scientific data on how much water is available now and might be available under climate change scenarios, the collaborators are piloting a new and flexible approach to decision-making. They are learning to allocate water within the limits of the river’s flow, including to ecosystems in the basin that store water, regulate flows and support livelihoods in the face of climate change.
State-of-the art climate modeling of the basin is being undertaken with international experts. This is in parallel with community-level vulnerability assessments using a variety of tools, including CRiSTAL (Community-based Risk Screening Adaptation and Livelihood) which integrates risk reduction and climate change adaptation into community-level projects.
Better informed and participatory decision making means that more effective decisions can be made about water allocation within current and projected limits of the river’s flow. Practical ways to engage stakeholders have shown how better water governance can reduce pressure on the environment and provide the capacity needed to cope with an uncertain but drier future climate.
This project is being implemented by the Pangani Basin Water Office and involves several organizations including the Global Environment Facility through the UN Development Programme. Further information from the Pangani River Basin Management Project website