Global warming in Tanzania – how big is the problem and what can be done?

Report of a BTS Seminar on 2 September 2019

Tanzania has been slow to take up the challenges of changing climate. It did not ratify the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change till 2018, and has not yet produced the detailed strategy required under the Agreement. However, resources are available from donors and the private sector for projects which can demonstrate that they can reduce emissions, or “capture”, carbon.

Andrew Coulson introduced the topic with pictures of Mount Kilimanjaro showing the dramatic shrinking of the ice cap since 1993.

The decline started before the most dramatic increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so it may have more to do with deforestation and cultivation of crops on the mountainside, which have reduced the amounts of mist attracted to the mountain and hence the amounts of snow, than with global warming in general; but, as with glaciers all over the world, and the ice caps around the North and South Poles, the retreat has got much faster in recent years.

Overall, Africa is badly affected by climate change. The worst impacts are away from the equator, where the Sahara and Kalahari deserts are expanding fast, making farming almost impossible. In contrast, parts of Tanzania, such as the areas around Dodoma and Kongwa, appear to have benefited from more rain. But this may not continue, and higher temperatures in the future are likely to reduce the yields from maize and many other crops. Meanwhile storms are causing floods in Dar es Salaam and other cities, and soil erosion. The continuing use of wood or charcoal for domestic cooking, and illegal land clearances for agriculture, are leading to reductions in forests and trees. Tanzanian farmers are not in doubt that temperatures overall are increasing, and that the rainfall patterns are becoming more unpredictable. Those living in coastal areas and fishermen are also aware of such threats, with bleaching of corals and coastal erosion increasing.

Jo Anderson spoke about the work of Carbon Tanzania, which was set up in 2011 to support the retention of forests. They are supporting small-scale activities in three contrasting areas across Tanzania. If they can demonstrate that forests have been retained or extended, then “carbon credits” mean that the communities can be paid under the REDD scheme (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). However, payments are only made when preservation or expansion of the forests is confirmed by audits, which may be based on aerial photos. The costs of the audits make it hard for poor farmers or villages to access the funds without technical help from outside agencies, such as Carbon Tanzania.

Tanzania was chosen by the European Union as one of four African countries to pilot projects relating to climate change under the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) initiated in 2007. Eco-ACT Tanzania, a social enterprise committed to developing environmental solutions, got support from the European Union (€ 2.3 million over 3 years) for developing three ecovillages in Tanzania, including Chololo (close to Dodoma) which piloted over 20 range of environmental innovations, which proved widely acceptable to the villagers. Following the success of the first Ecovillage project a further project was approved, supporting  5 Ecovillages, for an additional € 8 million, until 2019. Tim Clarke, formerly EU ambassador to Tanzania, who was one of the individuals promoting this pioneering programme, would have liked Tanzania to become a world leader in climate change technologies, rolling out more widely the ecovillage programme both in Tanzania itself and promoting this approach elsewhere on the African continent, establishing a world class International Climate Change Centre on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and promoting solar and other renewable energies. He still hopes that the government will take up the new challenges and opportunities provoked by climate change.

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