How Can Tanzania Confront Natural Disasters for Sustainable Development?

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Climate change is no longer a distant threat; it’s a harsh reality gripping Tanzania, as evidenced by natural disasters’ rising frequency and intensity. Droughts, floods, mudslides, rising sea levels and earthquakes wreak havoc on lives and Infrastructure and pose a significant obstacle to the country’s pursuit of sustainable development.

According to the report published by theĀ Statists Research Department on March 7, 2023, Tanzania experienced 34 natural disasters, such as floods and storms, between 2013 and 2020. The country is regularly affected by weather hazards, which lead to destruction, deaths, and thousands of people being forced to leave their homes.

On September 10, 2016, a devastating 5.9-magnitude earthquake rocked the Kagera region in Tanzania, leaving 17 dead, 440 injured, and over 17,000 houses destroyed or damaged. This quake exposed Tanzania’s vulnerability to natural disasters. It highlighted the need for robust disaster preparedness and resilience-building strategies to ensure sustainable development in the face of future environmental challenges.

In addition, in 2019, Tanzania was hit by a cyclone, flash floods, and a hailstorm in only two months. Subsequently, in 2020, seven natural disasters, mainly floods, affected the country and caused disruption and displacement.

However, on December 3, 2023, in the town of Katesh in Hanang District, Manyara Region, a tragedy that had never been witnessed left the residents in a state of indescribable sadness. The mudslide killed more than 87 people, injured 139, and displaced 5,600 people, according to The Chief Government’s Spokesperson, Mr Mobhare Matinyi.

Rising Temperatures and Droughts: Tanzania has experienced a noticeable rise in temperatures, leading to prolonged periods of drought in various regions. The increase in temperature exacerbates water scarcity, affecting agriculture and water supply for both rural and urban communities.

The semi-arid and arid areas, such as Dodoma and Manyara, have witnessed a rise in the frequency and severity of droughts, causing crop failures, food shortages, and economic distress for local communities.

Changing Rainfall Patterns and Flooding: Climate change has also altered rainfall patterns, resulting in more intense and erratic rainfall events. Coastal and low-lying areas, like Dar es Salaam and Tanga, are particularly vulnerable to flooding. The irregular rainfall contributes to flash floods, damaging Infrastructure, displacing communities, and causing waterborne diseases.

This is evidenced In Dar es Salaam; increased rainfall intensity has led to severe flooding in low-lying areas, impacting vulnerable communities and straining urban Infrastructure.

Rising Sea Levels and Coastal Erosion: Rising sea levels threaten Tanzania’s extensive coastline due to melting polar ice caps and glaciers. Coastal erosion is a significant consequence, affecting communities along the Indian Ocean. In places like Bagamoyo and Tanga, Infrastructure, including roads and homes, is at risk, and saltwater intrusion compromises freshwater sources.

The erosion along the Bagamoyo coastline has forced communities to relocate, resulting in the loss of homes and farmland and disrupting the lives of residents.

Tropical Cyclones and Storm Surges: The warming of the Indian Ocean increases the likelihood of tropical cyclones, with the potential for devastating storm surges. Coastal regions such as Zanzibar and Mtwara are prone to hurricanes, damaging Infrastructure, agriculture, and fishing communities.

For example, cyclone Kenneth in 2019 caused widespread destruction in southern Tanzania, affecting communities in Mtwara and Lindi and emphasizing the vulnerability of coastal areas to extreme weather events.

READ RELATED: A Critical Call to Action: Tanzania’s Urgent Response to Climate-Induced Floods.

Strategies of Government for Confronting Natural Disasters

Understanding the Landscape: National Disaster Management Strategy (2022-2027): This comprehensive roadmap outlines a multi-pronged approach to disaster risk reduction, focusing on early warning systems, infrastructure reinforcement, community preparedness, and climate change adaptation.

Also, the government focuses on investing in early warning systems for monitoring and seismic activity tracking priorities, particularly in vulnerable regions like Kagera, which suffered a devastating earthquake in 2016. This allows communities precious time to prepare and evacuate.

The government should also strengthen Infrastructure for flood-resistant by building solid bridges and roads constructed to withstand the fury of natural disasters. For example, coastal areas like Dar es Salaam are implementing seawalls and drainage systems to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels and floods.

Empowering Communities: Local communities must be trained in disaster preparedness, first aid, and sustainable land-use practices. This empowers them to respond effectively to emergencies and build long-term resilience. While farmers are encouraged to adopt drought-resistant crops and water-harvesting techniques, reducing their dependence on rain-fed agriculture, this protects their livelihoods and ensures food security even during dry spells.

Community Engagement and Capacity Building

Recognizing the crucial role of women in disaster preparedness and response, initiatives like the “Women Leaders for Disaster Resilience” project in the Dodoma region provide training and leadership opportunities for women. These empowered women become agents of change, mobilizing their communities, advocating for resources, and ensuring everyone’s voice is heard in the disaster planning process.

Tanzania, a nation of diverse landscapes and vibrant cultures, faces a formidable natural disaster exacerbated by climate change. From droughts that parch the land to floods that rage through valleys, these events threaten lives, livelihoods, and the fabric of communities. But amidst the adversity, a quiet revolution is unfolding. Initiatives driven by community engagement and capacity building are empowering Tanzanians to become architects of their resilience.

Empowering communities goes beyond mere information in the Iringa region. Farmers learn about drought-resistant crops, how to manage soil health, and how to adapt farming practices to changing weather patterns. This knowledge transfer builds long-term capacity, enabling communities to thrive even in the face of adversity.

Mobile technology is bridging the gap between isolated villages and vital resources. Farmers in the Manyara region receive real-time weather updates and market information through SMS, enabling them to make informed decisions about planting, harvesting, and selling crops. This empowers communities to adapt to changing conditions and build economic resilience.

Traditional disaster preparedness approaches often viewed communities as passive recipients of top-down solutions. Tanzania is redefining this narrative. In the Morogoro region, interactive workshops and radio campaigns engage communities in discussions about risk mapping, early warning systems, and evacuation procedures. This participatory approach fosters ownership and ensures solutions are tailored to specific needs and cultural contexts.

Integrating Natural Disaster Preparedness into National Policies

Enhanced risk assessment and early warning systems: By prioritizing data collection, analysis, and communication, national policies can ensure real-time risk assessments and timely warnings reach communities before disaster strikes. This allows for proactive evacuation, resource allocation, and mitigation measures.

Infrastructure resilience: Building codes and standards can be revised to incorporate disaster-resistant design principles, ensuring buildings, bridges, and critical Infrastructure can withstand the forces of nature. This reduces long-term recovery costs and protects essential services.

Community-based preparedness: National policies can empower local communities by promoting CBDRR initiatives, investing in training and education, and fostering collaboration between communities, governments, and NGOs. This bottom-up approach taps into local knowledge and builds long-term resilience.

Sustainable land management: Policies can incentivize practices like afforestation, soil conservation, and sustainable water management, reducing the impact of floods, droughts, and landslides. This protects communities, safeguards the environment, and promotes long-term ecological health.

Several countries have made strides in integrating disaster:

Japan: The “Basic Act on Disaster Control” establishes a comprehensive framework for risk reduction, preparedness, and response, with clear roles and responsibilities assigned to various government agencies and communities.

Cuba: The “Civil Defense System” integrates disaster preparedness into education, community organizations, and national Infrastructure, fostering a culture of risk awareness and proactive response.

India: The “National Disaster Management Act” mandates disaster risk assessments, preparedness plans, and community-based initiatives, ensuring a coordinated approach at all levels.

Overcoming these challenges requires the collaboration of local governments, NGOs, and international organizations to provide funding, training, and technical expertise. Sharing best practices through community forums and social media can accelerate learning and adaptation. Additionally, embracing innovation through mobile-based early warning systems and drone-based damage assessment can enhance effectiveness.

A digital personnel and Content Producer who has made a significant impact on media outlets with his exceptional writing skills. He is passionate about creating informative content and conducting research. Salvius obtained his degree in Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Augustine University of Tanzania, where he gained valuable experience through internships at Mwananchi Communication Newspaper. Salvius worked as a news editor and article reviewer at Scooper, also The south African website as the article writer, further refining his skills. Salvius's outstanding work in the field of digital journalism was recognized by Reuters which awarded him a digital journalism certificate. Salvius also is an environmental influence.

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