Photo: A young female maasai pastoralist who engage in climate-smart agriculture as a coping mechanism. Credit: Kizito Makoye Shigela - Photo: 2024

Tanzania: Livestock Sector Gets Climate-Smart Boost

By Kizito Makoye Shigela

IRINGA, Tanzania | 27 June 2024 (IDN) — Sitting under the shade of a baobab tree, Leinot Leboo watches his cattle as they drink from a dam. This scene starkly contrasts with the village’s troubled past as a hotspot for fistfights.

The 47-year-old herder at Ikolongo village, Iringa region in Tanzania’s southern highlands remembers those dark days.

“Angry farmers would kill our cattle if they strayed too close to their fields”

For years, this village has been marred by deadly clashes between farmers and pastoralists, driven by droughts that left them jostling for water. Decades of hostility, however, ended with a deceptively simple solution: candid conversation.

A grassroots initiative, led by the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF), brought farmers and pastoralists together. Through regular discussions, they designed appropriate land-use plans and resolved their disputes. This platform has mended their relationship into a model of cooperation and mutual respect.

“We now share the water and other resources equally,” says Leboo.

Tanzania has long grappled with conflicts over water scarcity, a struggle that has repeatedly pitted farmers against pastoralists. As weather patterns shift, the country’s water resources have become increasingly elusive. This scarcity forces pastoralists to drive their herds into farmlands and wildlife sanctuaries, thus triggering conflicts.

The wind of change

As climate change threatens traditional livelihoods, Tanzania is poised to turn these challenges into opportunities with a bold new plan. This strategy aims to significantly boost the economic contribution of the livestock sector through climate-smart strategies and innovations. Currently, the livestock sector is a cornerstone of rural livelihoods, contributing 8% to the GDP. However, climate change has increased its vulnerability, with prolonged droughts, erratic rainfall, and disease outbreaks posing serious threats.

In response, a new initiative, outlined in a report titled “Harnessing the Opportunity for a Climate-Smart and Competitive Livestock Sector in Tanzania,” proposes a $546 million public investment over the next five years. This strategy seeks to harness the potential of the livestock sector while addressing the impacts of climate change, enhancing productivity, and driving economic growth.

“The demand for livestock products has risen over the years as a result of urbanization, income growth, and changing lifestyles and diets. This has led to increased consumption which presents an important opportunity and risks for the sector,” said Nathan Belete, World Country Director. “There is a real opportunity to capitalize on the growing internal market while simultaneously exploring avenues for export expansion for sectoral growth and international competitiveness in a sustainable and climate-smart manner.”

Tanzania boasts approximately 36.6 million cattle, the second-largest population in Africa after Ethiopia. This sector offers income opportunities across its value chain, supporting 33% of the population, equivalent to 4.6 million households.

However, despite these strengths, analysts argue that Tanzania’s exports fall short of their potential. This underscores the challenges in fully harnessing the sector’s economic capacity to create jobs and alleviate poverty.

According to the report, Tanzania’s pasture-based livestock sector faces serious challenges due to climate change, including erratic rainfall and higher temperatures. Endemic livestock diseases further constrain the sector, impacting animal health, productivity, and market access. Structural and institutional challenges that intersect with climate risks hamper productivity and competitiveness, while the disproportionately low public funding for the sector hinders investment in essential research, extension services, and infrastructure.

“Despite the various challenges, the sector has strong growth potential and plays an important role for Tanzanian livelihoods,” said Ernest Ruzindaza, World Bank Senior Agricultural Economist, and co-author of the report. “The country’s strategic location with sea access and borders with seven countries makes it well suited to meet regional and global demand for livestock products. Its diverse indigenous livestock breeds cater to various consumer preferences domestically and internationally and support the export of livestock genetics and biotechnology products.”

A Pastoralist’s Perspective

Sajuni Juma, a 55-year-old pastoralist from Loliondo region, has witnessed the changes in weather patterns over the years. “When I was young, the rains were predictable, and the grass was plenty,” he recalls. “But now, we struggle to find pasture for our animals, and the rivers dry up too soon.”

Juma’s story is common among pastoralists across Tanzania. The traditional knowledge that guided them for generations is no longer sufficient. The new plan aims to bridge this gap by integrating modern scientific knowledge with traditional practices.

Climate-Smart Innovations

One of the key components of the plan is the adoption of climate-smart innovations. These include improved animal husbandry practices, drought-resistant fodder, and efficient water management systems. For instance, the introduction of resilient forage varieties, such as Brachiaria grass, has shown promising results in maintaining livestock health during dry spells, researchers say.

“Since we started using Brachiaria, our cattle are healthier, and milk production has increased,” says Rehema Kakwenu, a pastoralists from Dodoma “It’s a relief knowing that even during drought, we have a reliable food source for our animals.”

Water Management

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues for pastoralists. To address this, the plan emphasizes the construction of water harvesting structures and the rehabilitation of traditional water sources. The use of solar-powered boreholes has also been promoted, providing a sustainable and eco-friendly solution.

“Access to water has always been a struggle,” says Joseph Sangweni, a herder from Iringa. “With the new boreholes, we no longer have to walk long distances,”

Beyond resilience, the plan also focuses on improving market access for livestock products. By strengthening value chains and enhancing infrastructure, pastoralists can fetch better prices for their products. The establishment of cooperative societies and livestock markets closer to pastoral communities has already shown positive impacts.

“Before, we had to travel far to sell our livestock, and middlemen often took a big cut,” says Sangweni. “Now, with the cooperative, we have better bargaining power and can save more money.”

Policy Support and Training

The success of these initiatives hinges on strong policy support and continuous training. The government has rolled out extensive training programs to educate pastoralists on climate-smart practices and financial literacy.

“We need to be knowledgeable to adapt to these changes,” says Leboo. “The training has empowered us to take better care of our livestock and manage our finances effectively.”

Looking Ahead

The journey towards a climate-smart livestock sector is still in its early stages, but the signs are promising.

For Leboo, the future looks brighter. “We have faced many hardships, but we are strong and adaptable,” he says “With these new tools and knowledge, we can overcome any challenge.” [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: A young female Maasai pastoralist who engage in climate-smart agriculture as a coping mechanism. Credit: Kizito Makoye Shigela

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