Igunga, a district in the Tabora region, is one of the driest regions in Tanzania. Most of its people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and livestock for food and income. Over the last few years they have increasingly been affected by climate change associated problems. Increased vulnerability has led to a big commitment for action.
Agriculture in Igunga suffers from environmental problems, particularly soil degradation, deforestation and desertification. Recent droughts have increased these effects especially on agriculture in marginal areas. Crop production is affected by erratic and insufficient rainfall and suffers from pests and diseases. Pastures for livestock are available in the rainy season, but scarce during dry periods, leading to overgrazing. During droughts, there are frequent clashes between pastoralists and arable farmers, who are competing for scarce land and water.
Harmful coping strategies
Without sustainable alternatives, people resort to more harmful coping strategies like tree cutting and overgrazing. This amplifies the effects, and increasingly also the causes of climate change. This vicious circle must be broken. Many people have poor farming skills and practices. They have limited access to credit, inputs and services to make investments. The main problems, related to unsustainable natural resource management, are in the field of:
1. Water management: suboptimal use of existing water for domestic and agricultural use including livestock.
2. Forest management: uncontrolled logging, soil erosion and loss of water sources.
3. Energy: over-dependence on and inefficient use of firewood.
Resilience of the people in Igunga is reduced by poverty, food insecurity, limited organizational capacities, a high prevalence of HIV/ Aids and the marginalization of women. Although they provide a substantial part of agricultural labor, women have limited control over decisions and traditionally they own a small share of the household assets. Climate change particularly affects women, as they are usually involved in activities such as water and firewood collection and food production.
There’s a strong mutual relation between vulnerability to climate change and unsustainable natural resource management, low agricultural production and unfavorable socio-economic conditions. The result is a negative spiral of increasing loss of natural resources. This affects crucial livelihood activities: crop and livestock production, water and firewood collection, agro-forestry and fishery.
This vicious circle must be broken. The prime need of people in Igunga is to cope with the effects of climate change while increasing agricultural productivity to improve their food security and income.
They express a need for technical support, new skills and more knowledge, on issues such as climate resilient production techniques, organic pests and weed control and animal diseases. Local authorities, including village water and natural resource management committees, local institutions, district management and policymakers, need more knowledge and more organizational capacity to increase climate change resilience and reduce poverty. Read here how the Igunga Eco-village works.