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United Republic of Tanzania - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Tanzania is located in Eastern Africa. Out of 25 globally known biodiversity hotspots, Tanzania harbours six: the Eastern Arc old Block-Mountain Forests; the coastal forests; the Great Lakes for Cichlid fishes; the marine coral reef ecosystems; the ecosystems of the alkaline Rift-Valley Lakes; and the grassland savannas for large mammals (e.g. the famous Serengeti National Park). About 43.7% of the total land area in Tanzania is somehow protected or conserved. Protected areas (including Game Controlled Areas) cover at least 28% of the total land area of mainland Tanzania and forest reserves around 15.7%. However, most of the wildlife is found outside existing protected areas thus making its survival to be in a race against development. Tanzania also possesses important populations of species that are globally endangered and threatened, including the black rhinoceros, wild dog, chimpanzee, African elephant, cheetah and wattled crane.

A significant amount of the wildlife area is mainly within the savannah grasslands characterized by dry miombo woodlands. Private-sector initiatives and performance in tree planting are gradually increasing. Natural forests found in Tanzania are of three main types, namely: miombo woodlands, montane forests and mangroves. Most of the montane forests possess high water catchment value, making it a main source of major rivers. Field stocks of Osyris lanceolata have greatly diminished and human pressure over this species is so massive that it threatens to wipe out the species unless urgent silvicultural treatments are carried out.

Tanzania is rich in wetland resources which comprise about 10% of the country’s land, including the great lake system, inland drainage systems, major river networks and deltaic mangroves. Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems; they are vital for electricity production, groundwater recharge, flood control, water retention and prevention of eutrophication of rivers and lakes, while supporting specific biota and traditional uses. Through tourism, wetlands contribute significantly to the country’s GDP. Until some decades ago, many of the wetlands were automatically protected by their remoteness, vastness and marginal usefulness for agriculture or other economic activities. However, as a result of various socioeconomic developments, rapid conversion of wetlands in the country has recently occurred which is contributing to their degradation. Besides the decline in the area covered by mangroves, there has also been a considerable decline in the density, height and canopy cover of mangroves.

Moreover, with 80% of the country’s population dependent on subsistence agriculture, competition (between livestock, wildlife and crop cultivation) for land resources has become rather common. One of most commonly practiced types of farming system is shifting cultivation (which contributes to environmental degradation). Poor small-scale farmers are completely dependent upon the harvest of uncultivated natural resources for energy and building materials.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The core problems are defined as overgrazing, resource overexploitation, bushfires and the population’s dependency on fuel wood. Other factors affecting biodiversity and conservation include: poverty, inadequate information on genetic resources, inadequate awareness of communities on biodiversity conservation, inadequate alternative energy sources, influx of refugees, introduction of alien species {e.g. Nile perch (Lates niloticus), water hyacinth (Eichhromia crassipes)}, some illegal fishing, cultural belief, degradation of water quality, deforestation, illegal hunting and logging, unplanned human settlement developments and livestock migration.

The major immediate causes of mangrove forest degradation are the over-harvesting of mangrove for firewood, charcoal-making, building poles and boat construction (which together account for about 46%), while the clear-cutting of mangrove for agriculture, solar salt production, road construction, urbanization and hotel construction account for another 30%. The main threats to the marine and coastal ecosystems include decline of marine and coastal living resources, destruction of coral reefs, coastal pollution and erosion. Much of the degradation of reef ecosystems has been caused by destructive fishing methods. The most destructive fishing practice is the use of dynamite which has been practiced in Tanzania for over 40 years. Moreover, dynamite fishing is contributing to a marked erosion of the coast as are activities such as coral and sand mining, mangrove cutting, seaweed farming, waste disposal and tourism. However, dynamite fishing has currently been reduced throughout the country, due to strengthened enforcement of regulations and public awareness. The use of small mesh seine nets to capture fish on the bottom and around reefs is almost as destructive as the use of dynamite. The nets are weighted and dragged through the reef flat or are pulled around coral reefs which unavoidably damages coral and other marine resources.

The biodiversity in the agricultural ecosystem is threatened by human activities, such as indiscriminate use of artificial insemination and cross-breeding to upgrade local breeds, which often is affected by poor management and diseases (trypanosomiasis, tick and vector-borne diseases, infectious diseases and internal parasites) that result in high mortality rates. Also, in the United Republic of Tanzania, there is indiscriminate disposal of domestic and industrial waste into water bodies which greatly contributes towards environmental pollution of surface and ground water sources. Also, if left to continue, the destruction of catchment areas, deforestation, poor agricultural practices, inappropriate use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals will result in water pollution or drying of water sources, with consequences such as drought and desertification.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Completed in 2001, Tanzania’s NBSAP was formulated to examine the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in three broad thematic areas (aquatic biodiversity, agro-biodiversity, terrestrial biodiversity). The NBSAP identifies several priority actions such as: implementation of policy and regulatory frameworks; enhancing regional and international cooperation; planning and coordination; education and information; research and development; ecosystems and species conservation and sustainable utilization; biodiversity monitoring and evaluation; capacity-building.

Examples of NBSAP implementation include: the establishment and operationalization of bylaws to safeguard conservation and the sustainable use of aquatic biodiversity; review and update of fisheries legislation; establishment of the Lake Victoria Fisheries Commission; development of the Regional Protocol for Eastern Africa Countries on Environment; establishment of the Lake Tanganyika Authority (Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Burundi); establishment of the Tanzania Biodiversity Information Facility; research activities underway at the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute, Institute of Marine Science, University of Dar es Salaam, Sokoine University of Agriculture; preparation of the State of the Coast Reports (2001, 2003, 2009) and the State of the Environment Report (2009); strengthening of capacity of local communities to administer and manage protected areas.

Tanzania is currently carrying out activities towards revising its NBSAP. Steps in the revision process will include the establishment of baseline information on biodiversity/ecosystems, identification of national priorities (targets) and the preparation of an Action Plan to address the causes of the challenges.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Tanzania has been practicing community-based natural resource management by encouraging participatory forestry and wildlife management through Wildlife Management Areas and Community Forest Reserves. The project promotes sharing management responsibilities and coordination among stakeholders. Despite the fact that the country has been implementing international environmental commitments, as well as national environmental policies, legislations and strategies, achievement of such efforts has been constrained by various factors, including inadequate environmental management awareness among key stakeholders, insufficient resources to adequately address environmental issues, as well as lack of efficient and effective alternative sources of energy to reduce dependency on forest resources as the main source of energy. Farmers and livestock keepers have continued to practice unsustainable agriculture and livestock-keeping practices, in spite of the fact that the Government has been insisting on sustainable use of the existing natural resources. Awareness-raising among the local communities regarding environmental management is of critical importance.

In 2006, the Government issued a notice to evict all grazing animals that invaded Ihefu wetland and the protected forests in Kagera region. Today, the regeneration of vegetation cover in Ihefu wetland has improved considerably and some migratory bird species and wild animals (e.g. hippos, buffaloes, ostriches, antelopes, zebra) which were found in the area in the past are returning. Tanzania has also undertaken measures to rehabilitate and restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species, such as the “Hifadhi Ardhi Shinyanga” (HASHI) project whose objective is to restore and conserve land through tree planting and indigenous tree conservation, and to focus on core problems.

There have been some efforts towards conservation of plant species in the country. Such efforts include: protection under law of some tree species (e.g. Mpingo and Mzambarao) which ensures that no one is allowed to harvest without a special permission from relevant authorities; establishment of Participatory Forest Management Programmes; development of a Strategy for Urgent Actions on Land Degradation and Water Catchment Conservation which outlines measures for forest protection through halting wild fires and rampant tree felling for firewood, charcoal, building materials and expansion of agricultural land; promoting the use of alternative sources of cooking energy by reducing taxes on kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas.

While attempts to protect aquatic biodiversity have been made through initiatives such as the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Programmes, there is evidence that threats to wetlands are still not adequately dealt with through implementation of current conservation measures. This is particularly true with designated sites for in situ conservation (Marine Parks and Reserves), temporal and spatial zones for which legislation remains weak. To address aquatic biodiversity, a National Integrated Coastal Management Strategy was prepared in 2003 which reduced pressure on coastal resources through alternative income-generating activities such as sea farming, paprika farming, fish farming and beekeeping.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Biodiversity issues have been integrated in the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction (NSGRP) and in the plans and budgets of the local Governments. This has promoted the linkages between biodiversity conservation and improved livelihoods for the communities. A number of public environmental management awareness programmes are being exposed to various stakeholders for the same purpose. This has to a great extent encouraged the local communities to participate in community-based environmental management activities, such as Joint Forest and Wildlife Management Aspects (WMAs). The capacity of local communities to participate in the protection of forests and wild animals through joint forest management and wildlife management areas has been strengthened. Local communities adjacent to the WMAs have already started to benefit from hunting and photographic tourism, as well as from sustainable projects in the protected areas (e.g. beekeeping projects), while those residing around the forest protected areas are benefiting from forest biodiversity resources. Also, implementation of environmentally-related legislations and district by-laws has increased coordination, focus and management of aquatic, terrestrial and agro-biodiversity resources across all stakeholders. For example, surveillance of illegal fishing practice, particularly dynamite fishing and use of illegal fishing gear, has been intensified, resulting in a reduction in illegal fishing practices.

Additional frameworks and laws relevant to implementation of the Convention include: Water Policy (2002), Environmental Management Act Plan (2004), Forest Act (2002), Fisheries Act (2003), Wildlife Conservation Act (2003).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Environmental management policies and legislations provide opportunities for the Tanzanian community to equally benefit from environmental resources and stipulate penalties for persons who do not comply with stated requirements. For example, the Strategy for Urgent Actions on Land Degradation and Water Catchment Conservation stipulates that any person who sets fire to forest areas and grasslands must be convict. Awards by the district leadership provide incentives for individuals and organizations to provide information on forest or rangeland fires, or to assist in extinguishing such fires. However, it also requires local area leaders to be held responsible for failing to prevent or control such fires in their areas of jurisdiction. They are also required to provide reports and information to the Vice President’s Office on incidences of wild fires and steps taken on a monthly basis.

By means of complying with and enforcing existing legislations, through its sectors and institutions and assisted by non-governmental organizations, the Government has been implementing a number of programmes and projects aimed at reducing the rate of environmental degradation, particularly biodiversity loss (e.g. establishment of forest surveillance units, strengthening of checkpoints). Also, surveillance in National Parks is a permanent undertaking.

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  • United Nations Environment Programme