Tanzania: October cyclical drought should not catch government unaware

That time of year is upon us again in Tanzania. Pastoralists are asking will the rains come, or not? With many experts now claiming that the cyclical pattern of drought in east Africa is no longer accidental,  MRG Kampala office intern Maud Tournier looks at the impact of the drought that set in in mid-October, and how minorities and indigenous peoples are coping.

Whenever disasters related to climate change hit, minorities and indigenous people, usually among the most vulnerable, are often hit the hardest.

Even worse when these disasters are recurrent, because as communities regain their sense of self and begin to rebuild their lives, the same disaster is in the corner to strike again.

The Centre for Hazards and Risk Research at Columbia University states that in Tanzania, droughts are the riskiest of natural disasters affecting communities.

With the onset of severe droughts in pastoralists’ communities in Loliondo, Ngorongo district, since mid-October, the livelihoods of communities have been affected.

According to Melau Alais, the Legal Officer of Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC), Mondorosi and Soitsambu villages have already suffered from the drought and its consequences for 3 consecutive years, and the situation is worsening, with longer and more intense dry seasons.

Melau explains that since the way of life of pastoralists is centred on cattle, anything that threatens a cow disrupts a livelihood system.

Water scarcity, therefore, disrupts the natural asset that is a cow, strongly affects pastoralists’ morale and increases vulnerability to malnutrition and diseases.

‘They have to migrate to lead the livestock further everyday to find pasture and water. Along the way animals fall sick from exhaustion and die,’ Melau narrates, adding, ‘They walk an average of 20km to find water points. Children lose valuable school time to help their parents to drive cattle to water points.’

PWC has set up a Solidarity Boma (livestock) Fund to support the villages but the organization is equally financially constrained.

The burden of water collection relies on a woman. Pastoralist women wake up in the small hours and trek long distances with young girls, while men and boys drive the cattle.

According to Melau, 'There is a real division of power in pastoralist society. Mothers prioritize girls’ education, but in times of drought, pastoralist children have to abandon school and help with house chores.'

So far, no death has been reported, but if the situation is not addressed early on, it can only get worse. Both the government and local authorities are aware of the situation, but no action has been taken.

Some activists attribute this reluctance from the government as a sign to show how ‘politically repressive and hostile’ the government is towards pastoralists.

As water is for the moment the main focus of pastoralist communities, they may need training on climate change mitigation and rainfall harvest, in order to proactively confront cyclical drought.

Photo: Maasai women of Mondorosi village. MRG/Carla Clarke

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Date: 08/11/2013




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