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frica is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of global warming as a result of its need for an adequate drinking water supply, its dependency on agriculture, and its lack of financial resources to offset these impacts. Records since 1900 show that Africa’s annual rainfall has been decreasing since 1968, possibly as a result of global warming due to man-made emissions. Droughts and floods are increasing pressure on fragile lands and decreasing the clean water supply, which has direct consequences for population health in Tanzania such as malnutrition and disease.

Certain steps can be taken by the government to offset these consequences, such as: offering agricultural workers alternative livlihoods during times of draught; educating the population in the dangers of drinking and bathing in contaminated water; working with international environmental organizations to reduce emissions; and strengthening the national healthcare system and making treatment affordable to all.

The Effect of Environmental Degradation on Population Health in Tanzania and Steps toward Improvement






The Effect of Environmental Degradation on Population Health in Tanzania and Steps toward Improvement
[Author’s Name]
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The Effect of Environmental Degradation on Population Health in Tanzania and Steps toward Improvement

Among the poorest farmers in Tanzania are the 200,000 villagers in the northeastern district of Handeni. Although information on the relative condition of Tanzania's districts has rarely been published in recent decades, there is little reason to suppose that Handeni's standing within the nation has improved since 1967, when its per capita Gross Domestic Product, which stood fifty-ninth among sixty-one districts, was only 41 percent of the national average. Most of Handeni's residents can neither purchase sufficient food and clothing nor accumulate reserves of cash, grain, and livestock in anticipation of the droughts that occur frequently. Only a handful of peasants in each village, moreover, are able to afford cattle and the drugs which protect livestock from insect-borne infections. Their inability to accumulate money and other resources leads both to annual preharvest hunger, which leaves many farmers ill and gaunt, and to periodic famine.

Human impacts on deforestation, soil erosion, overgrazing, and degradation of water resources and loss of biodiversity have all resulted into land degradation. Poor agricultural practices such as shifting cultivation, lack of crop rotation practices, lack of agricultural technology and land husbandry techniques exacerbate the problem. Liviga (1999), contends that the effects of overstocking, which are localized, give rise to serious degradation in places such as Shinyanga and Mbulu where livestock units have exceeded the carrying capacity. This situation is seen as a good indicator of each of capacity for the decentralized institutions at the local level to enforce laws and instruments which are meant to ensure sound environmental management. []

Severe transport difficulties were a contributing cause of scarcity. As fuel shortages forced trucks and buses off deteriorating roads, Handeni residents became used to making thirty-mile journeys by foot (while the more intrepid traveled one hundred miles or more on homemade wooden bicycles) and watched food supplies dwindle in markets, state-run stores, and the district's few failing private shops. Distribution was not the principal problem, however, for even when food was available many farmers could not afford to buy it, just as they could no purchase other basic goods and services such as school uniforms and primary health care. [Allen Isaacman 2006] Government policies that prevented farmers from earning money were primarily responsible for scarcity, because stipulations that crops be sold at low official prices to state buying agencies and a ban on the  hiring of wage labor prevented farmers from raising money through crop marketing and wage-paying jobs. Many farming households depended, therefore, on remittances from relatives working outside the district.  [S. A. Hathout and S. Sumra, 2006]

Poverty, hunger, and restrictive government policies were nothing new in the 1980s, however. All have prevailed in Handeni since the early colonial period, and all have had greater impact on the district than the transition from colonial rule to national independence. Indeed, even the boldest initiative of the post-colonial government, the resettlement of the farming population in Ujamaa villages during the 1970s, did not fundamentally alter the conditions and administrative practices that had developed under colonial rule, because Ujamaa villagization was inspired by the same constricted perceptions of economic development and peasant economy, and accompanied by the same narrowly-conceived policy options, as those that had predominated under German and British colonial administrations. Like its colonial predecessors, the Tanzanian state during the Ujamaa period wavered between compulsory cultivation of marketable crops and restrictions on trade. By turns it required the growing of designated cash crops, food crops, and both types of crops simultaneously, as it shifted between policy alternatives that reflected two other legacies of colonial rule: pessimism about the prospects for development in Handeni's environment and the conviction that all villages and households must produce enough food to meet their own needs. [Suleman Alarakhia Sumra, 2006]

In Tanzania, environmental degradation of coastal areas is a serious problem, which has escalated in the last 10 years, such that it has now given rise to serious concern. Tanzania’s coastline stretches 800 km along the Indian Ocean, which like other developing countries is experiencing rapid change. The following examples show the dimension of the problem. Dar es Salaam used to have very clean and attractive beaches as well as commendable tourist beach hotels. But some, if not most of them, are now in danger of falling down because of coastline erosion. Waves reach the beaches at a terrific speed and as a result erosion is inevitable. This has become possible because of, among other reasons, dynamite fishing, which has destroyed the coral reefs which used to buffer the hotels. Thus, dynamite fishing has not only destroyed life in the sea, but has given the sea a free ticket to destroy the beaches. The Hotel Africana was swallowed by the waters a few years ago, others which might also face extinction in the coming few years include Bahari Beach Hotel, Kunduchi Beach Hotel, Silver Sands Hotel and White Sands Hotel, which was built just a few years back. In efforts to fight erosion, hotel owners have constructed stone and concrete barriers on beaches, but such measures have not stopped the erosion. Apart from that, the construction of these structures has made these beaches ugly and unsuitable for beach-goers including tourists. [Revocatus Makaranga, 2007]

Tanzanian government officials were as doubtful about the likelihood of material improvement in the Handeni environment as the former British administrator who, visiting the district in the early 1970s after a fourteen-year absence, was impressed anew by "the physical environment [which] still exercises a dominating influence.... Rainfall is still erratic, topography hinders road maintenance, the scattered nature of Handeni settlements impedes communication." Because they regarded sparse precipitation, poor soils, and tsetse flies as almost insurmountable obstacles, and assumed that districts and villages should be self-sufficient (just as colonial administrators had believed that "tribes" ought to remain essentially self-enclosed units), Tanzanian officials believed that farmers could survive in Handeni's environment only by producing enough food to satisfy their own needs. A development strategist reformulated this view in 1983 by arguing that because "malnutrition and seasonal or periodical hunger characterize the life of the peasant in Handeni," self-sufficiency is the sine qua non of progress: in Handeni "with its low density of population and the large distances between settlements, each village has to become as much as possible self-reliant in food." More recently, another study of Handeni took the same position in contending that colonial and post-colonial developments "led to the loss of the selfsufficiency that was the feature of the pre-capitalist mode of production." [Tanzania, Tanga Region, Regional Planning Office 1999]

The accounts of Tanzanian residents complement written sources in showing that political authority determined the demographic and environmental impact of precolonial and colonial famine in Uzigua. In late precolonial society, political leaders who served as patrons provided farmers with food reserves, seed, arable land and livestock, thus enabling the majority of farmers to remain in their homes, work the land, and maintain a healthy disease environment despite periodic drought. Hence environmental stability depended on two interwoven processes: accumulation by patrons who employed dependent labor and redistribution to the clients who persuaded patrons to fulfill their responsibilities. In the precolonial politics of environmental control, therefore, the primary source of tension was the restraint imposed on individual ambition by norms of mutual obligation.

Allen Isaacman, "Peasants and Rural Social Protest in Africa", pp. 14-15.
Frederick Cooper, "Peasants, Capitalists and Historians: A Review Article", p. 302
Major Environmental Problems in Tanzania, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, November 20, 2007
S. A. Hathout and S. Sumra, "Rainfall and Soil Suitability Index for Maize Cropping in Handeni District", and Tanzania, Ministry of Water, Energy and Minerals, Tanga Water Master Plan, vol. 4., Soils.
Sender and Smith, Poverty, Class and Gendor, pp. 119, 124ff, 169, 172).
Suleman Alarakhia Sumra, Primary Education and Transition to Socialism in Rural Tanzania: A Case Study of an Ujamaa Village in Mswaki, Handeni District, p. 317.
Tanzania, Tanga Region, Regional Planning Office, "Handeni District Development Strategy: First Draft," mimeographed, pp. 22 and 34.
Revocatus Makaranga, 2007; Sustainable Coastal Development: Communication and Education Issues In Tanzania, ‘Mtanzania’ Newspaper, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania CSI info 7, 2007



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