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Integrated Water Resources Management in the Pangani River Basin

The Pangani River is a lifeline for biodiversity, people and industry in Tanzania. Home to about 2.6 million people at the Basin, the river must meet increasing and conflicting demands yet it is vulnerable to cycles of drought and flood which are exacerbated by climate change. Aiming to put policy into practice, the Pangani River Basin Management Project (PRBMP) brings together local government and community organisations to ensure water security in the Pangani River Basin for future generations

Country: Tanzania

Themes: water allocation / natural resources / modelling / climate change / community management

Authors: Katharine Cross and Maria Hannah Bass

The Pangani River Basin covers 43,650 square kilometres, largely in Tanzania. The river passes through the arid Masai Steppe, draining the Pare and Usambara Mountain Ranges before reaching the estuary and Indian Ocean at the coastal town of Pangani. 80% of the Basin’s population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods and the river provides support for irrigation, drinking water for people and livestock and ecosystem services that are fundamental for the region’s economic development. Several sectors compete for the available water resources, leaving the local population, government and economy vulnerable to climate variability and change.

The Pangani River Basin Management Project (PRBMP) takes a “learning through doing” approach to influence water resource policy across all levels of government. The project, based on Tanzania’s National Water Policy (2002), generates technical information and develops participatory forums to help strengthen Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in the Pangani Basin. Crucially, the project draws on local government authorities and community based organizations or water associations to work at different levels of basin management.

An integrated environmental flow assessment has helped the project to develop an understanding of the hydrology of the river basin, the nature and functioning of the river ecosystem and the links between the ecosystem and the social and economic values of the river’s resources. The University of Cape Town has also assisted with detailed climate change modeling which predicts that the seasonality of stream flows in the Pangani is likely to change due to hotter and drier winters.

Now scenarios looking to 2025 are being developed to determine how different water allocations could impact economic development, environmental health and social well-being in the basin. This information will give further insight into how stakeholders can make social, economic and environmental trade-offs for different water resource management under possible future climate conditions.

Working with communities, the PRBMP has also developed participatory forums (known as water user associations) so that information generated by the project can be used to make water allocation decisions at the local level. The aim is to empower communities and local government to manage conflicts over water resources between upstream and downstream, and between different users such as farmers and pastoralists.

Further tools have been used to assess community-level vulnerability, such as CRiSTAL Community-based Risk Screening Adaptation and Livelihood. CRiSTAL promotes integration of risk reduction and climate change adaptation into community-level projects. Now Basin offices throughout are putting together Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) plans to map a sustainable way forward.

Kikuletwa floods - IUCN/Sylvand Kamugisha

The project has been a leader in sharing information and experiences on water governance between basins in Tanzania and surrounding countries (Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda). Its outputs are being used to develop guidelines on the formation and operation of water user associations throughout Tanzania. Both through the valuable information it has produced and through raising awareness and capacity to empower stakeholders, the PRBMP is leading the way in developing water resources which support nature as well as people.

A “learning through doing” approach gives stakeholders a stronger sense of owning and using research or implementing policy in practice
Sharing information between countries can provide insights on new approaches; for example, in the formation and operation of water user associations
The outputs of integrated flows assessments are an important tool in allocating water to both people and nature, and can provide information in planning IWRM

The Pangani Basin Water Office is implementing the project with technical assistance from IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) and the local NGO PAMOJA. The project is financially supported by the IUCN Water & Nature Initiative, the Government of Tanzania, the European Commission through a grant from the EU-ACP Water Facility, and the Global Environment Facility through UNDP. Additional components complementing the project are being supported by the Climate Change and Development Project - a Pan-African project funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and implemented by IUCN and the Global Water Initiative (GWI)/Running Dry Project a partnership in 3 regions and 13 countries funded by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation.