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Climate change in Tanzania – addressing vulnerable groups in adaptation planning

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Jouni Paavola
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Climate change is predicted to have significant impacts on environmental resources in Tanzania. Food production, water and health will all be affected. Certain groups will be more vulnerable to these impacts than others. National adaptation plans and policies will need to prioritise the needs of these groups.Many Tanzanians depend on the natural environment for their subsistence
and income, such as forests which provide timber, non-timber forest products
and charcoal. These resources may be impacted by climate change. Furthermore, low
levels of health, nutrition, education and skills combine with low incomes and limited
access to markets and technological alternatives to make poor people vulnerable
to climate change.
Poor people in rural areas are already more vulnerable than their urban
counterparts to shocks such as droughts, and are likely to be more affected by
climate change. Women, children and pastoralists are also particularly at risk.
The Strategic Assessment of Equity and Justice in Adaptation to Climate
Change, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University
of East Anglia in the UK, looked at what would help to make national adaptation
plans and policies fair. Its key conclusion is that a fair process of adapting
to climate change needs to prioritise groups that are particularly vulnerable.
The measures to help nations and people adapt to climate change are
complex. Many overlapping factors affect the impacts change will have, as well
as how people can adapt to them. In Tanzania, there are several predicted impacts:
Increased droughts and flooding will decrease food
production and access to clean water, and impair health.
People will have to rely on coping mechanisms because
of climate change impacts. For example, the use of forest resources for income may
increase, pastoralists may migrate further and break up their households, and
more children may be sent to work.
These coping mechanisms will be used more as climate
variability increases. This will have environmental impacts, such as deforestation
and soil erosion, but will also have social impacts, such as children missing
out on education.
Climate change will increase the pressure on vulnerable groups in
Tanzania. Women, children, pastoralists and rural dwellers will find their
coping mechanisms stretched to the limit. Nutrition, health, education and the
environment can suffer as a result. Fair adaptation means addressing the causes
of vulnerability, not just its symptoms:
The environmental resources that vulnerable people
rely on must be maintained. The government of Tanzania
does not have the capacity to manage resources such as water and forests centrally.
It should involve local people, civil society groups and local government in co-managing
environmental resources.
To improve incomes and decrease the risks associated
with subsistence living, people need better access to markets. This requires
better communications and transport, as well as improved, corruption-free
institutions.
Improved health and education must support these other
measures if vulnerable groups are to have a fair chance at participating in
markets and adapting to climate change.