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Eng. Raphael L. Daluti
Irrigation and Technical Services Division
Tanzania National Committee for Irrigation and Drainage (TANCID)
Ministry of Agriculture
Food Security and Cooperatives
P.O. Box 9192
Dar es Salaam

Tel : +255 22 286 3226, +255 22 286 5426
Mob : +255 784 328 31, +255 715 328 31
Fax : +255 22 286 3226
Email : dalutirl@yahoo.com


Hon. Eng. C.K. Chiza (MP)
Deputy Minister
Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives
Tanzania National Committee for Irrigation and Drainage (TANCID)
Kilimo I Hse, Temeke
Mandela Highway
P.O. Box 9192, Dar Es Salaam
The United Republic of Tanzania

Tel : +255 022 286 2066, +0255 022 286 2071
Mob : +0255 754 759 117
Email : nw-kilimo@kilimo.go.tz, christopher3tz@yahoo.com

Links of Interest
ICID Strategy for Implementing Sector Vision - Water for Food and Rural Development and Country Position Papers, 2000

Directory Contents..



Geography, climate and population


The United Republic of Tanzania consists of the mainland and Zanzibar, which is made up of the islands Unguja and Pemba. Its total area is 945 090 km2. The country is bordered in the north by Kenya and Uganda, in the east by the Indian Ocean, in the south by Mozambique and in the west by Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. The Indian Ocean coast is some 1 300 km long, while in the northwest there is 1 420 km of shoreline to Lake Victoria, in the central west one of 650 km to Lake Tanganyika and in the southwest one of 305 km to Lake Malawi.


Land cover is dominated by woodland, grassland and bushland, which account for about 80% of the total land area. Cultivable area is estimated to be 40 million ha, or 42% of the total land area. In 2002, 13% of the cultivable area was actually cultivated, comprising 4 million ha of arable land and 1.1 million ha under permanent crops.


The climate varies from tropical along the coast to temperate in the highlands. There are two types of seasonal rainfall distribution:

  • The unimodal type, where rainfall is usually from October/November to April, found in the central, southern and southwestern highlands
  • The bimodal type, comprising two seasons: the short rains (Vuli) fall from October to December, while the long rains (Masika) fall from March to June. This type occurs in the coastal belt, the northeastern highlands and the Lake Victoria Basin

The total population is 37.7 million (2004), of which 63% is rural. The population density is 40 inhabitants / km2. The vast majority of the population lives inland, far away from the coastline. Poverty is concentrated in the rural areas; however, urban poverty has also grown along with rapid urbanization. The national poverty rate is about 36%. In 2002, 92% of the urban and 62% of the rural population were using improved drinking water sources.


Economy, agriculture and food security


The country's GDP was US$ 9.9 billion in 2003, and the value added in agriculture was 43.4% of GDP. The agricultural sector continues to lead economic growth, in spite of the recent emergence of new high-growth sectors of mining and tourism, and it continues to have the highest impact on the levels of overall economic growth. Agriculture provides work for 14.7 million people, or 79% of the total economically active population, and 54% of agricultural workers are female. Small-scale subsistence farmers comprise more than 90% of the farming population, with medium- and large-scale farmers accounting for the rest.


Main food crops grown are maize, sorghum, millet, paddy, wheat, sweet potato, cassava, pulses and bananas. Maize is the dominant crop with a planted area of over 1.5 million ha during recent years, followed by paddy with more than 0.5 million ha over recent years. The main agricultural products exported by Tanzania are green coffee, cashew nuts and tobacco that, in 2001, represented about 41% of all agricultural exports. The main agricultural products imported are wheat and palm oil.


In recent years, the country is not self-sufficient for cereals, but it is self-sufficient in non-cereals at a national level.


Water resources and use


Tanzania's total renewable water resources amount to 93 km3/yr, of which 84 km3/yr are internally produced and 9 km3/yr are the accounted flow of the Ruvuma River, which flows on the border between Tanzania and Mozambique. Renewable groundwater resources are estimated at 30 km3/yr, of which all but 4 km3/yr are considered to be overlap between surface water and groundwater. About 5.7% of Tanzania's total land area is covered by three lakes, which also form the border to neighboring countries.


In the 1970s, 21 small-scale earthfill-type dams were constructed mainly on seasonal rivers in Tabora region for irrigation and domestic supply purposes. All except seven of them suffer from serious sedimentation. In addition to these dams, many smaller dams exist over the whole land, called Charco dams, for use for irrigation, domestic and livestock purposes. In general, dam construction is largely restricted by hydrological and topographic conditions.


Water use


Total water withdrawal in mainland Tanzania was estimated for the year 2002 to be 5 142 million m3. Agriculture consumes the largest share with 4 624 million m3 (almost 90% of total) of which 4 417 million m3 for irrigation and 207 million m3 for livestock, while the domestic sector uses 493 million m3. Total water withdrawal of the domestic sector and irrigation in Zanzibar is estimated to be about 42 million m3. Of this, withdrawal on Unguja Island is 33 million m3 and on Pemba Island it is 9 million m3. Industry in Tanzania consumes an estimated 25 million m3.


Irrigation and drainage development


Evolution of irrigation development


Irrigation potential is estimated by the 2002 Study on the National Irrigation Master Plan (NIMP) to be 2.1 million ha in mainland Tanzania, while for Zanzibar it is estimated to be 8 521 ha. The criteria for this estimate are water resources potential, land resources potential and socio-economic potential.


Irrigation in the form of traditional irrigation schemes goes back hundreds of years in the country. Those schemes have however become inadequate due to increase in population, wear and tear, catchment degradation etc.


Most of the irrigated areas are under surface irrigation, mostly used by smallholders. Water distribution is usually by lined and unlined canals, and furrows and basins are widely used. Sprinkler irrigation is used by few large-scale commercial farmers. It is not common amongst smallholders. Drip irrigation is rarely used. Almost all irrigation water on the mainland is surface water, and groundwater is utilized on only 0.2% of all irrigated areas.


Of the 1 428 irrigation schemes inventoried by the NIMP, 1 328 were smallholder schemes, 85 private schemes and 15 government-managed schemes. About 3% of the total area is covered by small schemes with an area of less than 50 ha each, while 58% is covered by schemes of over 500 ha each.


Gravity-fed irrigation schemes account for over 99% of the irrigated area, while the rest uses pumps for water abstraction.


Role of irrigation in agricultural production, economy and society


The main irrigated crops are paddy rice and maize, accounting for about 48% and 31% of the irrigated areas in 2002. Other irrigated crops account for 44% of the irrigated areas and are beans, vegetables including onion, tomato and leaf vegetables, bananas and cotton. From the above figures, the cropping intensity is 123%. Private irrigation schemes produce cash crops such as tea, coffee, cashew and sugarcane.


Water management and policies


Water management


The responsibility for managing the water resources of the country lies with Ministry of Water and Livestock Development (MWLD). Water resources management involves water resources development, water allocation, pollution control and environmental protection. Before the 1990s water was managed by MWLD on the basis of administrative regions. Since the early 1990s the emphasis has changed to managing water resources on the basis of river basins. To strengthen river basin management, MWLD was implementing the river basin management component of the River Basin Management and Smallholder Irrigation Improvement Project (RBMSIIP) in the Rufiji and Pangani basins. The project, the implementation of which began in December 1996, was intended to deal effectively with water management problems and improve the efficiency of smallholder irrigation.


Irrigators' Associations (IAs), or Irrigators' Groups (IGs), have been formed from the early 1990s onwards, for example in the Pangani basin. They are expected to become a main actor in the irrigation sector, representing part of the private sector. The rights and obligations of these groups cannot always be clearly and uniformly defined under the present legal framework. A new legal framework for the IGs seems to be very important and necessary.




The average share of irrigation development for the five years 1998/99-2002/3 was 1.46% the Government's Development Expenditure.




The Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS), finalized in 2001, focuses on the period 2002-2007 and proposes to apply the principles of integrated soil and water management, emphasizing the use of low-cost approaches by smallholders and to promote and support small-scale irrigation.


In July 2002, the Government issued the National Water Policy, whose main goals are to establish a comprehensive framework for sustainable development and management of water resources and for participatory agreements on the allocation of water use. The Government pulls out of executive functions, i.e. the actual delivery of the services, which are taken over by the LGAs. Central statements of the Policy are that "water will be subject to social, economic and environmental criteria" and that "every water use permit shall be issued for a specific duration". This could mean that irrigation might have to compete with industrial sectors and that the continuous irrigation water supply might not be guaranteed.


Perspectives for agricultural water management


The NIMP (2002) proposes an irrigation development programme that includes only smallholder schemes and is to be implemented by 2017. The whole programme plans to have a total of 405 421 ha developed.


A major challenge in order to improve the irrigation sector is to overcome the following problems in irrigation schemes, as identified by the NIMP (2002) :

  • Lack of appropriate participatory approaches
  • Unsound logical structure of projects and weak linkage between purpose and output of projects
  • Misunderstanding of the concept of "simple and low-cost technology", taken to mean "easy and no concern of technical know-how and understanding"
  • Lack of feedback system on the lessons learnt through actual experience in implementation of irrigation projects
  • Inadequate guidelines and manuals in planning, design and construction supervision, and lack of proper application of them
  • Need of effective support system to WUAs' (IGs') activities
  • Lack of human resources and active participation of Local Government Authorities in irrigation development

The public sector will gradually but increasingly limit its role to financing the provision of collective goods and services, including land and water resource utilization and management. Mechanisms will be developed for private and public sector collaboration in the delivery of effective support services.


Floodplains, mainly used for agriculture and notably rice cultivation, are a conspicuous future in the extensive Maasai and Wembere Steppe, Usangu Plains and the Rukwa and middle Malagarasi River basins. They are the most promising areas for the introduction of the pedal pump for lifting up water for irrigation and fishing farming. Experience has shown that the use of pedal pumps allows the farmers to irrigate vegetable gardens, the benefits of which are twofold: i) as an off-farm income generating activity; ii) vegetables could add up nutritional value to the village community.


Tanzania's unexploited natural resource base of 40 million ha of cultivable land, abundant sources of water and several agro-ecological zones, permits virtually unlimited expansion and diversification in crop production, and in particular the development of irrigated agriculture. Such development, especially for rice and cash crop production, could contribute importantly to stabilize agricultural production and increase income and is, according to the above, not likely to be constrained by the supply of natural resources in the country. However, access to these natural resources may be a binding constraint in some cases.


Tanzania and ICID


Tanzania joined ICID in 2000, and has been actively associated with ICID activities at national as well as international level. At present Eng. Mbogo Futakamba is the Secretary General and Prof. F.L. Mwanuzi is the Chairman of Tanzanian National Committee of ICID (TANCID).


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