Coping with El Nino in Tanzania: Differentiated local impacts and household-level responses

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Geosciences

Abstract

El Niño is a climatic phenomenon linked to warming of the ocean surface in the eastern Pacific that causes unusual weather patterns across many parts of the tropics and further afield. In Tanzania, El Niño events typically lead to heavier rain and flooding in northern parts of the country while southern parts experience less rainfall than normal. These environmental changes can have severe consequences for the livelihoods of local people, leading to crop failure and outbreaks of disease affecting humans and livestock and causing significant hardship and loss of life. "Natural" disasters such as these arise when society fails to respond adequately to changes in the environment, but the role human behaviour plays in shaping the outcomes of environmental change is complex and poorly understood.

The impacts of El Niño are most serious in poor rural parts of the world, where households decisions about how to respond are vital if they are to minimise the harm they suffer. These decisions commonly involve changes to their livelihood activities, selling property or increasing their use of natural resources and are often referred to as coping strategies. The set of possible coping strategies a household can use depends upon the resources they can call upon, and these can in turn be affected by their environment and the existence of relevant institutions. Together these three factors - household level differences and institutional and environmental context - are important determinants of local scale impacts of environmental shocks.

In this project, we examine how Wildlife Management Areas - a specific form of community-based natural resource management institution - affect the ability of local communities to respond to El Niño. In theory WMAs could lessen El Niño's impacts if they improve the condition or availability of natural resources at key times, or lessen conflict. However, they could also have a negative effect if they impose restrictions on natural resource uat reduce the set of coping strategies a household can call on.

We will investigate this interaction using survey data collected from more than 1,200 households across Tanzania, comparing El Niño's impacts in the differing environments of the north and the south and in areas with and without WMAs. In addition, we will examine whether impacts vary between different types of individuals or households within a community (e.g. men and women, richer and poorer households, households relying more or less on natural resources). Our results will provide valuable new insights into the reasons why some households and communities are more seriously affected by environmental change and help communities to become more resilient in the future.

Planned Impact

The project's intended beneficiaries include:

(1) Local people in the case study sites, many of whom suffer multi-dimensional poverty. WMAs affect more than one million people across rural Tanzania, and planned new WMAs would ultimately affect a further 1.5 million rural Tanzanians. The insights we produce for Tanzania will also be generalizable to the many comparable CBNRM initiatives that are underway in East Africa and beyond.

(2) The WMA Authorised Association Consortium, an umbrella organisation for the individual Authorised Associations of each WMA

(3) Implementing organizations: a wide range of international NGOs including WWF, AWF, Africare, and FZS are involved in the implementation of WMAs and will benefit from insights which make them more sustainable in the long term

(4) Researchers interested in the impacts of environmental change on household and community resilience and/or community-based natural resource management

(5) National and international policy-makers, practitioners and funding agencies focussing on development, livelihoods, conservation and resource management

At the local scale, the immediate primary beneficiaries of the research will be poor people belonging to the local communities within our study sites in both northern and southern Tanzania, who will benefit through the creation of robust, scientific evidence about the impacts of El Niño events on household level livelihoods, natural resource use and wellbeing and the ways in which local institutions facilitate or undermine coping strategies.

At the national scale, the Tanzanian Government and NGOs involved in the establishment and implementation of WMAs (e.g. WWF, AWF, FZS) are planned users of our research, who will benefit from detailed new understanding of how El Niño affects the lives of poor, rural Tanzanians. New insight into the beneficial or negative effects of WMAs on household and community responses to environmental change will point the way towards possible chang to their implementation that can improve outcomes. Our work will also be of direct relevance to the Authorised Associations Consortium (AAC), an umbrella organisation for the groups charged with the management of individual WMAs (known as Authorised Associations). Through the AAC the lessons learned from our focal sites can be shared with, and benefit, WMA communities throughout the country. Furthermore, there are also plans to expand the WMA model to new areas of the country, increasing the total number of WMAs from 19 at present to a possible 38. This would bring ~7% of Tanzania's land surface area under WMA management, affecting in excess of one million rural Tanzanians who stand to benefit from resulting improvements in WMA implementation which help to buffer communities against environmental shocks.

At the global scale, our work on WMAs will provide a case study for the broader question of how CBNRM affects community resilience in the face of El Nino events and other forms of environmental change. CBNRM is at the forefront of international conservation efforts and plays an important role in fulfilling the Convention on Biological Diversity's Aichi Target 11 commitment to increasing global coverage of protected areas which explicitly recognise the need for them to "be established and managed in close collaboration with, and through equitable processes that recognize and respect the rights of indigenous and local communities, and vulnerable populations." Our findings therefore have considerable potential to inform CBNRM policy and practice outside of Tanzania.
 
Description This project set out out to measure the local impacts of El Nino on poor people living in rural areas of northern and southern Tanzania; to determine how household coping strategies are facilitated or constrained by their institutional and environmental context; and to investigate the temporal dynamics of household livelihoods experiencing environmental change. Building on existing baseline data, collected within a before/after, control/impact study designed to evaluate the impacts of Wildlife Management Areas - a form of community-based natural resource management - we collected detailed data on demographics, trends in well being, shocks, coping strategies, livelihoods, assets and access to natural resources and conflict.

Key findings show:

(1) Virtually all households reporting having experienced environmental shocks to their livelihoods over the period of study, including unusually heavy rain and unusually low rain but not all are uniquely attributable to the El Nino event. The pattern of locally-reported shocks is complex, with approximately half of households reporting both periods of unusually heavy rain and periods of unusually low rain. In many areas however, traditional environmental shocks feature less prominently in local people's concerns than damage from wildlife.

(2) Households adopt a diverse set of coping strategies to manage the effects of environmental shocks, but the most common responses to both heavy and low rainfall events are modifications of existing strategies. Diversification and sale of assets are less common, but adopted by a minority of households except in our northern study areas, where sale of assets was an important response to low rainfall events. Few households report being able to rely on formal or informal aid.

(3) The set of coping strategies adopted by households show clear differentiation by the type of shock experienced, geographic area and household-level characteristics, but we found no clear evidence for either a positive or a negative effect of wildlife management areas on households' adoption of coping strategies

(4) On average, coping strategies were more likely to be adopted by households whose livelihoods were more dependent on livestock or had a higher dependency ratio, but less likely to be adopted by female-headed households. For unexpectedly heavy rain, those in leadership positions were also more likely to adopt coping strategies.
Exploitation Route Our findings provide new insights and evidence about the way in which large-scale environmental processes translate into local experiences of environmental shocks, how local people cope with these shocks, and how their actions are shaped and constrained by context. They can be used by local communities, the wildlife management authorised associations, national and international NGOs, and the Tanzanian government to devise better strategies for supporting the most vulnerable households to cope with environmental shocks.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description Assisting the Lawyer's Environmental Action Team (LEAT) in review of wildlife policies and laws
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description University of Dar Es Salaam 
Organisation University of Dar es Salaam
Country Tanzania, United Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are working closely with the University of Dar Es Salaam to understand the how community based Wildlife Management Areas mediate the effects of environmental change in Tanzania. Our research team contributed technical expertise in the analysis of quantitative household survey data and quasi-experimental study designs, and collaborated on the collection of field data and community engagement.
Collaborator Contribution The University of Dar Es Salaam has been closely involved in the development of the research from the outset. They have brought specific expertise in qualitative research methodologies and considerable insight about our southern study areas previous work with these communities. They have also contributed to the management and implementation of our field data collection and community engagement.
Impact This collaboration has supported the project inception workshop in Tanzania and the generation of new, high-quality field data. Engagement and dissemination activities are ongoing and co-authored publications are in preparation.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Community engagement and dissemination meetings, Northern study sites 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact As part of ongoing dissemination and engagement activities we have held community meetings in four villages in our northern study area - Sangaiwe, Ngolei, Kisangaji and Magugu - to allow community members and leaders to discuss our findings and offer critique, clarification or alternative explanations. Each meeting attracted between 10-25 people and have resulted in lively discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Community engagement and dissemination meetings, Southern study sites 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact As part of ongoing dissemination and engagement activities we have held community meetings in seven villages in our southern study area - Chengena, Darajimbili, Kilimasera, Kitanda, Kindamba, Mtengashari adn Naikesi - to allow community members and leaders to discuss our findings and offer critique, clarification or alternative explanations. Each meeting attracted between 10-50 people and the meetings resulted in lively discussion. We also held specific meetings with representatives of the District Councils in Namtumbo and Tunduru and with the leadership of Mbarang'andu WMA and Nalika-Tunduru WMA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description El Nino project page on the Edinburgh Conservation Science website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A dedicated project page was created on the Edinburgh Conservation Science website (the PI, Aidan Keane's research group website). This page will be updated over time and will act as a repository for information about the project and project outputs, as well as providing information to the public and other potential user groups.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL https://edinburghconservationscience.com/2016/04/30/coping-with-el-nino/
 
Description Focus group discussions in our northern study sites 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact As part of the project's community engagement activities we carried out focus group discussions in four villages in our northern study area: Kitendeni, Mwada/Ngolei, Oltukai and Gidemar. In each village we discussed environmental shocks, coping strategies and wellbeing separately with three groups: men, women and youths. Each group consisted of ~5-10 participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Focus group discussions in southern study sites 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact As part of the project's community engagement activities we carried out focus group discussions in four villages in our southern study area: Chengena, Kilimasera, Mbugulaji and Nangunguru. In each village we discussed environmental shocks, coping strategies and wellbeing separately with three groups: men, women and youths. Each group consisted of ~5-10 participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Key informant interviews in northern study sites 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We conducted key informant interviews with WMA and NGO representatives in each of Kitendeni, Gidemar, Mwada, Oltukai villages, Feb-March 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017