Key Findings from the Kilimanjaro study, NCAP Tanzania project.

Submitted by Ben Smith | published 21st Feb 2012 | last updated 21st Feb 2012

Climate change projections for the Kilimanjaro region indicate a 25 to 60% increase in short rain precipitation and an increase of 20 to 45% precipitation of the long rains. Over the past thirty years, the Kilimanjaro region has experienced a general increase in temperature and decrease in precipitation levels.

It is not just mean changes in climatic systems, which will occur, but also increased variability in temperature and precipitation levels. The Kilimanjaro region has always contended with variability. Variability underlies the complex agroforestry system of the Chagga gardens where different tree crop combinations have different responses to climate stimuli. Off-farm sources of income, an echo of the Chagga trading system, serve to counteract variability.

The Kilimanjaro region faces significant risks from climate change, with a rise in mean temperature, and uncertain changes in precipitation levels. The changes are predicted to have both positive and negative effects on agriculture. Coffee and cotton production could be expanded whereas maize production could see a marked decrease. Adaptation should not only guard against adverse impacts but harness the potential benefits of climate change

Perceptions of Drought

Over 90% of the respondents stated they were aware of climate change. Out of these respondents nearly 80% mentioned shorter rain seasons, insufficient rainfall or both as an impact of climate change. This runs parallel to the meteorological data collected, which shows an overall decreasing amount of rainfall.

In 1983 to 1984, when there were two years of below average rainfall, was the drought that most age groups recalled. The older age groups reported in larger numbers that 1984 was the last drought primarily because younger respondents were not born yet or could not remember. The number of respondents who mentioned that drought had occurred in the last five years increaseddramatically. But this seems to be more an issue of food security rather than meteorology.

Adaptation strategies

The difference between adaptation and coping mechanisms is that coping is done through existing systems whereas adaptation occurs through the modification of the system. Small-holder farmers are frequently perceived as efficient, experienced and fundamentally adaptive. This is illustrated by the dynamic climatic conditions on Mount Kilimanjaro and the ability of the Chagga to transform the forested foot hills into inhabitable dwellings through years of cultivation, selection and cultured management of the land. Of course this does not imply that all small-holder farmers are sustainable land managers but by looking at the set of assets, skills and opportunities which they possess, much can be learnt about the adaptive capacity of an area.

The adaptation strategies of the Chaaga in response to both the exogenous and endogenous pressures can be split into three broad categories, extensification, intensification and diversification into off-farm activities.

The potential for extensification of the Chagga farming system is constrained by a number of factors. The upper limit of the homegarden system is the Kilimanjaro National Park. Although there is the presence of a “half-mile strip”, that is jointly controlled and managed by local and national authorities,  and the possibility for clearance and settlement on higher altitudes does not exist. At the lower reach of the system, described as savannah two decades ago is now almost entirely under cultivation. This is either in the form of lowland farms that are usually a mixture of maize, sunflower and beans, or an attempt to replicate the Chagga homegarden system on less watered
and fertile land further down the slopes. The former system has existed longer historically, and is based around crops that are perhaps more suited to this agro-ecological zone. The latter system, as demonstrated by the poor quality of banana plants and other crops when compared to higher altitudes, makes it unlikely that livelihoods can be sustained in these areas by on-farm activities alone. The lack of available land on the mountain, and the difficulty of accessing plots that may be a significant distance away from the homestead, suggests that opportunities for extending the system are severely constrained.

In the higher and middle zones of the Chagga homegardens, potential for intensification is limited by several factors, mainly the unfeasibility of mechanizing production on steep slopes and the difficulty of obtaining chemical inputs, either through lack of credit to purchase or removal of previously subsidized supply. Other intensification options include indigenous forms of terracing, utilization of improved seeds, increased application of manure and compost, cultivation of higher value agroforestry species, and higher yielding livestock varieties. Although potential for improvement exists in all these areas, the burden of risk in any intensification process is placed almost entirely on the farmer. When the inherently variable climate of Mount Kilimanjaro is factored in, the risk burden is probably unsustainable and outweighs the potential benefits.

Diversification into off-farm activities has been occurring for over a century on Mount Kilimanjaro, from migration to more fertile lands to provisioning caravans. More recently, the coffee revenue has provided the opportunity for a large number of people to be educated to a high level. In general, the more education a person receives, the greater their livelihood options. Levels of migration occur at the local, regional and national level. At the local level a farmer may work on his neighbor’s field to gain extra income. There may be regional migration to Moshi and Arusha as well as national migration, with remittances sent back to the household. Job opportunities related to provisioning of tourists ascending Mount Kilimanjaro are available but strong competition exists. This is demonstrated by the disparity in off-farm income between Rombo and Moshi-Rural. Transportation, and the level of physical infrastructure partially determines the prospects of generating off-farm income as it dictates access to more profitable agricultural markets and employment opportunities.