Crisis in the wetlands: Combined stresses in a changing climate – Experience from Tanzania
Climate variability and change has led to multifaceted stresses and compounded socio-environmental problems. Using the example of Simiyu wetlands in Tanzania, this article analyses the complexity and inter-connectedness of climate-related mal-adaptation and coping strategies and their implications. Various study methods were used, including consultative meetings, stakeholders workshops, a literature review, household questionnaires and land use cover and change analysis. Reactive coping and adaptation strategies have resulted in increased risks to livelihoods and the environment. Responses to climate variability and change in the study are complex, leading to amplified chain reactions. Extreme weather events, particularly droughts, have led people and herds of livestock to migrate into the wetlands. Environmental degradation is alarming. More than 42 per cent of natural vegetation in the study area has been wiped out in a span of 15 years. As a result, poor people whose livelihoods derive from the wetlands have suffered. The present institutional arrangements have failed to integrate the community's coping and adaptation strategies into wetlands management. Emerging conflicts among wetland users are intensifying environmental and community risks. This article emphasizes that, in a changing climate, wetlands need to be managed through flexible institutional and management frameworks that cross sectoral boundaries and involve all affected parties.