Climate Change and Tanzania

Tanzania’s climate ranges from tropical to temperate, with altitudinal variation being responsible for the extremes.

What does climate change actually mean for Tanzania?

Temperature: The most detailed analysis has been carried out by the OECD using separate modals (MAGICC / SCENGEN). All the projections expect a temperature rise of 2.2º C by 2100, with higher increases (2.6ºC) in June, July and August. According to meteorological data, monthly temperatures over the last thirty years are already showing an upward trend (NAPA, 2007)

The 2007 Tanzania’s National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) estimates that projected temperature and rainfall changes could decrease the average annual maize yield by 33%. Maize is a staple crop in Tanznia.

Rainfall: The average precipitation is 1,042mm and temperatures range between 17C – 27 C. Although localised rainfall is complex, the country has two distinct regimes: 1) Bi-modal in northern Tanzania, with long rains between March – May (Masika) and short rains between October – December (Vuli); and 2) a single rainfall between November – April in the south of the country.

Some areas of northern Tanzania will get wetter (between 5% - 45% wetter), whilst others, especially in the south will experience severe reductions in rainfall (up to 10%). This change in rainfall would make the central, western and southern part of the country unsustainable for agricultural production (Development and Climate Change in Tanzania: Focus on Mount Kilimanjaro). NAPA (2007) reports that the most recent and common rainfall trend in Tanzania is “a greater variability in cycles.”

Biodiversity: NAPA (2007) predicts that changing climatic patterns in Tanzania, such as increased temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns, will have strong impacts on wildlife in the country. Species migratory patterns will likely change, pests and diseases may increase, and strain for resources will become more prominent. Already, 14 species of dry country birds have responded to a drying climate and have expanded their range.

Health: Malaria, which is responsible for the most deaths in Tanzania, is already being observed in places where its prevalence is traditionally very low. The 2007 NAPA reports, “As a result of change in temperature and rainfall regimes, malaria epidemic has been observed to extend to some parts of Tanga, Kilimanjaro and Arusha highlands (non-traditional malaria areas) where the disease was not prevalent. As more areas receive more rains, it will in turn attract more across the country.”


Kilimanjaro also has an exceptionally varied ecosystem with a range of fauna, mammals and flora; as of 2005, 22% of Tanzania’s vascular plants were in the Kilimanjaro vicinity, and 140 mammalian species reside there along with 179 highland bird species and 88 species of reptiles. All of these species will be at risk due to the changing landscape and distribution pattern which have shifted due to weather patterns, decreased rainfall and population growth.

With a shift to a generally drier climate, and a greater human impact, fire has and will continue to play a huge role in promoting a yet drier overall environment. Over the last 100 years, Kilimanjaro has lost 300 km² of high altitude forest and the upper closed forest was lowered by 900m (Hemp, 2006). Over the last 30 years, Kilimanjaro has lost 10% of its forest cover due to fire (OECD, 2005).