The following is a guest post written by Lisa Hayden, a blogger and writer for The Nature Conservancy. The post originally appeared in Planet Change.
What does climate change mean for Africa?
In Western Tanzania, people are noticing many changes: Temperatures are hotter. Fish catches in Lake Tanganyika, containing 17 percent of the world’s freshwater, are down. And some rivers that used to flow year-round are now periodically dry.
In a remote, roadless region along the shores of Lake Tanganyika and nearby highlands, The Nature Conservancy is working with communities to understand how climate change will continue to affect their environment and how they can use nature-based adaptation strategies to prepare for and respond to these changes.
To learn more about how the planet is changing in Tanzania, watch the video above (filmed by Planet Change’s Paul Mackie). Elizabeth Gray, an ecologist and Global Climate Change Fellow for the Conservancy’s Africa program, took time out during the recent United Nations climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, to explain climate adaptation work underway in Tanzania.
The Conservancy used data from Climate Wizard, an online tool for mapping historic and projected climate patterns anywhere on Earth, to study temperature and rainfall, as well as aridity and flooding patterns, for the project region on the eastern side of Lake Tanganyika, ranging from north of Gombe Stream National Park to south of the Mahale Mountains National Park.
The Climate Wizard study found that Tanzania has been gradually warming across all seasons since the 1950s, and by mid-century, annual temperatures are projected to increase 1.3 to 2.2°C. In the next 50 and 100 years, Western Tanzania is likely to be warmer and more arid, despite increased rainfall in particular seasons.
What can be done in the face of these rapid changes to lands and waters, when local people are already eking out a living from subsistence farming and fishing?
The Conservancy has been bringing together people who have worked with local communities for decades and agencies with a long history in the region to determine the best practices on-the-ground for managing the linked web of agriculture, fisheries, forests, and wildlife. Strategies include changing land and water management practices, considering alternative crops and protecting important highland forests that can improve and sustain water supplies for local people.
Gray says that she has seen people transformed by the knowledge of what climate change will mean for their region, and most importantly, by what they can do to solve problems it is creating. To hear more stories of change directly from the people of Tanzania, including a fisherman who grew up on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, check out this video, “Climate Change Hearing II: Have you Heard Us?” by Conservancy partner Tanzania Natural Resource Forum.
The Conservancy is also one of seven international conservation organizations in the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group, working to analyze successful strategies and share lessons for tackling the challenges of conservation and climate change on the continent. For instance, in partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute, we are mapping predicted movement of chimpanzee ranges due to climate change, and with support from partners, working with villages to secure healthcare, micro-credit and assistance with fisheries management and land-use planning.
The Conservancy’s work in Tanzania is illustrating important connections between efforts to help people cope with climate change, and the resources available from nature that can support those efforts, a promising combination.
(Image: A young Masai boy herds cattle at Manyara Ranch in Tanzania. Image credit: © Henner Frankenfeld/Redux Pictures.)