Tanzania: Climate change impacts livestock—and livestock farmers

September 02, 2019
A translation for this article is available in French

Holding his hands behind his back, Mhache Paulo looks steadily at the backyard of his house, his mouth agape. Mr. Paulo says that, 15 years ago, he would have been staring at beautiful green scenery with endless streams. But today, because of climate change, that green environment is gone—no trees and no flowing rivers. He says, “Climate change has disturbed the ecosystem.”

Mr. Paulo is a small-scale livestock farmer in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania. He started rearing poultry in 1999.
He says that high temperatures and frequent extreme weather such as droughts have negatively affected not only his backyard, but his livestock farming. As a result of the changing climate, there are now outbreaks of livestock diseases, a lack of feed, and not enough water.

Mr. Paulo had over 100 pigs in 2018. But between June and September of that year, African swine fever, a highly contagious and often fatal disease, killed every one of his pigs.

He explains, “It was disastrous. This disease was not in this area…. But it could be brought by people transporting domestic animals from villages into the city.”

Maziku Methew is a livestock expert at the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries in Tanzania. He says climate change is pushing birds and other animals to move from their usual areas in search of food and water.

Mr. Methew adds, “This process [of livestock movement] is accompanied with transporting diseases that become disastrous in new locations.”
Climate change has also negatively affected Mr. Paulo’s fish pond. He says, “The sun which hit the city in July left the pond almost dry. I do not know what to do in the remaining months until rains start.”

He explains, “The sun has been heating the water, pushing the fish and fingerings to run down where there is limited oxygen where they suffocate.”

He says that climate change is also affecting his poultry, and that the guinea fowl and chickens are now more susceptible to diseases such as Newcastle.

Agnes Victor is a poultry farmer in Salasala, a suburb of Dar es Salaam. She says that the weather between June to September was much drier than usual and that this has contributed to viral diseases such as Newcastle spreading very fast in the area, killing chickens, especially those that were vaccinated on time.

Ms. Victor explains, “We have been pushed to spend more on vaccination. The cost of keeping poultry is increasing because of climate change effects.”

She says that long dry spells and heat stress have reduced yields of crops used for feed and increased feed costs. She explains, “A bag of poultry pellet feed costs between 60,000 and 80,000 Tanzania shillings ($26–35 US), depending on the location.”

Mr. Paulo and other farmers like Ms. Victor are diversifying their farming activities to increase the sources of livestock feed and spread their risk.

The pastoralists based in Dar es Salaam say they now keep livestock, dig wells, and create small-scale irrigation systems to supplement family food supplies and provide animal fodder. They have diversified into crops like bananas, cassava, and beans as well as raising cattle.

Ms. Victor says, “Usually, due to irregular and unpredictable rainfall, we use drought-resistant or early-maturing crop varieties.” She adds, “Practicing mixed cropping and planting trees—mostly exotic species—provides fodder and shade for the crops.”

Mr. Paulo dug a well and built a dam to store rainwater. He adds, “I planted trees not intending to be for commercial purposes but [to] help restore the greenish sphere in my backyard.” In addition to chickens, he now rears rabbits, fish, guinea fowl, pigs, goats, and cattle.

According to experts, such diversification protects food production, helps farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change, and provides a variety of products and services that improve farmers’ livelihoods. Mr. Paulo says: “If you have a poultry farm and a fish pond, you can start a small vegetable garden where the chickens can feed on plants and vegetables while the chicken droppings can provide feed to the fish. The water in the pond can also be used to irrigate the vegetables.”

This resource is supported by Elanco Animal Health.