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Irrigated farmers may risk losing easy access to water resources. Pic credit: Corporate-digest

In Tanzania, an increase in irrigated farming and the country’s high susceptibility to drought has resulted in low water reserves at two hydropower facilities.

As a result, the Tanzanian government has plans to declare water supplies of the Southern Mtera and Kidatu hydropower plants protected sites, Reuters reported.

Repercussions

The ban would prohibit all types of irrigated farming that is located close to reservoirs or other water resources, which would have a negative impact on the sustainability and longevity of livestock, fish and crop farming in the affected areas.

Rice farmer Eliudi Samizi from Kisimani village in Dodoma, home to over 8,000 rice farmers, who potentially face losing their water access, explained: “I have been farming in this area all my life.

“If someone asks me to stop fishing or farming, what else can I do to feed my family?”

Abuse of water resources

The state-run power company Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO), has requested a mandate to evict residents who are abusing available water resources. As a result of the water abuse, the nearby hydropower facilities are not able to operate at full capacity, leading to inefficient power supply and occasional power outages.

According to the permanent secretary of the ministry of water Mbogo Futakamba, the Mtera and Kidatu hydropower plants, are two out of 153 sites, which have been marked by the government as protected sites in terms of the country’s water laws, Reuters reported.

Futakamba told Reuters: “We have identified various water sources that are in a danger of being destroyed.

“It is just a matter of procedure before the government officially announces those protected sites.”

Taking climate change into consideration

Farmers believe that the lack of water is not due to water wastage but rather the result of climate change.

Damas John, a pastoralist in Kidatu village in Morogoro said: “I don’t think telling farmers to stop irrigation will be a lasting solution because there’s simply not enough rain to fill up the dams.”

Instead of placing water bans, innovating designs for water harvesting should be implemented.

Ladislaus Chang’a, director of research and applied meteorology at the Tanzania Meteorological Agency said: “Micro-dams could help conserve water to support the main dam in months of extreme rainfall variability.

“The stored water could then be used to recharge the reservoir and prevent its level from dropping to a critical point.”

Mtera and Kidatu hydropower plants

The Mtera dam is located within the Rift Valley where the two rivers, the Great Ruaha and Kisigo meet. The Mtera dam flows downstream into the Kidatu hydropower station.

Depending on the water level, the Mtera dam’s surface area can be anywhere between 150 and 600 square kilometers (58 to 230 square miles), according to Reuters.

Land rights expert Yefred Mnyenzi said: “The future of smallholder farmers is uncertain as their rights to access and use land and water resources are always trampled on by powerful investors.

“It is high time for policymakers to pay attention to the voice of poor farmers who need land and water resources for their subsistence.”

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