Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


Food security and nutritional status
Factors determining household food security
Tanzania’s potential for food production
Food crop versus cash crops
Food aid and food security
National self food-sufficiency
Regional food sufficiency
Post harvest food management (Industrial and Household level)
Food fortification
Economic and social accessibility to food
Adequacy of food intake
Food consumption patterns
The environment and food security


Food insecurity is one of the major problems related to nutritional status. Famine is the most severe and acute form of food insecurity and is a process often resulting from drought. This section discusses food security at both the national and household level emphasizing the latter. In analysing the problem area related to food security some difficulties arise. The first difficulty is the non-availability of an overall direct measure of the household food security situation. Even the indirect measures currently used are methodologically under-developed and not standardized and, therefore, various data cannot be directly compared.

The second difficulty arises from the fact that food security has mainly been treated only as an issue of supply giving undue emphasis to food production and supply without adequate linkages to the nutrition situation. This is a reflection of the changing definitions of food security. What is food security and how can it be achieved still remain a subject of debate. In our discussion we shall adopt the World Bank and FAO definitions of food security which are to insure adequate food supply, year to year stability, and economic and social accessibility for a healthy life.

During the 1970’s and for most of the 1980’s emphasis was on achieving national food goals and food self-sufficiency. As discussed in the chapter on political economy and institutional context, food security planning was centrally run with fixed goals and many multi-sectoral initiatives with intense government involvement through production and marketing parastatals. In order to achieve the food security goals of the 1990s the food security policies need to adopt to the changing socioeconomic reforms and recognize the diversity and complexity of the problem of food security as experienced by the food insecure groups themselves. The primary focus need to be the food insecure individuals and households. Thus, emphasis need to be on household food security and not national food security. This chapter discusses the key issues affecting food security in Tanzania.

Food security and nutritional status

The problem of food insecurity at the national level is caused by a number of factors including serious disparities in consumption and production of cereals; lack of access to food grains; and logistical and financial constraints in the transportation and distribution of food grains to deficit areas.

When food production data is related to information regarding child malnutrition and mortality a paradoxical relationship is found. There is no clear relationship between child malnutrition and mortality at both the regional and district levels (maps 3 and 4). It is noteworthy that those areas with large volumes of food also suffer from high rates of malnutrition and child mortality. The reason for this discrepancy seems to be that availability of food does not guarantee its accessibility due to social and/or economic constraints. Thus household food security is clearly more than food production alone. For subsistence farmers, the need to satisfy non-food demands like clothing, housing, sugar, salt, farming tools, various fees etc; means balancing household food requirements against all these needs. For small holders this income pressure leads to their retaining for domestic consumption inadequate stocks to ensure food security. These low stocks may further be depleted by losses due to storage, spoilage and pests which are estimated at up to 40 percent for food grains and 75 percent for fruits and vegetables [Kavishe et al, 1990].

Map 3: Food balances in districts with CSD programmes

Sources: Ministry of Agriculture, Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre
Map 4: Rates of severe malnutrition at start of CSD programmes
Source: Programmes for Women and Children

Factors determining household food security

The achievement of the goal of food security for all depends on three things, namely (1) food availability and stability of supply (2) economic and social accessibility to food and (3) food intake and utilization.

Food availability and stability

The first factor which affects food security is its availability and stability of supply. Food availability and stability depends on local production, ability to import and the efficiency of the distribution systems. Food production in Tanzania faces several problems. First, 98 percent of Tanzania’s agriculture depends on rains and in every 3-5 years (on average) there has been crop failure (in some parts of the country) due to droughts floods or both. Severe droughts were experienced in 1961/62, 1970/71 and 1973-75, followed by floods in 1978/79 and poor rains in 1979/80 and 1980/81; then moderately satisfactory rains from 1981/82 to 1984/85, followed by floods in three ‘grain basket’ regions (Morogoro, Mbeya, Rukwa) in 1988/89 and in Kilimanjaro (Moshi and Rombo Districts) and Mtwara Regions during 1990/91. Droughts and floods affected large parts of the country in 1992/93. Despite this apparent rhythm of drought and floods which result in food crisis nearing famine conditions, and despite the fact that no one has died from starvation in these situations, preparedness and response capacity for such disaster situations is low until a severe crisis is imminent.

Second, fanning technology is low: about 85 percent of cultivation is still done by hand hoe, and only 10 percent by oxen, and 5 percent by tractor. Farm inputs (fertilizers, hybrid seed, insecticides, herbicides, etc) are fast becoming inaccessible to the smallholder due to rising prices and removal of state subsidies. As shown in table 36, the supply of these inputs has not satisfied the existing demand.

Table 36: Selected Production Instruments and inputs: Requirements, Availability and Supply, 1990


Requirements (,000MT)

Percent availability

Percent supplied

Improved seeds (tons)




Fertilizers (tons)
















Hand hoes
























Jute twine (bales)




Insecticides (litres)




Herbicides (litres)




Fungicides (litres)




Source: URT 1990, pp. 119-120 Note: The discrepancy between availability and supply results from non-purchase of the items concerned due to distribution problems and un-affordable prices.
The alarmingly wide discrepancy between the amount available and the amount supplied or purchased arises mainly from distribution problems and un-affordable prices.

Third, in general, cash crop production out-competes food production in terms of inputs, credit and extension services. For example, of the 55,200 tons of fertilizers sold by the TFC in 1972, only 19,200 tons (35 percent) was used on food crops; and of all the funds loaned by Tanzania Rural Development Bank (TRDB, now CRDB) in 1978/79, only about 19 percent was for food production (Woldermariam 1981:2).

Fourth, the pattern of resource allocation, as we saw earlier, has not favoured agriculture as the policy would suggest. Food industries (only 145 in 1989) are still very few relative to the potential that exists - e.g. canning of fish and fruits. This means that such nutritious foods as vegetables and fruits are available only seasonally to most people.

Finally, the general trend has been capital flight from the agricultural sector (and rural areas in general) to more profitable, urban based sectors - e.g. commerce and, recently, light industries. Thus though small scale rural agriculture is the major supporter of Tanzania’s economy, poor infrastructure in the rural areas partly accounts for this trend. Moreover, due to high costs of production inputs and transport, marketed staples are even more import-dependent than the traditional export crops (table 37).

Table 37: Import Needs to Produce US$ 100 worth of Output: Food and Cash Crops Compared as per 1987/88


Import requirements (US$)

Type of major requirement


Maize (marketed)



Cassava (marketed)





production inputs

Wheat (large-scale, mechanized)


production inputs

Rice (large scale, mechanized)


production inputs

Export Crops

Hard coffee



Mild coffee








production inputs



production inputs



production inputs



production inputs



production inputs

Source: MDB, 1988
Thus it is much cheaper to import wheat, rice and maize for the Dar es Salaam market than to have them produced in peripheral regions and transported there. This creates a problem for the policy of food self-sufficiency, as the government has recognized “ is not helpful to regard all types of food production as examples of self-sufficiency when the large-scale mechanized production of wheat and sugar requires over a dollar’s worth of imported pesticides, machinery, management, etc, to produce one dollar’s worth of output” (MDB 1987 and 1988:12).

Viewed nationally - i.e. discounting regional and district variations - land shortage has not been a major constraint on food production. The country has huge land resources, with average population density of 26 people per sq km, and about 60 percent of the land area is cultivable. Moreover, party and government policy permits, encourages and assists people in land-deficit areas to migrate to land-surplus areas. Aggregate data show that in ‘normal’ years adequate food is produced nationally, but availability is hampered by distribution problems. In bad years, however, huge deficits occur in the main staples, as shown in table 38.

Table 38: Production of Main Staples Versus Requirements, 1990


Actual production
(‘000 metric tons)

(‘000 metric tons)

Surplus + or deficit -

































Source: URT 1990, p.15

Tanzania’s potential for food production

Tanzania has one of the largest agricultural potentials of all East and Southern African countries [Beir et al 1990]. Mainland Tanzania has a land area of 88.6 million hectares of which 39.5 million (44.6 percent) can be cultivated under rain fed conditions. Of this only 17.6 percent or 7.0 million hectares were cultivated in 1988/89 when the population was estimated at about 23.0 million. The area under irrigation is 144,000 ha of which 26,000 ha are “modern” and the remainder is traditional mainly for paddy production and some vegetables. Woods and forests cover about half the country. Much of these are infested with tse-tse flies making them inhospitable for the habitation of both humans and domestic animals.

Tanzania’s agricultural potential is also reflected in the role of agriculture as the single most important sector in the economy. In 1989 the agricultural sector contributed on average 51 percent of the GDP; and accounted for over 72 percent of export earnings. For the majority of Tanzanians, agriculture is the main source of livelihood: some 85-90 percent of the labour force is engaged in agricultural activities including about 20 percent of the urban population [Beir et al 1990]. Most of the agricultural production is done on small scale, labour intensive farms, with archaic low productivity technology. Subsistence farming comprises of about 70-75 percent of total food production. Agriculture provides raw materials for over 85 percent of the country’s industrial production. Nearly 80 percent of the sector’s output is generated by these smallholder, with an average farm size of 2.0 ha. The majority of the remaining 20 percent is derived from large scale, until recently, public commercial “estates” which are mainly confined to the production of sisal, sugar, tea, wheat, irrigated paddy, with some dairy, poultry and beef enterprises. A third important segment of the agricultural sector is dominated by extensive beef cattle production mostly as an integral component of mixed crop and livestock farms or as a single pastoral activity in the semi-arid range-lands.

There are enormous land resources and small scale irrigation potentials to sustain a much higher level of crop production and diversification than exists at present. The population arable land ratio in Tanzania is still so favourable that principally Tanzania is said to be able to potentially provide all the food its neighbours may need [Beir et al, 1990].

However, there is a large discrepancy between Tanzania’s agricultural potential and its realisation and for many years Tanzania has been importing huge amounts of grain every year sometimes from its less potentially endowed neighbours.

This discrepancy is reflected in the low growth of the agricultural sector over a number of years (figure 6). For the past decade although there were significant annual fluctuations; the long term trend has been a downward one: a low 1.4 percent annual growth over the period 1978-88 [URT/Planning Commission 1991].

While a variety of factors are to blame, at the heart of the problem is low agricultural production and productivity coupled with an imbalance between agricultural growth and population growth [URT/Planning Commission, 1991]. When growth in food crop production falls below the rate of population growth as has been happening in Tanzania the imbalance in the food-population relationship created results in the need to import food from outside the country to check this imbalance or alternatively a decline in the nutritional status of the population.

Figure 6: Average annual growth in Agriculture 1964-1988

An examination of the pattern of food production in Tanzania shows some two distinct peculiarities. The first is that food production is mainly spread around the borders of the country. This means that food must move from the “wet” border regions to the “dry” central regions and particularly the populous urban centres. The food production pattern is a reflection of the rainfall pattern, which averages around 2,000 mm at the periphery to less than 600 mm at Dodoma, in the dry central zone. The rainfall annual distribution is bi-modal in the higher rainfall areas, with “short” rains in October-November followed by more reliable “long” rains in March-May. In the rest of the country, the pattern is mono-modal with a wet season from November to April. The peripheral zones are also endowed with fertile soils and good topography which favour intensive farming. As a result most agro-economic activities and populations are also concentrated in the peripheral zones.

Second the most important food producing regions of Mbeya, Ruvuma, Rukwa and Iringa are extremely far from the major urban population, Dar-Es-Salaam which is the largest food deficit region. This continues to stress the importance of transportation links and infrastructural facilities such as marketing and communication for national food security. Thus, the viability of depending on the Southern highland regions as an approach to national food security needs to be revisited. For example, Morogoro region which is very close to Dar-Es-Salaam could be developed to feed this fast growing city and the production from the southern highlands could be exported to the neighbouring countries through cross-border trade. The foreign money realized could be re-invested in the modernization of the agriculture sector in those regions.

The problem of urban food security is compounded by the growing urban population resulting from high birth rates and migration from the countryside. The average annual growth for all urban districts combined was 4.1 percent between 1978 and 1988 well above the 2.8 percent for the country as a whole [URT/Planning Commission 1991]. Dar-Es-Salaam with an annual growth rate of about eight percent is the fastest growing urban centre. Rapid growth will continue to place additional demands on the social and physical infrastructure in the urban areas which are already in dire need of repair. Unemployment is rampant, housing is un-affordable if not impossible to find and water and environmental sanitation are grossly inadequate. This results in an increasing number of food insecure households especially in the peri-urban areas.

Food crop versus cash crops

In order to address this issue in perspective, there are two observations which need to be made. The first is that the rates of malnutrition in areas with both a cash crop and a staple food crop are generally lower, and more responsive to intervention than in other areas. The major example is the coffee-banana crop systems of Kilimanjaro, Kagera and Mbeya. In these areas, the staple food crop which is mainly bananas is almost entirely produced and its use controlled by women. Men control the cash crop income mainly from coffee, although women labour is crucial to its production. Men tend to use most of this income on non-nutrition related expenditures, but with social mobilization for nutrition improvement as done by the CSD programmes, cash crop income can be successfully taped to achieve food security.

The second observation is that in areas where the food crop is also the cash crop, like in Ruvuma, parts of Iringa, Mbeya and Rukwa (where the staple and cash crop is maize), malnutrition rates tend to be higher. This is contrary to the outcome of research by IFPRI in other countries which show that commercialization of agriculture has great nutritional impact if a cash crop is also a food crop. The explanation is found in the observation that men tend to take most of the income and divert it to luxury consumption which do not lead to nutrition improvement, leaving the women without any other income option. There is also the risk that most of the food will be sold without leaving enough stocks to last until the next harvest. The TFNC food security card for grains was developed to address such situations. It appears that this observation on the negative aspects of a dual food-cash crop is transitory, and can in fact act as an incentive to increased production provided that productivity and marketing constraints can be overcome. Presently, there are farmers who are increasingly abandoning cash crop only approach to a dual cash-food crop approach.

Normally in Tanzania, the cash crop land productivity is several times higher than for food crops because of the attention and crop husbandry including extension services given to cash crop as compared to the food crops.

Since agriculture in Tanzania is labour intensive the size of holdings and area planted by crops increases with the number of people in the household [URT, 1989]. Thus with the low levels of technology available and the competition offered by cash crops labour becomes a critical factor in any efforts aimed at increasing productivity in food crop cultivation. Labour constraints are often the explanation for the declining yields per hectare observed when the size of holdings is increased. This is made worse by an increasing trend towards female headed house holds who have to share their time with other household competing priorities leading to smaller holdings, area planted and thus total production. In the majority of cases food crops cultivation seem to have been relegated to women while cash crop production is the domain of men. All these factors eventually impact on the level of self-food sufficiency attained and thus nutritional status.

However, it should be stressed that cash crops have a definite role to play in improving food security provided a balanced approach is taken. This is because cash crops like coffee or tea have a value per hectare several times higher than that of basic staples like maize and can therefore generate higher incomes, especially where land is scarce as it has been noted for Kilimanjaro and Kagera. Thus cash crops can benefit food security in Tanzania if policies which maximize the benefit of cash crops to the poor and the food insecure are pursued by continued support to the small farmer; reinvestment of agricultural profits to the rural areas; avoiding profit diversion to luxury consumption; maximizing production linkages and creating more efficient food systems. In order to avoid the price insecurity of few cash crops the present stress on commodity diversification need to continue.

Food aid and food security

Until the early 1980s food aid mainly from America and Europe principally in the form of milk and yellow maize was available in both food crisis and non-crisis years. The potential use of food aid as a political weapon and the dependency effect of food aid in situations of endemic malnutrition created a strong debate whose outcome was to convert the use of food aid for developmental purposes rather than for charity distribution. A better integration and monetization of food aid and financial aid and a more flexible and better management of the counterpart funds could provide stronger basis for food aid in the achievement of food security. However, in crisis situations like in severe drought, floods and other natural and man made calamities direct food aid and medical supplies is essential to sustain life.

National self food-sufficiency

Until the mid-1970s, excepting during drought years, Tanzania was largely self-sufficient in food production. During the 1961-66 period; food self sufficiency was taken for granted and at that time; Tanzania was the only independent African country achieving a growth trend in food production greater than that of its population [Amani et al, 1988]. The situation started to change during the two drought years 1973-75; when food grain imports especially maize were necessary for relief during the crisis years. A campaign dubbed “Kilimo cha Kufa na Kupona” (Agriculture as a matter of life and death) was then started and coupled with the Word Bank financed national maize programme, Tanzania was once again able to produce enough food and exported maize in 1978 [Kavishe 1982].

But the economic crisis of the 1970s and early 1980s immediately reversed the situation. Coupled with structural rigidity and drought an unprecedented food crisis ensued from 1981 to 1984 when food rationing was characterized by long queues and issuing of “vibalis” (permits for purchase of essential items).

Good rains since 1984-85 and price incentives resulting from long delayed structural policy reforms resulted in a significant increase in food production.

An analysis of national level food balance data for the past half decade show that on aggregate terms Tanzania produces enough food to satisfy domestic food requirements [Kavishe et al 1990]. Thus it seems that at the aggregate level food security is not in jeopardy because of insufficient food production.

Table 39: Annual aggregate food balance, Tanzania Mainland, 1984/85 - 1989/90


Total Production

Total requirements1

Available2 balance (% of requirements)

Food (,000 mt)

Energy (m.kcal)

Food (,000 mt)

Energy (m.kcal)













































1 Based on TFNC calculations. 1989/90 figures based on 1989 population estimates
2 Excludes seed and post-harvest losses of 15 percent.

Source: MOA and TFNC, 1991

But it should also be noted that despite the good weather and the economic recovery during the last half of the 1980s aggregate national food availability has not been that of plenty, but of a flimsy balance between production and needs (table 39).

The computations arriving at table 39 do not take into account energy intake from animal products like livestock and fish. The Livestock Development Programme in the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Development and Cooperatives estimated the following volume of products for 1988: 457 million litre of milk; 184,000 tonnes of beef; 28,000 tonnes of sheep and goat meat; 290 million units of eggs; 15,000 tonnes of poultry and 8,000 tonnes of pig meat. In 1987 it was estimated that 303,000 tonnes of fresh water fish were caught, 53 percent from lake Victoria [Kavishe 1991]. Though no figures for sea fish have been given it can be imagined that the more than 900 km coastline is a fish-gold-mine.

In 1991 Tanzania was described as marginally self-sufficient with maize and rice surpluses in some years; with severe internal food distribution problems [SADCC, 1991]. The level of cereal sufficiency was estimated to be at 91 percent; national cereal food security at 94 percent and national food aid dependency at 3 percent. This was a fairly better situation than a number of countries in the SADCC countries (SADCC, 1991). The situation was dramatically changed by the severe drought of 1992 which affected the Eastern and Southern African region from Ethiopia including South Africa causing severe food security problems. Observers have termed the drought as the worst in living memory. Unlike Zambia and Zimbabwe which were severely affected, Tanzania experienced only pockets of severe food insecurity which was cushioned by internal redistribution of food and modest food aid and imports.

Although the overall food security situation appeared to be satisfactory, 14 out of 20 (70 percent) of the mainland regions faced varying degrees of food deficits in 1991/92. The major reason for this situation was low food production due to poor rains. The 1993 rains resulted in floods in some areas adding salt to injury. Drought and flood stricken rural populations are especially vulnerable.

Logistical and financial constraints have continued to seriously hamper efforts to access food surpluses for the urban population. The strategic grain reserve in Dar-Es-Salaam stocks only maize. The emphasis on maize stems from the fact that maize is the most important staple crop in Tanzania, grown by more than 50 percent of the farmers for both subsistence and commercial purposes. It is also the dominant source of calorie intake - over 60 percent.

Regional food sufficiency

Desegregation of food production data at regional level show that a number of regions are food deficient (table 40). The least food sufficient but not necessarily the most food insecure region is Dar-Es-Salaam which produces only about 5 percent of its food requirements.

There are also large regional variations in production and although 1988-89 was acknowledged as a bumper harvest year at the national level; about 40 percent of the population lived in food deficit regions; another 20 percent just reached a tight balance; leaving only 40 percent who could be described as self sufficient from own production. This means that production was concentrated in a few regions and because of severe problems of transportation and communication internal distribution systems are severely constrained, putting the food deficit regions at great risk of food insecurity. The problem is compounded by the geographical distribution of production areas which are remote from the main consumer markets; particularly Dar-Es-Salaam the most food deficit region. It should be noted that even in some of the food sufficient regions pockets of food deficits sometimes occur in certain districts or parts of those districts because of drought or floods.

A most striking feature about available information relating per capita food production, regional wealth and malnutrition rates is that the latter does not directly correlate with the former. All the food (mainly maize) surplus areas have higher malnutrition rates than the food deficit areas. Maps 3 and 4 illustrate this in the CSD areas. Several studies suggest that about a third of the rural population would have to rely on cash income to purchase their food needs either entirely or to supplement their agricultural output.

Post harvest food management (Industrial and Household level)

Post harvest management at industrial and community level is inadequate due to poor handling and limited facilities. Food storage at both levels results into losses reported to be around 30 percent in cereals and as high as 50 percent in fruits and vegetables during the glut harvest seasons in some communities. These losses are mainly caused by insects, rodents, biochemical and physical losses due to poor handling.

Food Processing Capabilities

The food processing capabilities in Tanzania is inadequate compared to requirements and potential which is essential in enhancing food security at national and household levels. Food processing activities are done at the industrial level by both public and private sectors. At community level home scale food processing is traditional and provides essential food products.

The food industry is estimated to contribute about 40 percent of total value added and has a direct bearing on food quality and safety. In 1988 there were 140 Cereal milling establishments dealing with food out of a national of 700 industries accounted for 24 percent of total output in the food processing industry. The meat industry was second with 14 percent, vegetable oils, 13 percent breweries, 12 percent and sugar processing contributed 10 percent.

Table 40: Regional Food Balance 1988/89


Population (‘000)
1989 estimates

Percent adequacy of food














Dar es Salaam


























































































N.B. Food production includes rice equivalent of paddy production (0.60 processing coefficient)

Source: MOA, National Bureau of Statistics and TFNC, 1991

The major problems were under capacity utilization varying from 20-50 percent in the past decade in the food industry mainly due to limited raw materials, foreign exchange and inadequate management.

Preservation of perishable foods such as livestock products fruit and vegetables has to some extent enabled food availability through out the year especially in urban areas. However, access to food by low income earners has been diminished by the high costs of the processed products.

The processing of cereals such as maize, rice and wheat cause food related losses such as minerals, vitamin B group and fibre which are essential for adequate nutrition and health. On the other hand processing reduces anti-nutritional factors such as cyanogens in cassava and tannin in brown sorghum and legumes. This enhances nutrient bio-availability.

Food fortification

Food fortification is limited in the country. Margarine is enriched with vitamin A and D on a voluntary basis by manufacturers.

Micronutrient deficiency disorders are now being tackled industrially by salt iodation. Currently two factories are now iodating marketed salt which should in the long run eliminate the problem of iodine deficiency. There is scope for fortifying widely used food products with say iron and Vitamin A to combat anaemia and xerophthalmia, respectively and feasibility studies have been planned in this direction.

Economic and social accessibility to food

The second factor which determines food security is its economic and social accessibility. Among the low income groups, food access (apart from the problem of distribution) is dependent mainly on the ability to buy or produce own food. We have already noted the emerging income differentials within the urban areas under the current liberalization/privatization policies, as well as the growing army of urban unemployed, and the precarious position of the smallholder peasants. These groups face major problems of food access and remain the most vulnerable to malnutrition. As the economy becomes more market-oriented, some ways of targeting assistance to such groups will have to be found.

In most households food security is achieved through great expense. Most households use a large proportion of their resources in order to achieve food security. A household that uses almost all of its human or economic resources to achieve its food security is highly vulnerable or at risk of becoming food insecure compared to a household that uses a smaller proportion of its resources to achieve the same goal. In times of scarcity people tend to make more efficient decisions on food purchases. Poor households who depend on food crops for their income are at greater risk of food insecurity than those who have alternative sources of income. These food insecure at risk households seem also to be the same ones at greater risk of experiencing higher mortality and malnutrition rates than richer households.

The effect of income on nutritional status

Though there are longer term nutritional benefits in the introduction of additional sources of income high levels of malnutrition have been observed where cash cropping has been suddenly introduced. The reason for this seems to be the pressure for the use of limited time generated by cash incentives at the expense of time spent on food crop production and for care and feeding of the child.

Thus although increased income has a positive effect on household food intake, it does not always result in improved nutritional status (Marek T, 1992). Account has to be taken of the factors that mitigate the expected effect of increased income on access to food and on any subsequent nutritional benefits if food security projects will have the intended effects. Income generating food security programmes must also pay attention to nutrition education, targeting women, provide seasonal buffer mechanisms like seasonal credit or saving schemes, and also deal with the most prevalent health problems if they are to have the intended effect of improving nutritional status.

Household incomes in rural and urban areas

The agricultural survey done by the Bureau of Statistics in 1986/87 found that as high as 41 percent of rural households had their main source of income from sale of crops while only 31 percent of the income was from non-agricultural source [URT, 1989]. Thus it may not be coincidental that the prevalence of malnutrition in the rural areas (40 percent) is about the same as the prevalence of households generating their income from the sale of food crops (41 percent) and about the same proportion of the food deficit population (40 percent).

In urban households and an increasing number of households in the rural areas, cash income is necessary to ensure access to food. The proportion of the family income allocated to various basic necessities - food, housing, clothing, etc - in rural and urban households is determined by, among other factors, size of the income, prevailing prices of these necessities, social status, and cultural norms. Table 41 gives expenditure patterns of different income groups on food, housing, clothing and other necessities for Mainland Tanzania, with a rural-urban breakdown. For Mainland Tanzania, on average households spend 65 percent of their incomes on food, 6 percent on housing, 12 percent on clothing and 17 percent on other necessities. Rural-urban differences on the proportion of incomes committed to these necessities are very wide. Thus rural households spend a higher proportion on food (70 percent) and clothing (13 percent) than urban ones (50 percent and 9 percent, respectively), but spend less on housing (5 percent) and other necessities (13 percent) than urban ones (9 percent and 32 percent, respectively). In a general way, bearing in mind possible data inaccuracies, this expenditure pattern seems to obey Engels’ Law on food demand structure relative to demand for other consumer items (Kapunda 1989).

Table 41: Percent Demand Structure for Food and Other Necessities on Mainland Tanzania according to expenditure: Rural-Urban Comparisons


Percent demand structure according to expenditure group




10,000 and above

40,000 average


























































































Source: Kapunda (1989), table 2, p.70
Thus the price of food relative to earnings will determine the level of economic accessibility to food in the household. But the real value of earnings from the formal sector has fallen so much over the last decade that the average earnings in 1993 are worth only about 20 percent of their value in 1980. At the same time the price of food has been escalating, further adversely affecting the purchasing power of the worker. Whereas in 1980 a day’s minimum wage could buy 12.8 kg of maize flour, the basic staple food in the urban areas, in 1990 the purchasing power of the minimum salary had fallen down to less than 2.0 kg. of maize of a day’s wage. In 1993, a day’s minimum wage can buy only 1.8 kg. of maize flour (sembe).

The situation was made worse by the scarcity of commodities including food stuffs during the first half of the 1980s. Although during salary reviews the Government has always sought views from TFNC on the minimum wage to ensure minimum dietary requirements, the actual salaries set have always been far less than what has been recommended because of economic constraints. Each wage increase is accompanied by increases in commodity prices including food.

Though difficult to obtain income data; several surveys conducted in urban areas conclude that household expenditures are far above official incomes. In one study in Dar-Es-Salaam, the median monthly expenditure in low income households in 1987/88 was 7,500 Tshs. (mean was 12,090 Tshs.) when the reported income was between 1,260 and 3,000 Tshs. [Amani et al 1988]. This expenditure pattern was confirmed by another survey in the same area where it was found to be at the minimum Tshs. 7,482. [Amani et al 1988]. In another study on Food Security and Consumption Patterns in Dar-Es-Salaam done in 1990 by the department of Economics of the University of Dar-Es-Salaam for the Food Strategy Unit, FAO/Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Cooperatives [FAO/MOA 1991], while the minimum wage was Tshs. 2,500 per month, average expenditures for a seven-person household was about Tshs. 15,000 on average. This was about 2,200 Tshs. per person per month. The estimated food security poverty line at that time was 16,000 Tshs. per month for a seven-person household or 2,300 Tshs. per month and 67 percent of the households fell in the defined low income group based on expenditure. Informal and non-official income generating activities were found to be important in explaining the divergence between official (wages and salaries) and non-official incomes. Thus in order to survive it is acknowledged that wage earners must have other sources of income to bridge the gap.

This situation explains the development of the “informal” sector as small business enterprises (miradi). It seems that it is the income generated from this sector which critically determines the food security situation in urban households. Though real take home pay in the public sector has increased since the mid-1990s and the rate of increase for the staple foods has slowed down it has not been possible to compensate for more than a decade of deterioration. Thus the public sector employees must continue to depend on additional sources of income in order to even barely survive.

Measures taken to liberalise internal and foreign trade since 1985 resulted in increased availability of commodities including basic food stuffs in both urban and rural areas. But infrastructural and institutional problems related to transportation due to poor roads and high credit requirement of the crop marketing institutions constrained the marketing of food stuffs. As a result the price of food prices rose by 25 to 30 percent per annum up to 1989 [TFNC 1990]. This led to a rise of the national urban consumer index (NUCI) by 25 to 35 percent per year since food items constitute over 60 percent of this index [Doriye 1990]. This negated increases in producer prices, wages and salaries. Until 1990, when a decline started to be noted the food price index was fluctuating at a higher level than the general national consumer price index (NCPI). The NCPI measures the cost of living for dwellers in 18 mainland urban centres and is a widely used measure of inflation [Doriye, 1990]. The other measures of inflation consist of three Dar-Es-Salaam based cost of living indices corresponding to the minimum wage earners, middle grade civil servants and upper income groups. Thus the NCPI is urban based and may, therefore, not adequately capture changes in the cost of living in rural areas. For example casual observations indicated that during the severe economic crisis of the early 1980s, farmers largely withdrew from the cash economy and hibernated in subsistence living. In fact the crisis was mainly of the public and urban sector. Since the basket from which the NCPI is derived is heavily weighted in favour of food items; changes in the NCPI also reflect economic accessibility to food. Thus as shown in table 42 the sources of changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is accounted for largely by changes in the price of food. This is to say that in general the driving force behind changes in the consumer price index (CPI) is changes in food prices. The weight of food items in the CPI increased from 47 percent in the 1970s to 64.2 percent in the 1980s [Doriye, 1990] probably an impact of the economic crisis.

But Government efforts to address these problems through price reforms, derestriction of crop marketing and rehabilitation of transportation systems led to the annual rise of the index by only 17 percent from mid-1989 to mid-1990.

Together with the above reforms, the Government has also officially encouraged public servants to engage themselves in other income generating activities. Senior staff may be engaged in consulting work and together with middle and low cadre staff may take out loans for other household members to engage themselves in small business. Small scale projects “miradi” by women during the very difficult early and mid-1980s are generally acknowledged as the major source of household income responsible for running most urban households. But this was an added workload on women, as they had to work long hours for relatively small returns. In the absence of easy access to credit they developed a credit system among themselves called “upatu” where each member of a group contributes a small sum each month and each takes turn in collecting the total contributions.

Table 42: Sources of Changes in the National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) in Tanzania, 1972 - 1989


Percent average change

1972 - 1979

1980 - 1989

1. Food



2. Clothing and footwear



3. Transport



4. Fuel, light and water



5. Beverages and tobacco



6. Furniture and utensils



Total for the six items



Source: Doriye J, 1990
The above liberalisation measures no doubt led to increased food access in urban households. But the ability to cope with the competitive climate created by these measures is obviously different in different groups with the chance that poor households would be worse off in terms of food insecurity.

Social access to food

That some members of a household suffer from malnutrition while others do not under the same conditions of physical and economic food accessibility is indicative of differential cultural access to food within households. A variety of ethnic social systems in Tanzania tend to favour men to have the choicest access to food. Moreover men control most of the household resources especially income which they may use for their own consumption. There is also the tendency of all members of a household to eat from the same plate making it difficult for the smaller ones to compete adequately for food with the older children especially when meal frequencies are only twice a day. In some situations pregnant women are customarily denied nutritious food for fear of bearing too big a baby which may lead to obstructed labour in situations where skilled medical intervention cannot be obtained. The result is usually low birth weight babies with the consequent negative effects. Since such details are not available from the normal household budget surveys, there is no adequate data to indicate that social inaccessibility to food constitutes a significant barrier towards food security.

When food is available and affordable, the utilization pattern is determined by consumer preferences some of which may be embedded in cultural norms and taboos. What may be called ‘traditionist’ and ‘modernist’ consumer tendencies do cause artificial food shortages. In many rural areas, women and children are discouraged from eating certain locally available foods. A good example is the belief that chicken and eggs are harmful to pregnant or lactating mothers. As a result of the work of community Development field staff, and campaigns of UNICEF-sponsored nutrition and child survival programmes, these taboos have been gradually changing and consumer preferences reoriented (Mushi 1988).

Other programmes have also restructured consumption patterns in the rural areas. For example, the 1970’s saw a big shift towards maize production and consumption, especially after the introduction of the World Bank sponsored nine-region maize programme in 1976. This led to the neglect of the drought-resistant crops, increasing the chance of crop failure in areas that are marginal for maize cultivation. A policy of regional specialization on the basis of comparative advantage did not work because of the weaknesses in marketing infrastructure which made interregional food transfers inefficient. The changing consumption pattern of the urban ‘modernists’ now leans towards maize, rice and wheat. This exacerbates the problem for the government which has to import such cereals to appease them, even when the less preferred staples are available.

The influence of cultural and consumer preference factors is seen in the ironic fact that some of the food-surplus regions happen also to have the high rates of child malnutrition in Tanzania. In the case of Kilimanjaro, it may be a result of the ‘modernist’ competitive response which encourages both parents to be away from home the whole day on economic activities (miradi), leaving the children unattended and unfed. A disproportionate part of the earnings may also be used in acquiring ‘modern’ things, leaving an inadequate amount for a decent family diet. Researches in Iringa Region revealed paradoxical situations where the nutritional status of children had worsened when the village was exposed to new economic opportunities. These opportunities were an additional burden on overburdened mothers who had less time to care for their children and pregnancies (Ljungqvist, 1981). In other regions - as was the case in Rukwa - increasing commercialization of the major staples (e.g. maize and millet) led to a decline in the production of traditional drought resistant and nutritionally superior millet-staples and food reserves.

Adequacy of food intake

This is the third factor which determines food security at the level of the household. Five factors determine the adequacy of food intake. These are:-(l) breast feeding in young children;(2) the number of meals per day; (3) the amount of food per meal; (4) the energy and nutrient density of the food consumed and (5) food safety and the utilization by the body of the energy and other nutrients.

Breast feeding

Breast feeding in the rural areas still remains the traditional form of infant feeding in Tanzania. Even after the introduction of complementary foods (weaning foods) breast milk continues to play an important role in the child’s nutrition. The DHS data show that nearly 20 percent of mothers exclusively breast-feed until about four months. From the sixth to the twelfth month breast feeding can provide up to three quarters of a child’s energy and protein needs and a significant portion of these nutrients for some months beyond. Children breast-feeding up to 18 months of age are better nourished than those not breast-feeding (FAO/TFNC, 1992). During the first year of life breast-feeding remains the most secure food security bank, where withdrawals can safely be made on demand.

An analysis of available information for the 1980s show that a large proportion of women continue to breast feed beyond one year [TFNC, 1989]. The major reasons for stopping breast feeding in the rural areas are another pregnancy, the child is old enough, the child has refused, the milk is insufficient for the child or the milk has gone bad [TFNC, 1989].

In the urban areas, breast feeding is stopped mainly because the mother has got to go to work after the three month paid maternity leave. Though a statutory one hour period for breast feeding is allowable for working mothers; the lack of creches in working places, the long distances between the home and the working place and the very poor transportation facilities militate against women using that one hour. Thus it is not surprising that as more women join the formal employment sector or start income generating activities the duration of breast feeding is bound to decline. A study in Morogoro urban on the effects of selected breast feeding practices on child nutritional status indicated unusually short breast feeding periods [Karegero, 1989]. As a result, short breast feeding was negatively associated with poor nutrition and susceptibility to diseases particularly diarrhoea and measles.

Meal frequencies and the amount of food per meal

Eating frequencies in Tanzania are low, on average twice or three times per day. In urban families, snacks may be consumed, but this is rare in rural families. Feeding frequencies of less than four times a day in children under-five years is significantly associated with poor nutrition as compared to higher feeding frequencies [Kavishe et al, 1985]. Because of their small stomachs, children unlike adults need to eat more frequently in order to meet their daily energy needs. The feeding frequencies for children in Tanzania is low averaging about only twice per day. Also the amount of food per meal in relation to what the child can eat is low.

Energy density of weaning foods

In children, the situation of low feeding frequency is made worse by the low energy density of the typical diets. Normally cereals and other starchy foods provide about 75 of the energy consumed; there is little fat in the diet and pulses provide some substantial part of the energy and protein intake. Very young children are fed on “uji” a thin porridge made from the staple cereal base in the particular area. For older children and adults, the “uji” is thickened into “ugali” by the addition of more flour of the cereal which is too thick for young children to eat enough especially when they have to compete with much older children and adults from the same dish.

Food safety and utilization by the body

Food contamination due to microorganisms is implicated in causing diarrhoea which leads to direct loss of nutrients already taken. The actual and potential existence of various toxins, microbial and chemical contamination requires adequate measures for food quality control and safety standards. Apart from a study on the control of mycotoxins in Tanzania for the period 1987 to 1990, and another study on the role of cassava toxicity in the causation of the paralytic disease called “Konzo” both coordinated by TFNC no information is available on the extent of food quality and toxicity.

The contributory factors to microbiological contamination include poor state of hygiene caused by inadequate water supplies, insufficient water treatment and poor storage facilities. Furthermore, poor processing facilities, improper packaging material, lack of trained manpower, inadequate/or absence of quality control services in processing plants aggravate the contamination problem. Although the National Food Control Commission (NFCC) and the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) cooperate very closely for monitoring for food quality compliance insufficient microbiological analytical facilities, human, financial and organizational resources and insufficient surveillance systems make the job difficult.

Widespread use of pesticides, fertilizers, veterinary drugs, food additive and other chemicals give room for possible abuse, misuse or over application. In all cases residual chemicals in foodstuffs above the maximum limits specified by the Codex Alimentarius standards or those of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards cannot be ruled out.

Current efforts to contain the problems of food safety are centred on the enforcement of the Food (Control of Quality) Ac of 1978 and the Regulations established under it. Workshops and seminars on food safety are conducted regularly to authorized officers. Current projects which will supplement these efforts include the strengthening of the analytical capability of the Government Chemical Laboratory, improvement of communication systems, rehabilitation of the National Cold Chain Operations (NCCO) and construction of modern fish processing plants in Mwanza and Musoma.

Urbanization coupled with low wages offered to employees has led to proliferation of street food vendors who offer economical meals but of high loads of microbial and chemical contaminants due to poor hygiene, poor preparation and handling methods. All the same street foods are important because they are available at all places of work where they are required, such as factories, offices, schools, transit points and markets. They are the most accessible to those working away from home and provide variety. Street food vending can be started with minimum capital expenditure and government is sympathetic to this practice.

Food consumption patterns

There is little information on the food consumption pattern of adults with the exception of the 1976/77 Household Budget Survey (HBS) which gave the source of energy (calories) for urban and rural populations. Since staple foods are considered in terms of their ability to provide a large portion of the energy requirements food sufficiency at the level of the household is an expression of energy sufficiency from the major staples. Both the HBS and the Rapid Rural Survey (RRS) undertaken in the elaboration of the comprehensive food security programme found significant differences in the household consumption patterns related to farming systems. In general the major sources of energy in Tanzania are derived from the consumption of:-

· maize, contributing on average more than 60 percent of the energy from the staple foods;

· cassava, rice and sorghum/millet contending for second place in energy supply with variations from year to year, with rice of greater importance in urban than in rural areas;

· wheat, the least important of the preferred staples;

· potatoes (sweet and round), yams and bananas are much lower in food energy per kilogram as compared to the other a staples but are consumed in large quantities;

· legumes, especially beans which are becoming increasingly important in many regions.

· there is a declining trend in the consumption of animal and poultry products since 1969 probably due to their high prices.

· fish consumption is mainly concentrated along the coast and the lake-shore regions.

The consumption pattern described above is confirmed by an Agricultural survey done by the Bureau of Statistics in 1986/87 which showed a similar cultivation pattern [URT, 1989]. In the same survey it was found that the median size of holdings among all rural agricultural households was 0.7 hectares as compared to 1.8 ha of available arable land per population at that time assuming a population of 22 million. About 38 percent of the holdings were even smaller than 0.5 hectare.

An important observation in the Agriculture sample survey was that almost all rural households grow food crops and that food crop production accounts for the bulk of the cultivated area. For example maize, the predominant crop was grown on almost 40 percent of all area planted during the main rainy season (masika) of the 1986/87 season. Together, cassava, paddy, sorghum and millet were grown on 35 percent of the planted area. The major problem which seems to account for the discrepancy between food crop cultivation and food supply is the extremely low yields per area cultivated. Regional food crop productivity varies widely. For example farmers in Kilimanjaro who have only 0.3 ha available per head produce on it more than three times the product value per head of the lowest productive region, Dodoma.

The determining factors for these differences seem to be related to the variations in rainfall and its probability, irrigation possibilities, soil fertility and also the amount of household labour available, level of technology including farming technology, use of fertilizers, extension services and pesticide use. As already noted, it is also acknowledged that Government policies and structures do not lay as much emphasis on food crops as compared to cash crops.

The environment and food security

The environment can be viewed as an interlinked network of systems with very complex relationships. For example increased use of wood fuel or the expansion of land area for cultivation or for grazing often times results in deforestation and land degradation. The climatic shifts and possible desertification which may result adversely impacts on food security. Thus in order for the environment to be sustained, the systems of which it is comprised must be in balance with one another, otherwise serious consequences for survival of the entire networks may be jeopardized.

Most of the major factors affecting food production and thus availability like land use, soil fertility and climate form part of the environmental systems which affect food security. They determine the agricultural production and consumption systems and often times disease patterns.

Environmentally determined agricultural/consumption systems

It is possible to classify Tanzania into seven agricultural production/consumption systems (table 43) [Bryceson et al, 1986] which further assists in differentiating between the problems and causes of household food insecurity. These systems are described in table 43. The areas which seem to have the greatest food deficit problems are the pastoralist and the millet/sorghum/ livestock production systems with the latter having the most severe problems. When the system was designed in 1986 the food deficit areas accounted for about 47 percent of the mainland population. The paradox, however, is that many of these food deficit areas have lower malnutrition rates than the food surplus areas.

The food deficit areas coincide with the drought/flood prone areas. While in Tanzania drought is a fact of life in some areas; in the past 30 years serious droughts have occurred in 1961/62, 1974/75 and 1984/85. Some areas in eleven out of the 20 regions of mainland are generally considered drought prone and, therefore, at greatest risk of food insecurity. These regions are:- Mara, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Kigoma, Tabora, Singida, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Dodoma and Mtwara. Dodoma is the traditional famine prone region. However, these drought prone regions also nearly always include highly productive areas where crop failure never occurs. This is to be expected, when the vastness and physical diversity of Tanzania is considered. This makes it highly unlikely for the country as a whole to experience total crop failure. It seems that if intra- and inter-regional food commodity transfers were properly managed and a proper infrastructure laid down, the country on its own could manage very well to alleviate the worst effects of drought in all but the most unusual years. As a drought measure the Government has proposed a pattern of regional specialization of food crop production to match with the agro-climatic zones.

Table 43: Classification of Agricultural Production/Consumption Systems in Tanzania (Adopted from Bryceson et al 1986)

Type of system



1. Coffee/Banana

Moshi, Hai, Rombo districts in Kilimanjaro region, Bukoba, Karagwe and Biharamulo districts in Kagera region; Parts of Arumeru district (Arusha region) and Rungwe district, Mbeya region.

High average cash incomes from coffee with high disparity; land shortage, self-sufficient in food production, but mainly bananas, rainfall is high (over 1000 mm per annum)

2. Pastoralists

Kiteto, Monduli and Ngorongoro districts, scattered areas in Hanang and Mbulu districts, and parts of Singida, Dodoma and Tanga regions.

High milk consumption as staple, grain production and consumption rising as pastoralists settle; deficient/importation of grains as staple with high protein availability.

3. Sorghum/Millet Livestock

Dodoma region, Shinyanga Rural, Bariadi, Maswa, Bunda, Musoma and half of Tarime districts low lands of Mara region.

Low rainfall, semi arid and drought prone, low average incomes food deficit, desertification due to over grazing.

4. Cassava

Mtwara, Lindi and Mwanza parts of Coast, Tanga, Rukwa and Ruvuma.

Drought and floods, common in Mtwara and Lindi also physically isolated with transport and communication problems; other areas cassava grown as food security crop, maize being the staple.

5. Maize surplus

Njombe, Makete, Iringa districts, Iringa region. Chunya Mbozi, Ileje, Kyela (Mbeya region), Rukwa and Ruvuma regions; and Mbulu Hanang district in Arusha.

Reliable rainfall (over 1000 mm per annum) low population density, maize both food and cash crop (dubbed the bid fall) transport is a problem.

6. Urban areas

Dar es Salaam and other towns.

Food deficit, particularly Dar es Salaam. high population density; major customer of food crops for National Milling Corporation and Cooperatives.

7. Mixed farming

Coast, Tanga and Morogoro regions

Farming and consumption patterns so mixed that they do not fit in any of the above classification. Grow a great deal of fruits vegetables and rice.

For purposes of further analysis the agricultural production consumption typology described earlier could be somewhat simplified into three categories:- primarily pastoral, mixed farming and primarily agricultural.

(i) Primarily Pastoral Areas

Pastoral areas are characterized by scattered, very low density population [2 - 4 persons per square km in the three pastoral districts in Arusha region]; a cattle person ratio of approximately five to one and very poor roads which become impassable during the rains. Their livestock consist of cattle, goats, sheep and donkeys. Almost none keep poultry. They do not cultivate although they consume increasing amounts of grain which they purchase from the sale of livestock.

In normal years the system of selling livestock to buy grain works well but in times of drought they come under heavy stress. In such times, cattle prices tend to fall while grain prices rise. During normal times, in 1986 the value of a mature cow was about equal to that of six bags of 90 kg bags of grain. At the height of the 1984/85 drought, one cow could purchase only one bag of grain. Besides stock reductions due to sales, animals died. In that drought year, some families lost about 50 percent of their herds. Particularly hit were the lactating females and calves. In addition to these problems, livestock diseases may further deplete the remaining stock. Whereas many agriculturalists and mixed farmers can recover fairly fast from the effects of drought after a year if the rains are sufficient, pastoralists require several years to rebuild their stock.

It should be remembered however, that under normal conditions, livestock is a good method for storing food to ensure food security, and malnutrition rates are generally lower among pastoralists than agriculturalists. This is based on actual surveys done in Arusha region comparing the Livestock rearing districts and the grain producing districts.

(ii) Mixed farming

Mixed farming is practised in all drought prone areas. An important factor determining the nutritional status of mixed farming households is the number and distribution of livestock particularly cattle among the households.

The manner in which the mixed farming system functions under normal years is that households cultivate grain or root crops as a subsistence crop, in some areas like in Shinyanga cotton is grown as a cash crop, and livestock are used as an additional income resource. Traditionally in some areas cattle are taken as a method for storing resources between seasons rather like a savings bank. When crops partially or totally fail in time of drought, families cultivating cash crops sell their livestock to buy grain, leading to a rise in the prices of grains and a decrease in the price of livestock as it was noted for the pastoral areas. Since in the mixed farming system oxen are used for ploughing, in time of drought the oxen are weakened and cannot be used for extensive field preparations immediately after the drought, thus reducing the amount of land area cultivated.

In a mixed farming system, the net result of a drought is that those at the top of the economic spectrum are likely to lead to a better food security situation, while those at the bottom are marginalized and sustain extreme nutritional stress.

(iii) Primarily Agricultural systems

These are characterized by a predominantly agricultural system where food crops are used both for consumption and for cash income. With the exception of large scale cash crop farmers, medium and small scale agriculturalists are the hardest hit in times of drought as they have few income resources to convert into food. This is made worse by the fact that food prices rise dramatically during drought. The short term impact of the frequent droughts in Mtwara and other predominantly agricultural areas is, therefore, greater than in pastoral or mixed farming areas.

(iv) Flood prone/food deficit areas

Although not very frequent some areas in the country are more prone to floods than other areas. It seems that the drought prone areas are with a few exceptions also the flood prone areas. Low lying areas near rivers and lakes especially in Mbeya and Morogoro regions have been particularly prone to floods. Recent large scale floods occurred in 1990 (Mtwara and Lindi) and 1992-93 (Kilimanjaro and Morogoro). The immediate problems created by floods are shelter, food shortages and water contamination in the affected areas necessitating emergency support for medical and food supplies and seed for the next crop season. Unfortunately the effects of floods and drought on the nutrition situation have not been monitored in all areas, but the floods in Mtwara and Lindi showed that there was initially a dramatic rise in the rates of malnutrition which subsequently declined as a result of short term and long term measures taken [Mtwara CSD, 1991].

Environmental problems affecting food security

These are related to land use, deforestation and the increasing demand for wood fuel. The Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism has identified the following problem areas with regard to land use [URT, 1991]:-

· In East and west Usambara, the Kilimanjaro and Meru slopes, Vui, Rungwe, Ukerewe, Tarime and Mbulu districts there is a high population pressure on the land for farming and on wood-fuel with subsequent deforestation. There is also a high risk for soil erosion due to the sloppy terrain and high precipitation.

· the areas in Mwanza, Mara and some parts of Shinyanga are characterized by pressure from rapidly growing population with extensive farming in cotton, accompanied by overgrazing

· Tabora region, Chunya and Northern districts of Iringa are farmed extensively for tobacco production,

· the area of the Maasai steppe, parts of Dodoma and Singida regions suffers from overgrazing by migratory pastoralists

· Iringa, Mbeya, Southern Rukwa, North and Western Ruvuma regions are the grain basket of Tanzania growing maize for commercial purposes.

· the areas of Kigoma-Mpanda and Northern Rukwa region are under high population pressure due to immigrants and refugees from Burundi and Rwanda with their subsequent land requirements for farming.

· the lands of Dodoma under HADO and parts of Shinyanga under HASHI are already seriously degraded and thus the reason for starting those programmes

· in the coastal belt and Mafia island salt production and fish smoking are causes of forest degradation, the most serious threat to the mangrove forests

· in the Eastern Morogoro, the Coast region except Rufiji, West of Tanga and Southeastern Dodoma region forests are severely degraded from increasing demand for fuel-wood for charcoal and firewood from within and outside this area

· Lindi, Mtwara, Eastern Ruvuma, Southern Morogoro and south of the Coast region where the population density is low, forests still flourish and there is an abundant wood supply. But even this is threatened unless immediate preventive action is taken to preserve these forests they too will disappear.

The scale of deforestation is alarming. It is estimated to be advancing at an annual rate of 300,000 to 400,000 ha and the rate is rapidly accelerating [URT, 1991]. Much of the deforestation is due to clearing for unsustainable crop production, overgrazing and fuel wood. Wood is by far the most important source of energy in Tanzania and is estimated to contribute more than 90 percent of the total national energy supply. Tanzania is estimated to consume annually about 27 million cubic metres of solid wood of which about 22 million cubic meters are consumed by households and the remainder by agriculture, rural industries and the service sector. However, the estimated sustainable annual yield of wood-fuel from natural forests and public woodlands is 18 million cubic metres which means there is already a deficit of 9 million cubic metres. As a result, degradation and even desertification are taking place rapidly. Map 5 shows the areas in greatest danger. The UN has estimated that the degraded area is between 33 percent and 45 percent of the total land area. This massive environmental degradation is detrimental to the country’s future development; the land resource base is dwindling, while the growing population needs more food, fuel and other basic commodities.

Map 5: Land degradation in Tanzania


Admittedly, many factors will determine Tanzania’s ability to feed her people now and in the future. There is plenty of land available. Though not all of it is appropriate for cultivation only a small fraction of that which is arable is under cultivation. Because of low agricultural productivity for both food and cash crops and population pressure in a few areas; farmers are now moving onto more marginal lands to increase the area under cultivation, and in the process are clearing forests and sometimes threatening wildlife. Thus there is an urgent need to improve agricultural productivity if sustained productive agriculture and food security is to be developed and sustained. Improved agriculture will also strengthen the economic base and thus improve economic accessibility to food. Until this is achieved, even in the presence of enough arable land to go around, the rapidly growing population will continue to place added pressure on the ability of Tanzanians to stay well fed.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page