Freshwater management and climate change adaptation: Experiences from the Great Ruaha River catchment in Tanzania

Kashaigili, J. J., et al., 2009. Climate and Development

Original research (primary data)
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Adaptation to anthropogenic climate change is becoming vital to freshwater ecosystems and resource management, but climate adaptation can be purposeful or unintentional. This paper presents lessons from an assessment of an autonomous adaptation in the Great Ruaha River catchment in Tanzania following WWF intervention. The project was designed to address challenges resulting from natural resource use and existing levels of climate variability by changing water resource management. The study applied participatory methods and an open-ended questionnaire to collect data. The study found key adaptation benefits, including reduced vulnerability to drought and strengthened local water user associations and other regional institutions. As a result of the project interventions from 2003 to 2009, rural livelihoods became more profitable and water-sustainable, and local livelihood strategies were diversified. Regional ecosystems improved as a result of restoring river flows in some rivers, conservation of riparian vegetation and halting tree felling for charcoal production. As a result of these changes the communities and ecosystems in the Great Ruaha River catchment should be more resilient to emerging climate change impacts, yet the need for further physical interventions and institutional reform is identified. The study concludes that strengthening local institutions and capacity building are fundamental to climate change adaptation and sustainable freshwater management.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-145-1
  • Intervention type: Combination
  • Intervention description:

    The conservation of riparian zones and restoration of springs and river flows (part of a broader Integrated River Basin Management project)

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Reduced water availability  Positive Clarify methodology The study applied participatory methods (i.e. focusgroupdiscussions, direct observation, unstructured interviews) and an open-ended questionnaire to collect data. report return of water flows and frequency of zero flows
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Great Ruaha River catchment

  • Country: United Republic of Tanzania
  • Habitat/Biome type: Streams, rivers, riparian |
  • Issue specific term: Integrated water resources management


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: effectiveness determined from a qualitative analytical framework, applying "participatory methods (i.e. focus group discussions, direct observation, unstructured interviews) to elicit relevant information." --> essentially determining effectiveness from people's perceptions of outcomes before and after the intervention "Flows have recommenced into the Ihefu wetlands, and the number of zero flows downstream into the National Park has been reduced from almost 3 months per year to less than a month." although broader social benefits are reported, they are from the integrated approach as a whole which includes non-NBS (hybrid over the landscape) therefore not reported here
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: Yes
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Positive
  • Ecosystem measures: qualitative/anecdotal "The conservation of riparian zones and restor- ation of springs and river flows are of benefit to biodiversity."
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: Yes
  • Impacts for people: Positive
  • People measures: For the conservation measures specifically, the intervention directly affected people’s understanding of how they are important to conserve water on which they depend “Presently, people who have benefited from project interventions are no longer involved in charcoal making because of their understanding of the bylaws that prohibit indiscriminate felling of trees to make charcoal, and are undertaking other activities that do not degrade the environment.” Additionally, they show how the intervention as a whole, which includes engaging people in conservation “grass-roots “demonstrate how incremental action to restore ecosystem functions and better manage natural resources can increase resilience to water scarcity. It highlights the importance of strengthening the capacities of local people and organizations to improve governance, diversify the local economy and institute adaptive management practices” over-dependency on water to sustain livelihoods has been greatly reduced as a result of communities being engaged in fewer water-intensive economic activities
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Qualitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic: