Population and Environmental Sustainability: Tanzanian Experiences in Climate-Friendly Energy Solutions

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Population and Environmental Sustainability:

Tanzanian Experiences in Climate-Friendly Energy Solutions

Shiv Tripathi

Mzumbe University Dar Es Salaam Campus (Business School)


Tanzania, which is a low-income developing country, has been experiencing the challenges in ensuring the tong-term environmental sustainability due to nature of the country’s economy and the development stage. The population is also growing and thus, creating pressure on the resources. Rural Tanzanian population largely depends on the Agriculture and forestry for the livelihood. This implies the corresponding changes in the land-use, deforestation, increasing emission of greenhouse gases and resulting changes in the climate. The country needs to accelerate its’ economic growth to fight with the poverty but the economic development, if not planned holistically, may be threat to the environmental sustainability. Energy generation and consumption, particularly the modern and non-conventional energy sources based, is an important area with strong potential to contribute towards the sustainable growth. The responsible generation and use of environmental-friendly energy sources can help in addressing the challenges arising due to ‘growth-environment’ conflict. The present paper, which is based on the analysis of the secondary sources, aims to explore the role of modern and renewable energy sources in addressing the emerging environmental challenges in Tanzania. The selected sustainable energy initiatives have also been presented with focus on possible contribution to sustainable and balanced growth in the country.

Keywords: Sustainable-Energy, Sustainable Development; Climate-Change; Environmental Sustainability; Biofuel Energy; Energy Solutions in Tanzania.


Sustainable development, which can be defined as the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, focuses on the balance among the social, economic and environmental dimensions.(WCED, 1987)." It implies that consistency and sustainability of growth can only be achieved when it is socially desirable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. No development can be sustainable if it triggers the violation of nature’s tolerance limits. Population Increase, Economic Development, Poverty, Environmental-Sustainability, Climate change and Energy Use are intimately knotted in the developing and a low-income country where achieving the balance between the economic growth and environment is an important area of concern. Tanzania has also been experiencing the similar problem due to continuous increase in the population.

The National Environmental Policy (URT, 1997a) highlights the strong linkage between the development and the environmental sustainability and stresses the need to manage the environment and its natural resources in ways that enhance the potential for growth and opportunity for sustainable development of present and future generations. Also, it explains the clear cause-and-effect relationship between poverty and environmental degradation and confirms that Environmental degradation leads to widespread poverty; equally, poverty is an habitual cause of environmental degradation as it undermines people's capacity to manage resources wisely.
Tanzania has been active participant in the global level environmental and sustainability initiatives. It also took an active part in the preparations for, and during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which enshrined the integration of environmental concerns and economic development in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and Agenda 21. It is working closely with other countries in the Region and the International community to contribute towards a peaceful, healthier and better global environment for present and future generations (URT, 1997a, Ibid. p.3). The country has focused on the developing regulatory and policy support framework to encourage sustainable development. A National Environmental Action Plan was established in 1994, leading to the adoption of the 1997 National Environmental Policy (Lyimo, 2005).
Tanzania has a number of growth challenges. It can be seen that less than 10% of the population has to access electricity compared to the African average of 30%. The heavy reliance on wood-based biomass and the use of inefficient wood-to-energy conversion technologies are listed among the leading culprits of the deforestation as well as poor, indoor air quality. Currently the country imports 100% of the fuel oil for electricity and power generation although efforts are being made to explore the oil and coal potential and to meet its fuel oil requirements (Lyimo, Ibid. p.1). However, on the other hand the country has shown the consistency in GDP growth and sharp increase in the exports during last 10 years. This implies that the country is likely to witness strong growth in future. As the energy solutions are not well developed in the country, it would be quite strategic if the energy solutions are developed in the view of sustainable development requirements.
During last 10 years, there have been a number of initiatives in the country to promote sustainable and non-conventional energy. These initiatives have been based on modern energy sources like solar-energy, wind energy and biofuel energy. However, as these initiatives are relatively in the beginning phase, it becomes challenging to evaluate their long-term impact. Also, in most of the cases these initiatives have been promoted by the foreign investors and, therefore, often the critiques question about the motives behind the investment.
Looking at the situation, the present paper review paper is conceptualized. The present paper, which is largely based on the review of secondary sources, aims to focus on the following specific objectives;

  1. To identify the relationship among the population increase, economic development and environmental challenges, particularly in developing country context;

  2. To review the existing energy use pattern in Tanzania;

  3. To critically evaluate the policy framework for addressing environmental sustainability and climate-change related issues; and

  4. To analyze the possible contribution of sustainable modern energy solutions in ensuring climate-friendly sustainable development.

Tanzania: A Profile

The Tanzania lies south of the equator in East Africa. The country borders on the Indian Ocean to the east, and has land borders with eight countries, anticlockwise from the north: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (across Lake Tanganyika), Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. The country has about 800 km coastline and area of 945,000 km2 including the three major coastal islands of Mafia, Pemba, and Zanzibar. The Tanzanian geography includes plains along the coast, a central plateau, and highlands in the north and south (Figure 1). In the northeast of Tanzania is a mountainous region that includes Mt. Meru (14,979 ft/4,566 m) and Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft./5,895 m), the latter of which is the highest point in Africa. The northwest of the country encompasses approximately one-half of Lake Victoria, which is second largest freshwater body of the world. On the western side, the country has Lake Tangyanika. On the southwestern border is Lake Malawi (previously Lake Nyasa), the third largest lake on the continent.

Tanzania is a country of high biodiversity with many endangered ecosystems and endemic species. The climate of Tanzania varies quite a bit, considering that its environment includes both the highest and the lowest points on the continent. While the narrow lowland coastal region is consistently hot and humid, the central regions of Tanzania are sufficiently elevated so as to offer much cooler temperatures. The rainy seasons extend from November to early January and from March to May (Geographia, 2012).

Figure 1: Map of Tanzania

(Source: http://www.climate-zone.com/img/tanzania/map.gif)

The Tanzanian state is formed from the former German colony of Tanganyika, on the mainland, and the former Protectorate of Zanzibar. Later the territory came under the British rule, which continued till 1961, when the country became independent. Tanganyika became a republic in December 1962. The union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar took place in April 1964 after the change in governance due to revolution and thus, lead to establishment United Republic of Tanzania in October 1964. Due to the dominance of socialistic and nationalistic feelings during first two to three decades after the independence, the country’s economy was socialistic in nature. After the change in country the leadership followed by global changes towards opening up the market and economy, the country also started liberalizing its’ economy, which is continuing till date.

Tanzania is a low-income developing country with GDP $23.71 Billion and population of 46.22 Million (World Bank, 2012). Being a low-income country, it confronts with number of developmental issues and challenges. Some of the important demographic, geographic and economic indicators for Tanzania are summarized in Exhibit 1. The role Agriculture is dominant in Tanzanian economy, accounting for nearly half of GDP employing 80% of the workforce. Export also plays an important role in Tanzanian economy and its’ contribution to Tanzanian economy has increased from 13.36 % to 30.18% of the GDP in last 10 years. Tourism is growing and ranks as the second highest foreign exchange earner after agriculture. Mineral production (gold, diamonds and tanzanite) has grown significantly in the last decade. It represents Tanzania's biggest source of economic growth, provides over 3% of GDP and accounts for half of Tanzania's exports (FCO, 2012a). The country has maintained the consistency in its’ economic growth with GDP growth varying between 6.5 to 7 percent per annum during last 5 years (7.37% in 2005 to 6.32% in 2011).




46,220,000 (World Bank, 2012)*

Total Geographical Area

945,000 sq km


Some 120 ethnic groups on the mainland, none exceeding 10% of the population

Currency and Exchange Rate**

1 USD = 1,573.98 TZS

1 TZS = 0.000635331 USD

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

US$ 23.71bn (World Bank, 2012) *

GDP Growth

7% (2012, IMF)


19.8% (2012, IMF)
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