Edited by Dr. Pamela Stedman-Edwards
An interdisciplinary team of three principal researchers and five research assistants carried out this study. The interpretation and analysis of the data involved all the three principal researchers, drawing from their experiences and professional background. The research team was comprised of Dr. K. A. Kulindwa (team leader and the overall research coordinator), Dr. H. Sosovele, (sociologist), and Dr. Y. D. Mgaya (marine biologist). The five assistants were Mr. A.S. Kapele, Ms. Merenciana Taratibu, Mr. Mathew Mwamsamali, Mr. Jonathan Kabigumila, and Mr. Henry Ndangalasi, all of the University of Dar es Salaam.
In the mangrove forests of Tanzania’s river deltas, poverty and isolation drive degradation of the local natural resources. Persistent conflicts among government policies, failure to enforce environmental laws and centralization of decision-making about resource management aggravate the impacts of poverty. The mangrove forests of Tanzania face immense pressure from both development policies oriented toward economic growth and from the subsistence needs of local people. In Bagamoyo, where the Ruvu and Wami Deltas are found, tourism is taking its toll through clearing for hotel construction and opening of beaches, while illegal charcoal-making and salt-making also threaten the mangroves. In the Rufiji Delta, home to the largest mangrove forest in the whole of East Africa, threats to biodiversity come from as far away as New York: the government has accepted a proposed multimillion-dollar private prawn-farming project to be located in the delta area. Subsistence farming and private trading of mangrove poles, mostly illegal, are currently causing considerable damage and decline of mangrove forest in the Delta.
In their heyday during the colonial era, Bagamoyo and Rufiji were centers of civilization in the coastal areas of Tanzania. Then bustling towns, they were points of trade between the Arab and Far East countries. Major commodities traded included mangrove poles, logs, and tree bark, which were exported to those countries for use in house construction and boat building and for making tanning material. These trade links have since disappeared and the traditional uses of these products changed, overtaken by technological advances. Today, lack of coordination and good management of mangrove resources enables the decline of biodiversity in the mangrove areas. Numerous national policies are either being enacted or reviewed to take into consideration the existing realities in the local and global contexts and to address needs for sustainable development. However, conflicts often occur among government ministries, departments, and individuals. These may be administrative, political, or even social, all pertaining to the utilization of mangrove resources or mangrove areas.
Rufiji, Ruvu, and Wami Deltas support a variety of biodiversity, providing diverse natural resources and food for human beings and other species. Environmental decline in these deltas, however, is also high, resulting in economic, social, ecological, and cultural implications. For example, the livelihood and culture of the local people will be endangered if mangrove resources are further depleted. The environmental destruction taking place in the deltas is also a national problem. The level of destruction is high in Ruvu Delta compared to Rufiji and Wami Deltas, is attributable to differences in enforcement practices and the size of the mangrove forests. However, the driving forces that threaten biodiversity in Ruvu, Wami, and Rufiji Deltas are similar.