Cradle of humans, abode of wildlife
Tanzania is located in East Africa, and borders Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique to the south. To the east it faces the Indian Ocean.
The country's landscape spans from the hot and humid shore of the east coast to the mountainous northeast, which is dominated by Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. Tanzania borders with Lake Victoria in the North and Lake Tanganyika to the west. The centre of the country consists of a large plateau with plains and some arable land.
About a third of Tanzania is covered by forests and woodland, which include the coastal forests and thickets of Tanzania, remnants of the once extensive lowland forests of East Africa. Out in the great wide plains, populations of wildebeest, lions, antelope, cheetahs and flamingos thrive in areas that remain mostly unspoilt.
In the marine realm, the country's mangrove forests are home to oysters and crabs, and nursery areas for fish and prawns. There are extensive seagrass areas, an important food source for invertebrates, fish, dugong, and green and hawksbill turtles.
Coral reefs are common along much of the Tanzanian coastline and well-developed barrier reefs occur along most of the ocean-facing eastern coastline of the islands. The reefs are located along about two thirds of Tanzania's continental shelf.
Sukuma, Haya, Nyakyusa, Nyamwezi, Chagga… More than 120 ethnic groups make up the population of Tanzania, a majority of which has Bantu origins. Swahili is the national language for intertribal communication and for official matters.
While authoritative sources are not available on the religious composition of Tanzania’s population, one estimate suggests that Muslims account for 35% of the population, Christians 30%, while another 35% follow traditional faiths.
Most of Tanzania's earnings come from its soil, which yields coffee, tea, cotton, cashew nuts, tobacco, and cloves among other. These commodities represent a vast majority of exports and their cultivation employs 90% of the workforce. But because of Tanzania’s climate and topography, less than 5% of the land area is used to grow crops. The economic infrastructure is considered to be out of date.
Life expectancy at birth is 46 years and 44% of the population was reportedly undernourished between 2001 and 2003. Some of the serious diseases that afflict parts of the population include hepatitis A, typhoid fever, malaria, Rift Valley fever, plague, and schistosomiasis.