Climate Witness Programme

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Tanzania


Climate change is a worldwide threat that is already being felt by poorer communities in Africa. It is the poorest who are the least responsible for climate change but bear the brunt of the impact. Their voices in international negotiations are at best represented by global organisations but they rarely have the opportunity to be heard directly.

This project intends to provide a voice to grassroots communities in Tanzania to help them address the specific threats posed by climate change.


The effects of climate change are already being felt in coastal East Africa. For example, an estimated 82% of the icecap that crowned Kilimanjaro when it was surveyed in 1912 has already gone, largely due to climate change; the remaining ice is expected to disappear over the next 10 years or so. This will have a huge negative impact on downstream water supplies for humans, livestock, agriculture, forests and wildlife – increasing the probability of resource conflicts as people are forced to migrate.

Climate change models for East Africa imply some dramatic changes for Tanzania. Just some of the predicted scenarios include:
- Projected increase in air temperature of between 1.4°C and 5.8°C by 2100.
- Rainfall is expected to decrease slightly overall, especially in the long rains, but in those parts of the country where there are short rains, an increase is predicted. Dry seasons are predicted to be more intense in the interior and to be more moderate in the coastal region.
- Increased incidence of extreme weather events – rainfall, flooding, droughts, storms etc.
- Sea level is projected to rise between 15 and 95cm.
- An increase in sea water pH (ocean acidification) and sea surface temperature, and;
- Changes in winds and currents, and extreme weather effects including storm surges.

If some or all of these predictions do occur, this could have major impacts on the physical make-up of the region. Agricultural systems are likely to be disrupted, with an affect on crop varieties, land use and harvest yield. Wildlife is likely to be affected with migration of species to more suitable areas. Those species which are unable to move or adapt fast enough face extinction. A rise in sea temperature and increased acidity would affect coral reefs, reef fish communities and other marine life, and inundation of shorelines could have detrimental effects on turtle nesting beaches.

The impact of these impending physical changes will directly affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of rural Africans:

- Food security - loss of agricultural crops, decrease in fish stocks.
- Water shortages – for drinking, hygiene, and irrigation.
- Increase in disease, as a result of flooding and also range extension for disease carrying insects such as mosquitoes / malaria.
- Loss of livestock – as they suffer from loss of grazing, lack of water and increased diseases.
- Increase electricity black-outs as hydro-electric dams struggle to cope with drought or extreme fluctuations in up-stream water supply.
- Physical destruction of houses and infrastructure (roads, power lines etc) as sea-level rises or extreme weather events become more frequent.
- Human migration to more suitable areas for habitation leading to increased resource conflicts.

Some climate change induced changes have already been reported. For example:

- Kilimanjaro glaciers and snow cover have been retreating (55% of glacier loss between 1962 and 2000. Debate over past and current climate change and ice cap coverage, however, persists. Over the 20th century, the spatial extent of Kilimanjaro’s ice fields has decreased by 80%. It is suggested by some, that if current conditions persist, the remaining ice fields are likely to disappear between 2015 and 2020, for the first time in 11,000 years.
- Loss of ‘cloud forests’ since 1976 resulting in 25% annual reductions of water sources derived from fog, affecting annual drinking water of 1 million people living in Kilimanjaro.
- Aside from warmer surface waters, deep water temperatures (which reflect long-term trends) of the large East African lakes (Victoria, Malawi) have warmed by 0.2 to 0.7°C since the early 1900s.
- Deep tropical lakes, are experiencing reduced algal abundance and declines in productivity because stronger temperature stratification reduces upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water. Primary productivity in Lake Tanganyika may have decreased by up to 20% over the past 200 years, and for the East African Rift Valley lakes, recent declines in fish abundance have been linked with climatic impacts on lake ecosystems.
- The 1997-1998 coral bleaching observed in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea was coupled to a strong ENSO (an indication of the potential impact of climate-change induced ocean warming on coral reefs). In the western Indian Ocean region, coral mortality of up to 80% occurred at some sites, affecting tourism in Mombasa and Zanzibar
- Endangered species associated with mangroves and coral reefs, the main coastal ecosystems in Africa, will be affected by climate change. Species at risk include dugong and marine turtles, along with migratory birds.

These changes will have tremendous impacts on people, biodiversity and wildlife as they alter the natural systems upon which they rely. Not least will be species migration and extinction, an increase in insect populations, increased vulnerability to disease, increased frequency and intensity of fires, diminished water availability and a rise in water temperatures in rivers, lakes and oceans. Changes in ocean temperature, acidity and sea-level will have devastating impacts on corals and their fisheries communities, turtle nesting beaches and mangroves.


WWF, with the support of the Department for International Development (DFID), is working to help people and governments in coastal East Africa to adapt to the dramatic impacts of climate change. Specific objectives include:
- Helping to design projects and programmes on the ground that help maximise the resilience of the natural environment to cope with these changes – for example, reducing unsustainable human impacts on coral reefs and fisheries, re-planting mangroves etc.
- Working with poor rural communities to reduce their vulnerability to climate change: severe events will potentially devastate their livelihoods (due to lost food crops, damaged homes, destroyed fishing boats etc). WWF is promoting access to rural credit and savings schemes (CARE’s VSL Model).
- Working with partners to directly adapt natural resource management systems to reverse or minimise the changes brought about by climate change. For example ensuring that the natural flow regimes on key rivers are restored by reallocation of water rights upstream.


1. A series of 6-8, punchy individual testimonial “shorts” (3-4 minutes max) for TV to be aired in Tanzania as a weekly series in Kiswahili. These shorts will also be available in English (dubbed / subtitled) for circulation via YouTube
2. A 30 minute film to be shown in Tanzania – containing 6-8 individual testimonials “listen for a change” by a quality film production company - Two versions of the film will be produced, one in Kiswahili, and a second with English sub-titles / dubbing.
3. A second 23 minute Climate Change Impact Tanzania film will be produced for the British Public (BBC quality)
4. Print material – 8 page colour booklet capturing the testimonials (in English) - inc DVD of film enclosed
5. Compelling awareness materials for two major newspapers (English and Kiswahili) – 4 page stand alone colour insert
6. 30 minute Climate Change awareness panel discussion on TBC

It is recommended that stories should be selected from among the communities where WWF and/or other NGOs/research organisations are currently working to build Climate Change resilience (such as WCS, IDRC, IRA etc). In addition WWF will generate a further set of potential testimonials by running a competition in a key national newspaper inviting the public / communities to submit their stories. A technical team, led by WWF but drawing on others, will be established to filter this pool of potential witnesses down into a manageable number for consideration in this film. The technical team will guide the film maker on choice of testimonies so as to ensure that the stories selected are supported by Climate Change scientific knowledge.

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