Background on south-eastern Tanzania

Climate

South-eastern Tanzania is one of the hottest parts of the country because it is low-lying. There are two rainy seasons. Typically the ‘short rains’ are light rains that fall from November to January. After a drier period around February, there are the ‘long rains’, which are heavier rains usually lasting from March to May. Relative humidity tracks rainfall, peaking in March-April.

The mean annual rainfall at Kilwa Masoko (1974-2004) is 1034mm, putting it just inside the wet miombo vegetation category, but rainfall is considered to be slightly lower inland. However, annual rainfall is also erratic (SD 276mm), and becoming increasingly so; the first few years of the 21st century included the wettest (2002 and 2004) and driest (2003) in recent decades. The reasons for this trend is not clear. It could be either because of local changes, such as disturbance of vegetation cover, or because of larger scale processes, which might be cyclical or directional such as global warming.

There is also considerable monthly variation in rainfall. For example, in December 1993, when the short rains were expected, it did not rain at all. As farmers are dependent on rain-fed agriculture, in drier years local people often need food aid.

Access & Communications

Until May 2000 south-eastern Tanzania was largely inaccessible, being linked to Dar es Salaam, the largest city in the country, by a single ferry across the Rufiji River. The construction of the Mkapa Bridge across the Rufiji was an essential investment facilitating much-needed development in the impoverished area to the south. This bridge is part of the upgrading of the Dar-Mtwara road (B2), which runs north-south through the District. The road upgrade works for the section of road between Dar-es-Salaam and Kilwa Masoko began in 2008. The majority of the road has been constructed, although as of mid 2013, approximately 25 kilometres remained to be completed. Previously, in the rainy seasons the area lost its road links with the rest of the country, such that goods could only be taken in and out by sea. That situation has now greatly improved. Kilwa Masoko also has a port and also a small airport, which is served by scheduled flights to Lindi and Dar es Salaam.

Another improvement in communications in recent years was the arrival of mobile telephones in 2003. At first the networks served only the main towns of Kilwa Masoko, Kilwa Kivinje, Kilwa Kisiwani, Nangurukuru and the villages between them, but latterly has expanded to cover much of the district.

The completion of the Mkapa Bridge made movement of goods and people much easier. There is anecdotal evidence of net migration into the District. It has become cheaper to send local timber, crops and fish to market in Dar es Salaam, and transport costs to bring in manufactured goods from outside the area for sale have decreased. New businesses are opening, particularly in Kilwa Masoko. However, despite these very recent changes, the District remains poor.