Assessing the Evidence: Climate Change and Migration in the United Republic of Tanzania

08/31/2021 – Temperature rise, changes in the rainy seasons, extreme weather events: climate impacts pose risks to people in East Africa, especially to those living in rural areas and are heavily dependent on small-scale agriculture. A new report, a joint effort between the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), looks into possible linkages between climate impacts and migration in Tanzania and offers lenses across East Africa. It is accompanied by a Summary Brief in Swahili to broaden accessibility of climate information at the local level. In today’s event, PIK scientist Julia Blocher presented key findings of the report, followed by a virtual panel discussion.
Assessing the Evidence: Climate Change and Migration in the United Republic of Tanzania
Unidentified African women walking with water containers on their heads in a village near the city of Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania. © Shutterstock 2017/Rashad MAMMADOV

The report has been written by a team of natural and social scientists under the umbrella of the East Africa Peru India Climate Capacities (EPICC) project, including a former Tanzanian guest researcher. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), describes the report as a “comprehensive and up-to-date account of current knowledge of critical climate change impacts in the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as their links to human mobility trends. It aims to initiate and assist evidence-based policy dialogues on understanding, addressing and managing the current migration mosaic and its likely evolution in a rapidly changing environment.”

The report focuses on the internal, rural-to-rural migration flows which are the most common type of movement in Tanzania and which are most directly impacted by the climate crisis as well as by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because small towns and agglomerations in rural areas are more accessible to rural inhabitants than primary cities and reverse migration from urban to rural areas is increasing, these smaller areas are becoming thriving hubs for economic and social life. The report concludes that migration to smaller towns and agglomerations is a more likely vehicle for rural development than migration flows to large urban areas.

PIK scientist Julia Blocher summarizes another key insight of the report: "Because of a confluence of negative trends in resource availability and land management, agricultural and pastoralist livelihoods in northern and central regions are particularly at risk of harmful climate change impacts. These are dire under a high-end warming scenario." In today’s event, climate-related hazards for rural livelihoods have been a key concern. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber  mentioned in the panel that in the case of Tanzania “you will need a very subtle strategy to respond to that. It is different from other countries, in other countries you have just one direction for migration. In Tanzania it can be in all directions, across all social classes. So it is a real challenge to come up with a multitude of adaptation strategies, some hints are in the report already”.