Conflicts over water are increasing in the sprawling Pangani River Basin

Conflicts over water are increasing in the sprawling Pangani River Basin in northeastern Tanzania as farmers and herders jostle for dwindling water resources in the face of climate change.

Over the past decade, Maasai pastoralists from the northern areas of Moshi and Arusha have been streaming towards the basin with tens of thousands of their cattle in search of water and grazing pasture.

Hafsa Mtasiwa, the Pangani district commissioner, told IPS that the Maasais' traditional land was strained by overuse of water resources and overgrazing. She said in the last three years 2,987 herders with 87,1321 cows and 98,341 goats moved into the basin's low land, destroying arable land.

She said that although the government of this East African nation was trying to control the influx into the basin, a lack of policy coordination between relevant regional authorities made this difficult.

"This is a very complex issue whose solution requires a general consensus between the fighting groups. You don't simply chase away cattle keepers. We must educate them on the need to respect the rights of the others," she said.

The Pangani River Basin, which sprawls across 48,000 square kilometres, is already stressed as it faces continued demands on its water resources and ecosystems.

According to the Water and Nature Initiative of the International Union of Conservation of Nature, the basin has a population of 3.4 million people, "80 percent of whom rely on small-scale farming. Ecosystems are in decline and, with aquatic resources supplying up to 25 percent of household income in parts of the basin, the poorest are those most affected by declining water levels."