Floods Leave Rural Tanzania Under Water

May 15, 2014 12:06 am0 comments by:

Rufiji, Tanzania – The rains started a few weeks ago and they never stopped. For two weeks they poured down in an almost constant barrage from the sky above. As the water continued to fall, from the ground below it began to rise, causing floods of almost biblical proportions. The people of the Rufiji District have not seen flooding of this magnitude in 12 years. Maybe this is why the inhabitants were caught so unaware. Nua Kitambulio, a female Rufiji farmer was in her home out on her farm when the flooding began.

“At first, there was only a little water, then it began to increase around my house and farm. Soon it became too much and we had to flee.”

She was only able to save what little she could before the floods became dangerous.

“Initially the water was up to our waist. But, by the time we escaped, the water had reached our chest. We couldn’t get a boat. We managed to get the children and our clothes out, but we lost everything else.”

Now, nearly a week after the rains ceased, the entire area remains under three meters of water. Crops that were sowed and ready to be harvested in mid-May are completely destroyed. Even the large bridge in Mohoro, the second biggest town in Rufiji, was washed out, leaving a small government boat to transport people back and forth across the flood waters to conduct business and visit relatives.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In the nearby town of Chumbi, farmers living on the outskirts of town were trapped on their land, some for many days. In addition, livestock, including cattle, goats and chickens, have been trapped or killed. Small canoes, fashioned out of mango trees, were carved to immediately begin helping people escape the floods. Now these same boats are used as transport, taking farmers from the dry land on the outskirts of their farms to the central village, over 300 meters.


In the fields, farmers are wading out into waist deep water attempting to salvage whatever grain they can, taking small bits of rice that was not ready for harvest and drying it in the sun in an attempt to some grain for the long months ahead. Now, in an area where food security is a daily challenge and an entire harvest of produce destroyed, many are wondering what they will do to survive.


“My food situation is very difficult. All of my crops are flooded,” said Ali Bumani. “We could not save any crops from the farm. Everyone here has been affected by these floods.”



Rufiji lies in the Pwani state of Tanzania, approximately 200 km south of Dar Es Salaam. It’s population of approximately 100,000 residents are almost completely dependent on agriculture for their well-being. However, according to Chumbi Chairperson Ali Nguyu, nearly 90 percent of their crops have been destroyed, affecting over 20,000 families.

 The rainy time of year in Tanzania between February and May is called Masika, and it is the primary season which farmers produce their food for the entire year. Although it is called the rainy season, none expected rains of this magnitude.

Now their resourcefulness, and the possibility of aid, are the only things that could potentially save them from starvation.

Dr. Bonus Caesar, the Deputy Executive Director of African Community Advancement Initiative, a development organization that works in the area, says that his organization is trying to help, but it is difficult to harness the resources to help everyone.

“Our organization has a very close relationship with the residents of Rufiji, and we have never witnessed floods of this size before,” says Dr. Caesar. “We have surveyed those most affected by the floods and we are doing what we can, but we can’t help everyone.”



The water is expected to subside, but it could take up to one month before the land is ready to be planted again, and a minimum of two months before they can harvest, leaving the residents wondering what they can do to bridge the gap. Since the entire region has been affected, food in the markets will soon become scarce as well, driving the price skyward, making it unaffordable for most residents. Also, since the majority of farmers grow their own seed or buy it from each other, even after the floods subside, the farmers still have an issue of securing seed to plant.

Government officials have begun to assess the damage done by the floods, and efforts are underway to obtain food relief. However, based on past response time, this may take up to two months to mobilize. Even when these efforts do reach the people, they are only given enough food to sustain them for less than a week, so contributions to provide immediate and long-term assistance are needed.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In the meantime, a visit through the Rufiji District reveals the same smiling faces and vibrant people as any other time of year. Of course the rains are the primary topic of conversation and they constantly worry about providing food for their children, but their spirit remains.

Temporary food relief to bridge the gap until the land is ready to plant again will help ensure the inhabitant’s survival and access to seed will help them resow what has been lost. African Community Advancement Initiative has established a fund to help residents immediately. However, the people remain positive.

“Even though all the farms are destroyed, at least we were able to escape the waters and we survived,” exclaimed Nyam Bykun a single female farmer and mother. “When the water subsides we will return to our land and plant again.”

So while the rains and floods may have taken their livelihood, it certainly has not broken their resilience, or their spirit.

If you would like to help the farming families of Rufiji please visit: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/feed-rufiji#activity    and donate. You can feed a family for a week for £10.  African Community Advancement Initiative is a development organization that partners with rural farming communities in Africa to obtain access training and resources in health, education and living standards. For more information visit www.acainitiative.org

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