Traditional resource management (TRM) is largely based on local ecological knowledge (LEK). In regions where formal institutional control of natural resources is limited due to a lack of coordination or stakeholder involvement, communities rely on TRM to manage common-pool resources. This paper examines TRM among the Sonjo in rural Northern Tanzania, with particular reference to catchment forest protection and water quality. We first document the ecological knowledge of traditional resource managers, and then describe the differences between traditionally managed water sources and formal, government managed resources. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods to examine water use, perceptions of water quality, and bacterial water quality, significant differences were detected among river basins within seasons and between seasons. Our findings indicate that the Sonjo, well known for their traditional forest conservation practices and irrigation management, may also benefit from TRM through improved water quality. The examination of traditional methods of water conservation provides insight into how communities in resource-stressed regions thrive despite seasonal droughts and flooding.
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The first author thanks the Sonjo community for their wonderful cooperation and is particularly grateful for the hospitality and encouragement he received while completing this research. He also thanks Elias Kalumbwa for organizing logistical issues and providing Sonjo and Kiswahili translations. Malaki Leshau also provided support in the field. Space to conduct the bacterial analyses in Samunge was provided by the Swahili Hoteli. An earlier version of this manuscript benefited from revisions provided by J. Müller. Financial support for this project was provided by an NIH Water and Public Health Graduate Fellowship awarded through the Water: Systems, Science, Society program at Tufts University. The authors would also like to acknowledge the financial support of the Tufts Institute of the Environment. The author appreciated the revisions provided by two anonymous reviewers.
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Strauch, A.M., Almedom, A.M. Traditional Water Resource Management and Water Quality in Rural Tanzania. Hum Ecol 39, 93–106 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-011-9376-0
- Traditional water resource management
- Local ecological knowledge
- Water quality