Skip to main content

Traditional Water Resource Management and Water Quality in Rural Tanzania

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Notes

  1. 1.

    The development of irrigation systems in water-stressed regions is also an important outcome of traditionally managed communal resources (Gray 1963; Rydzewski 1987).

References

  1. Adams, W. M., Potkanski, T., and Sutton, J. E. G. (1994). Indigenous Farmer-managed Irrigation in Sonjo, Tanzania. The Geographical Journal 160: 17–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Agnew, C., and Anderson, E. (1992). Water Resources in the Arid Realm. Routledge Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Agrawal, A. (1995). Dismantling the Divide Between Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge. Development and Change 26: 413–439.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Almedom, A. M., and Odhiambo, C. (1994). The Rationality Factor: Choosing Water Sources According to Water Uses. Waterlines 13: 28–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Almedom, A. M., Blumenthal, U., and Manderson, L. (1997). Hygiene Evaluation Procedures: Approaches and Methods for Assessing Water- and Sanitation-Related Hygiene Practices. International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries.

  6. Armitage, D. R. (1998). Environmental Management and Policy in a Dryland Ecozone: The Eyasi-Yaeda Basin, Tanznaia. Ambio 25: 396–402.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Belsky, A. J., Matzke, A., and Uselman, S. (1999). A Survey of Livestock Influence on Stream and Riparian Ecosystems in the Western United States. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 54: 419–431.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Berkes, F. (1995). Community-based Management of Common Property Resources. Encyclopedia of Environmental Biology 1: 371–373.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Berkes, F. (1998). Learning to Design Resilient Resource Management: Indigenous Systems in the Canadian Subartic. In Berkes, F., and Folke, C. (eds.), Linking Social and Ecological Systems: Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 98–128.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Berkes, F. (2008). Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management. Taylor and Francis, Philadelphia.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Berkes, F., Colding, J., and Folke, C. (2000). Rediscovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as Adaptive Management. Ecological Applications 10: 1251–1262.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Bohn, C. C., and Buckhouse, J. C. (1985). Coliforms as an Indicator of Water Quality in Wildland Streams. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 40: 95–97.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Buckhouse, J. C., and Gifford, G. F. (1975). Water Quality Implications of Cattle Grazing on a Semi-arid Watershed in Southeastern Utah. Journal of Range Management 29: 109–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Clemm, D. L. (1977). Survival of Bovine Enteric Bacteria in Forest Streams and Animal Wastes. Masters Thesis, Central Washington University.

  15. Crowther, J., Kay, D., and Wyer, M. D. (2002). Faecal-indicator Concentrations in Waters Draining Lowland Pastoral Catchments in the UK: Relationships with Land Use and Farming Practices. Water Research 36: 1725–1734.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Denevan, W. M., Tracey, J. M., Alcorn, J. B., Padoch, C., Denslow, J., and Paitan, S. F. (1984). Indigenous Agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon: Bora Indian Management of Swidden Fallows. Interciencia 9: 346–357.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Gadgil, M. (1998). Traditional Resource Management Systems. In Saraswati, B. (ed.), Lifestyle and Ecology. DK Print World, New Delhi.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gadgil, M., and Berkes, F. (1991). Traditional Resource Management Systems. Resource Management and Optimization 8: 127–141.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Gereta, E., and Wolanski, E. (1998). Wildlife-Water Quality Interactions in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology 36: 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. German, L., Mazengia, W., Taye, H., Tsegaye, M., Ayele, S., Charamila, S., and Wickama, J. (2010). Minimizing the Livelihood Trade-offs of Natural Resource Management in the Eastern African Highlands: Policy Implications of a Project in “Creative Governance”. Human Ecology 38: 31–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Gray, R. F. (1963). The Sonjo of Tanganyika: An Anthropological Study of an Irrigation-based Society. Oxford University Press, London.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hooda, P. S., Edwards, A. C., Anderson, H. A., and Miller, A. (2000). A Review of Water Quality Concerns in Livestock Farming Areas. Science of Total Environment 250: 143–167.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Hunter, C., Perkins, J., Tranter, J., and Gunn, J. (1999). Agricultural Land-Use Effects on the Indicator Bacterial Quality of an Upland Stream in the Derbyshire peak District in the UK. Water Research 33: 3577–3586.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Jagals, P. (2006). Does Improved Access to Water Supply by Rural Households Enhance the Concept of Safe Water at the Point of Use? A Case Study from Deep Rural South Africa. Water Science & Technology 54: 9–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Jordan, P. (1985). Schistosomiasis: The St Lucia Project. Cambridge University Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Kamara, A. B., Swallow, B., and Kirk, M. (2004). Policies, Interventions and Institutional Change in Pastoral Resource Management in Borana, Southern Ethiopia. Development Policy Review 22: 381–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Katjiua, M., and Ward, D. (2007). Pastoralists’ Perceptions and Realities of Vegetation Change and Browse Consumption in the Northern Kalahari, Namibia. Journal of Arid Environments 69: 716–730.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kjekshus, H. (1977). Ecology Control and Economic Development in East African History: The Case of Tanganyika, 1850–1950. University of California Press, Berkeley.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Kunkle, S. H. (1970). Sources and Transport of Bacterial Indicator in Rural Streams. Symposium on the Inter-disciplinary Aspects of Watershed Management. Montana State Univ. Bozeman. Aug 3–6. p. 3

  30. Ladio, A. H., and Lozada, M. (2009). Human Ecology, Ethnobotany and Traditional Practices in Rural Populations Inhabiting the Monte Region: Resilience and Ecological Knowledge. Journal of Arid Environments 73: 222–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Madulu, N. F. (2004). Assessment of Linkages Between Population Dynamics and Environmental Change in Tanzania. African Journal of Environmental Assessment and Management 9: 88–102.

    Google Scholar 

  32. McFeters, G. A., and Stuart, D. G. (1972). Survival of Coliform Bacteria in Natural Waters: Field and Laboratory Studies with Membrane-Filter Chambers. Applied Microbiology 24: 805–811.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Meiman, J. R., and Kunkle, S. H. (1967). Land Treatment and Water Quality Control. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 22: 67–70.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Muller, J. M., and Almedom, A. M. (2008). What is “Famine Food”? Distinguishing Between Traditional Vegetables and Special Foods for Times of Hunger/Scarcity (Boumba, Niger). Human Ecology 36: 599–607.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Ngorongoro District Profile (2004). 2002 Population and Housing Census. Tanzania Central Census Office, National Bureau of Statistics, Dar es Salaam.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Oba, G., and Kotile, D. G. (2001). Assessment of Landscape Level Degradation in Southern Ethiopia: Pastoralists Versus Ecologists. Land Degradation and Development 12: 461–475.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Palsson, G. (1998). Learning by Fishing: Practical Engagement and Environmental Concerns. In Berkes, F., and Folke, C. (eds.), Linking Social and Ecological Systems: Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 48–66.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Pawluck, R. R., Sandor, J. A., and Tabor, J. A. (1992). The Role of Indigenous Soil Knowledge in Agricultural Development. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 47: 298–302.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Potkanski, T., and Adams, W. M. (1998). Water Scarcity, Property Regimes and Irrigation Management in Sonjo, Tanzania. Journal of Development Studies 34: 86–116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Quinn, C. H., Huby, M., Kiwasila, H., and Lovett, J. C. (2007). Design Principles and Common Pool Resource Management: An Institutional Approach to Evaluating Community Management in Semi-arid Tanzania. Journal of Environmental Management 84: 100–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Redford, K. H., and Stearman, A. M. (1993). Forest-dwelling Native Amazonians and the Conservation of Biodiversity: Interests in Common or Collision. Conservation Biology 7: 248–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. (1976). Cosmology as Ecological Analysis: A Viewpoint from the Rainforest. Man (N.S) 11: 307–318.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Reij, C., Scoones, I., and Toulmin, C. (1996). Sustaining the Soil: Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation in Africa. Earthscan, London.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Rurai, M. T. (2007). The Role of Traditional Knowledge and Local Institutions in the Conservation of Micro-catchment Forests Among the Sonjo Agro-pastoralists, Ngorongoro District, Tanzania. Masters Dissertation, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania.

  45. Rydzewski, J. R. (1987). Irrigation Development and Planning. Wiley, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Scoones, I. (1996). New Directions in Pastoral Development in Africa. In Scoones, I. (ed.), Living with Uncertainty: New Directions in Pastoral Development in Africa. Intermediate Technology Development Group, London, pp. 1–36.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Seixas, C. S., and Berkes, F. (2003). Dynamics of Social-Ecological Changes in a Lagoon Fishery in Southern Brazil. In Berkes, F., Colding, J., and Foke, C. (eds.), Navigating Social-Ecological Systems. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 271–298.

  48. Smith, W., Meredith, T. C., and Johns, T. (1996). Use and Conservation of Woody Vegetation by the Batemi of Ngorongoro District, Tanzania. Economic Botany 50: 290–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Sokile, C. S., and van Koppen, B. (2003). Local Water Rights and Local User Entities: The Unsung Heroines to Water Resource Management. WaterNET/WARFSA Symposium Proceedings, Gaborone, Botswana. 15–17 October.

  50. Strauch, A. M., Kapust, A. R., and Jost, C. C. (2009). Impact of Livestock Management on Water Quality and Streambank Structure in a Semi-arid, African Ecosystem. Journal of Arid Environments 73: 795–803.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Sylla, D. (1996). Pastoral Organizations for Uncertain Environments. In Scoones, I. (ed.), Living with Uncertainty: New Directions in Pastoral Development in Africa. Intermediate Technology Publications, London, pp. 134–152.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Thompson, J., and Cairncross, S. (2002). Drawers of Water: Assessing Domestic Water Use in Africa. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 80: 61–62.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Thompson, J., Porras, I. T., Tumwine, J. K., Mujwahuzi, M. R., Katui-Katua, M., Johnstone, N., and Wood, L. (2001). Drawers of Water II: 30 Years of Change in Domestic Water Use & Environmental Health in East Africa. IIED, London.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Tumwine, J. K., Thompson, J., Katua-Katua, M., Mujwajuzi, M., Johnstone, N., Wood, E., and Porras, I. (2002). Diarrhoea and Effects of Different Water Resources, Sanitation and Hygiene Behavior in East Africa. Tropical Medicine and International Health 7: 750–756.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Turner, N. J. (1994). Burning Mountain Sides for Better Crops: Aboriginal Landscape Burning in British Columbia. International Journal of Ecoforestry 10: 116–122.

    Google Scholar 

  56. United Nations (2008). Millennium Development Goals Report. New York.

  57. Van Koppen, B. (2000). From Bucket to Basin, Managing River Basins to Alleviate Water Deprivation. IWMI, Colombo.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Vinten, A. J. A., Lewis, D. R., McGechan, M., Duncan, A., Aitken, M., Hill, C., and Crawford, C. (2004). Predicting the Effect of Livestock Inputs of E. coli on Microbiological Compliance of Bathing Waters. Water Research 38: 3215–3224.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Watkins, C. A. (2009). Natural Resource Use Strategies in a Forest-adjacent Ugandan Village. Human Ecology, online early.

  60. White, G. F., Bradley, D. J., and White, A. U. (1972). Drawers of Water. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Wilken, G. C. (1987). Good Farmers: Traditional Agricultural Resource Management in Mexico and Central America. University of California Press, Berkley.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Yeager, R. (1982). Tanzania: An African Experiment. Westview Press, Boulder.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Yeager, R., and Miller, N. N. (1986). Wildlife, Wild Death: Land Use and Survival in Eastern Africa. State University of New York Press, Albany.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ayron M. Strauch.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Keywords

  • Traditional water resource management
  • Local ecological knowledge
  • Tanzania
  • Sonjo
  • Water quality