Combine forces to protect biodiversity in Rufiji River Basin

28Sep 2021
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Combine forces to protect biodiversity in Rufiji River Basin

STAKEHOLDERS of the Rufiji River Basin have been urged to combine forces to fight the increasing human activities in the area so as to protect biodiversity.

Prof Japhet Kashaigili, supervisor and coordinator of the research project titled “Uncertainty reduction in models for understanding development applications” UMFULA, made the call recently in Iringa when presenting the research findings and closure of the project.

It was organised by the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. UMFULA - (‘river’ in Zulu), is a five-year research project aimed to improve climate information for decision-making in central and southern Africa, with a particular focus on Tanzania and Malawi.

Prof Kashaigili raised concern that the increase of human activities along and in the Rufiji River Basin brings harmful impacts to the river and environment.

He said that there is a need for stakeholders and the community surrounding the basin to take keener interest in protecting its natural resources including fighting deforestation.

He said the UMFULA project research which commenced in 2015 and ended this year, has greatly helped the country to get more information that will help authorities to decide well in protecting the Rufiji River Basin (RRB)

Prof Kashaigili said the team worked to generate for the region new insights and more reliable information about climate processes and extreme weather events and their impacts on water, energy and agriculture, with the aim to support long-term 5 to 40 years planning decisions around resource use, infrastructure investment and cross-sectoral growth priorities.

He said the technical knowledge gained and teams formed during this project are central to achieving the long-term goal of equipping users with a tool to enhance sustainable conservation of freshwater biodiversity.

 “Using 34 modules used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown that the rainfall system is very flexible and that in the future there may be more or less rainfall especially in the southern parts of the basin so this information helps the country to plan if the rains are to increase what can be done and if reduced what to do and so the project has identified important measures to take in the situations,” he said.

He noted that data gaps and lack of access to freshwater biodiversity information in the Rufiji River catchment curtail informed decision-making for sustainable conservation of biodiversity of this river system.

He said as the country is implementing a number of strategic projects including the Julius Nyerere Hydro Power Project (JNHPP), having durable plans to ensure that there is steady supply of water so as to support power production is vital.

He said the project was implemented collaboratively by the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (London School of Economics and Political Science), University of Dar es Salaam, Kulima Integrated Development Solutions-South Africa, University of Oxford-UK, University of Sussex-UK, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-South Africa, University of Manchester-UK, University of KwaZulu-Natal-South Africa.

“We have witnessed massive deforestation and other human activities which pose great risk to the sustainability of the river basin, this needs collective efforts to ensure that the catchment is protected,” he added.

The research has also identified that the increase of unmanaged agricultural activities within the basin also affects wetland areas which are important in controlling sands from entering into the hydropower production dams, something which should be acted immediately.

Rufiji River Basin director, Eng Florence Mahay, said the findings of the research will help them plan better and come up with strategies on sustainable use of the catchment.

UMFULA is part of the Future Climate For Africa (FCFA) programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development and Natural Environment Research Council. The aim of UMFULA was to enable more effective use of climate information in decision-making and to provide support to planning for resource use, infrastructure investments and cross-sectoral growth priorities, through the identification of adaptation options that are robust and resilient in the face of climate change and other non-climate stressors.