Challenges and opportunities for sustaining the Usangu wetland in Tanzania

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Despite the many benefits that wetlands provide, the same resources constitute one of the most threatened, degraded and lost habitats in the world. Sustaining them and restoring the lost ones require a thorough understanding of the roots of the problem and the means to overcome it. Based on this ground, a study was conducted in Usangu Plains in the southwestern part of Tanzania using various Participatory Rural Approaches (PRAs) and a semi structured questionnaire so as to explore the challenges and opportunities for achieving sustainable management of the Usangu wetland. The following major challenges were identified: a) the challenge of ensuring a year round environmental water flow to the Usangu wetlands, b) the challenge of resolving the “paradigm dichotomy” between the natural resource conservationists and local communities (i.e. the conservation dilemma of whether to adapt a complete preservation approach or a flexible conservation approach to wetland resources, by allowing multiple uses of wetland resources), c) the challenge of winning the support of the local communities or actively involving them in ensuring sustainable management of wetlands, and d) the challenge of ensuring a thorough understanding of the trade-offs between utilization and sustainability of wetland resources, given the current rate of degradation and losses. Community-based conservation was perceived as the most preferable wetland conservation approach, which seeks to co-opt the managerial capacities of the wetland resources to the local people themselves, who have been very often by-passed in the conventional approaches.


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Usangu wetlands, Wetland loss, Wetland utilisation, Wetland restoration, Community-based conservation


Njau, P.H., Munishi, P. K. T., Mbije, N.E. & R.M.J. Kadigi (2013). Challenges and opportunities for sustaining the Usangu Wetland in Tanzania.