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Rain water harvesting in Tanzania’s development plans

Saturday February 13 2021
water pic
By Honest Prosper Ngowi

Tanzania has been experiencing heavy rainfalls with a number of negative effects including loss of lives and properties, destruction of crops and infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Infrastructure destruction due to huge rainfall is increasing the already bad infrastructure deficit and its many and far-reaching related implications.

Utilities like electricity and water can be disconnected. Households and individuals get their properties destroyed due to floods. There are cases of destroyed crops and lost animals as well. All these are happening amidst several development plans and budgets as highlighted below.


Development plans and budgets

Tanzania has seen several development plans and budgets from early days on independence. Among these include the Tanzania Development Vision 2025, the 15-year long range plan, the Five years Development Plans (FYDPs) including the one that will commence in the 2021/22 fiscal year. The FYDPs are implemented through annual plans and corresponding budgets. If well crafted and implemented, the plans and budgets stand to make it possible for Tanzania to harvest enough rain water for its many needs.


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Water economics

Water in general and rain water for that matter is a very important economic resource.

Its use has been among the contributing factors for economic development across geographies and times. It is and will remain to be a very important strategic factor of production in various economic undertakings. It is used in transportation, agriculture, livestock keeping, fishing, mining, sports, industries and most importantly for various domestic uses among others. The need to plan and budget for its harvest cannot be overemphasized.


Rain water harvesting

Rain water can be harvested in various ways. Generally, it is all about collecting the rainwater for future or even immediate use. It can be collected from roof tops and surface runoff among others.

This is very important because rain comes in seasons and there is uneven distribution of the same over time and space.

Arguably, all the rain that falls in a year if harvested could provide more than the needed water. Letting the rain water just go is partly a missed economic opportunity even though it may ‘come’ back through the rain making process. Rain water harvesting is very important economic undertaking as harvesting any other ‘ripe’ resource. The harvesting should be a matter of priority in plans and budgets.


Unsatisfactory harvesting

Several indicators point to the fact that there is inadequate rain water harvesting in Tanzania.

The mere fact that there is huge runoff causing havocs is evidence that there is inadequate rain water harvesting. The biggest evidence of unsatisfactory harvesting is inadequate availability of water in places it has rained heavily just few days if not hours. Proper harvesting can ensure water availability year round. Rain water harvesting is a function of willingness and ability as captured in plans and budgets.


Infrastructure

Rain water harvesting and storage infrastructure is very important. The infrastructure varies from very simple to complicated ones.

It can be harvesting water from various roofs and taming surface runoffs into dams. Arguably, the relatively high cost of the infrastructure contributes to a large extent on the generally observed inadequate rain water harvesting in Tanzanian types of economies. This in turn is due to low incomes levels of the majority in the population. This contributes to inadequate quantity and quality of harvested rain water.

The result is water scarcity amidst plenty rainfall. Proper planning and budget can fix what is broken in this equation.


Way forward

Rain water harvesting needs to be among the priorities in development plans and budgets. Among the strategies include provision education, awareness and sensitization amongst the population. There is also a need for attractive legal, policy and regulatory framework to attract and give appetite and comfort to the would-be rain water harvesters. They range from individuals to corporate entities including public and private institutions.

Our development plans and budgets should grant incentives including fiscal and non-fiscal ones. Fiscal incentives may include tax exemptions in all matters related to rain water harvesting. This should not be seen as lost revenue but as investment that will yield returns in future through good use of the harvested rain water. Indeed, rainwater harvesting should be seen as among the new investment opportunities for both foreign and local investors of all sizes.

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The author is Associate Professor of Economics at Mzumbe University and Principal of Mzumbe University Dar es Salaam Campus College