Tanzania: Sustainable Water Resources Management in the Upper Ruvuma River

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Olam-Aviv, the Ruvuma Basin Water Board, the Water User Association


The Ruvuma River is located on the border of Mozambique and Tanzania. Its upper basin in the Southwest of Tanzania provides good conditions for agriculture. While the increasing agricultural production generates important income for the region, this also leads to increased pressure on natural resources. Approximately 2.4 million people, of which 1.5 million are in Tanzania, depend on water supply from the Ruvuma River Basin, as do many industries including agriculture.

Evidence shows that the natural water flow in the River Basin is lower than expected, so water users and authorities are concerned about possible conflicts over water. Though water management is primarily the responsibility of government, the capacity of public institutions is often insufficient to address growing pressures and, as a consequence, water governance is often weak.

With the aim of finding a sustainable solution for all water users, a dialogue with relevant stakeholders was voluntarily initiated by Aviv Tanzania Ltd, a subsidiary of Olam-Aviv operating in the Ruvuma Region, in May 2013. This led to the formation of the Upper Ruvuma Catchment Basin Steering Committee (URCBSC). The URCBSC’s mandate is to decide on common actions to support the better management of the shared resource. It focuses on transparent water monitoring, improvement in water use efficiency and research initiatives for sustainable water management. However, the URCBSC is not incorporated into the Tanzanian legal framework, but forms a parallel structure instead.


Approach and Objectives

The objective of the partnership is to improve water security for stakeholders in the Ruvuma Basin by supporting water users to be more adaptable to water usage and to manage threats to water security. To achieve this, an effective multi-stakeholder partnership between civil society, the private sector and governmental actors will be formed.

Based on the already existing URCBSC, the partnership aims to harmonise this steering committee with the newly established Water User Association (WUA) as a platform for dialogue for all stakeholders integrated in official structures, and which represents every stakeholder in the catchment in accordance with the legal framework of Tanzania. Through the WUA, the availability of water and water abstraction will be studied in more detail and concrete activities to reduce water abstraction will be implemented (such as the promotion of better agricultural practices to small-scale paddy rice farmers).

The partnership also supported Olam’s efforts to fully certify the Aviv plantation by the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS). Further measures to manage water risk, such as anti-erosion, strengthening of infrastructure, improved ecosystems, supporting regulation and governance, as well as the mobilisation of wider funding and support will follow in a second phase starting in 2016. These measures will be partially derived from the results of the auditing process by AWS.


Water security for stakeholders in the Ruvuma basin, including Olam-Aviv’s operations, is being improved through:

  • Stakeholder analysis and the organisation of a stakeholder exchange event
  • Support to the formation of a WUA
  • Planned mapping of water abstraction points and sources of pollution by the Basin Water Board
  • Documenting lessons learnt from the AWS standard certification process for Olam-Aviv
  • The recalibration of the Upper Ruvuma Hydrological Model
Challenges and Outlook

Phase II: Building the case and capacity for action, implementing further actions to manage water risks, and institutional embedding.

  • After some preliminary collaboration related to Olam-Avivs certification by AWS, the concept for a more extensive partnership is being prepared.
  • The activities undertaken through the partnership are expected to contribute to the overall improvement of sustainable water resources management in the Upper Ruvuma Basin by developing tools and consolidating interactions between different stakeholders.
  • Olam-Aviv showed strong interest in expanding the partnership to Zambia and possibly Uganda.
Country Set-up

In Tanzania, IWaSP is anchored in the bilateral Supporting Water Sector Development in Tanzania (SWSD) programme, a joint programme of the German and Tanzanian governments, implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

IWaSP partners Tanzania include the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the National Environment Management Council (NEMC), the Dialogue Forum on Climate Change Adaptation, the Pangani Basin Water Board, the Wami Ruvu Basin Water Board (WRBWB), the Ruvuma Basin Water Board, the Kinondoni Municipal Council (KMC).

IWaSP is an international water security programme which combines global best practices in water stewardship with local know-how. Currently active in seven countries, the six-year programme (2013-2018) facilitates partnerships between the public sector, the private sector and civil society to address shared water risks, while improving stakeholders’ use and management of water and building their capacity to develop their own solutions. GIZ manages IWaSP on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the UK Department for International Development (DfID).


Contact Information

Fridtjof Behnsen
IWaSP country coordinator in Tanzania