Geography

Tanzania, United Rep of

The United Republic of Tanzania is located on the east coast of Africa between parallels 1° S and 12° S and meridians 30° and 40° E, extending from Lake Tanganyika to the Indian Ocean. It is bounded on the north by Kenya and Uganda, on the east by the Indian Ocean, on the south by Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia, and on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Burundi, and Rwanda. Tanzania has an area of 945 090 km2.

The land rises from the coastal strip to about 350 m and continues rising in rolling plains to the central plateau with an elevation of around 1 200 m. To the west this plateau drops sharply to Lake Tanganyika, formed by the western branch of the Great Rift Valley. The eastern branch dissects the elevated plains of central Tanzania from Lake Natron in the north to Mbeya in the south, where it joins with the western branch at the north end of Lake Nyasa. Volcanic mountains and steep hill ranges rise up from the central plateau. These uplands occur along a great figure G, beginning with a cluster composed of the Crater Highlands, various small volcanoes, Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro (5 895 m) in the north-east. It continues via the Usambaras near the coast and curves inland along the Ngurus, Ulugurus and the Usagaras toward the southern Highlands and volcanic Rungwe. From here the mountain line bifurcates, one branch going southward into Malawi, the other curving north-westward to the Ufipa Highlands and ending at Kungwe east of Lake Tanganyika. In the north-west part of the country, a series of hills is contiguous to Rwanda and Burundi.

Mean annual rainfall varies from about 400 mm to 2 500 mm and over, but both extremes occur only in restricted areas. The dry season has a duration of 4 to 6 months. It is shorter and less severe in the north-east than in the south. . High temperatures along the coast average 29° C year around. The plateaus have average daytime highs of 29° C and cool nights.

The country has the following climatic zones:

  • Lowland zone, with three subzones: Wet (1 800 mm rainfall and up to 500 m elevation), moist (1 000 to 1 800 mm rainfall and up to 1 000 m elevation) and dry (750 to 1 000 mm rainfall and up to 1 000 m elevation);
  • Highland zone, with two subzones, the moist highlands (1 000 to 1 800 mm, occasionally up to 2 500 mm of rainfall and from 1 200 to 2 100 m elevation) found on the eastern and southern slopes of mountains and the dry highlands, with 625 to 1 000 mm of rain, from 1 500 to 2 100 m on the drier western mountain slopes;
  • Plateau zone, with a moist subzone (1 000 to 2 000 mm of rain, and located from 900 to 1 500 m elevation) occurring around the Lake Victoria basin and a dry subzone (625 to 1 000 mm of rain, elevation from 900 to 1 500 m) covering a very large area in central and western Tanzania;

Semi-desert zone, with less than 625 mm of rainfall. A great variation in rainfall intensity from one year to another is also characteristic.

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

last updated:  Monday, May 28, 2012