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United Republic of Tanzania

Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


The main institutions involved in agricultural water management are:

  • The Ministry for Water (MW) was created in 2008 from the former Division of Irrigation and Technical Services of the Ministry of Agriculture. Previously there had already been some Ministries responsible for Water: the Ministry of Lands, Settlements and Water Development in 1964, the Ministry of Water Development and Power in 1973 before irrigation management was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture in 2002. MW is responsible for the development and management of water resources, the preparation of integrated water resources management plans, the planning and designing of dams and the promotion of rational allocation of water with formal water use permits. These tasks are done through the implementation of the National Irrigation Policy in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. Locally, MW also provides technical services through the Zonal Irrigation Units (ZIUs) working with the regional administration and the local governments, as well as promotes integrated water resources management in the basins with the Basin Water Offices (BWOs). The Water Development and Management Institute (WDMI), is the MW entity responsible for research on water management.
  • Ministry for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFSC) implements the National Irrigation Policy from crop production and productivity perspective, in particular through its:
    • Ministry of Agriculture Training Institutes (MATIs) and
    • Ministry of Agriculture Research Institutes (MARIs).
  • The National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) is the advisory body to the Government on environmental matters.
  • The National Water Board, established in 2012, advises MW on multi-sectoral coordination, integrated water resources planning and management as well as resolution of national and international water conflicts.

Linkages between relevant institutions are weak and their respective roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined to the detriment of effective irrigation development. Other constraints to irrigation development include the lack of staff and detailed data on the sector (MWI, 2009).

In relation to water and sanitation, two public sector institutions are officially responsible in Dar es Salaam: the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (DAWASA) owns the water supply infrastructure and the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Corporation (DAWASCO) manages the water supply practically (UNDP, 2011). The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) is in charge of the technical and economic regulation of the water sectors, as well as the electricity, petroleum and natural gas sectors.

Water management

Water resources in the United Republic of Tanzania are managed according to the 2009 Water Resources Management Act (WRMA) at five levels, from national to local: i) national water board, ii) the nine basin water boards, iii) catchment water committees, iv) district councils and v) water users associations (WUA). The latter are organized in water catchments and are responsible for managing allocation of water resources at local level, managing equitable allocation of resources during drought, and mediating local disputes (Medmu, Magayane, 2005). Irrigators’ organizations, formed from the early 1990s onwards, are to be converted in WUAs. Irrigators’ organizations are custodian of the irrigation scheme ownership and get the Water User Permit from their corresponding basin water board, for which they pay a fee. They organize the operation and maintenance of the schemes, distribution of the water, collection of water fees on behalf of the basin water board, resolve conflicts among members and participate in the scheme development and improvement. They can also guarantee irrigators’ access to financial institutions for credits and establish cooperatives for capacitating and empowering farmers. Most irrigation schemes in Tanzania have management problems due to limited funds, skills and capacities in both financial management and law enforcement. In particular, the 2009 WRMA, does not allow the associations to impose a penalty to the users who fail to pay the service charges (MWI, 2009).

The nine basin water boards are preparing IWRMD Plans in Tanzania, each at various progress stages (MW, 2014). They also re-register all water rights granted before the 2009 WRMA, as well as the customary water rights and record the former unregistered ones (MW, 2013). The catchment water committees were still under formation in 2014.

Regarding water supply and sanitation services, Community-Owned Water Supply Organizations (COWSOs) are in charge in rural areas, and Water Supply and Sanitation Authorities (WASSA) in urban areas.


Irrigation development is constrained by low level of government funding for both irrigation and water storage infrastructures and low rate of private investments due to insecure land ownership rights (MWI, 2009). As a result, irrigation development, together with sustainable water resources and land use management, was set as priority investment in the Tanzania Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plan for 2011 to 2021 (TAFSIP 2011) and two funds–the District Irrigation Development Fund (DIDF) and the National Irrigation Development Fund (NIDF)–were established (MAFSC, 2014).

The cost of irrigation infrastructure varies across the irrigation schemes and can be as high as US$18 500/ha for example for a 10 ha new Igingilanyi irrigation scheme in Iringa, which uses groundwater. Unit cost of investment of new irrigation scheme and rehabilitation in Tanzania is lower than the equivalent cost in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the cost for improvement is slightly above (MAFSC, 2013)

Policies and legislation

The main regulatory framework for irrigation in the United Republic of Tanzania is the 2009 WRMA No.11, which repealed the previous 1974 Water Utilization (Control and Regulation) Act. No.42 as amended by the 1997 Water Laws (Control and Regulation) Act, but not the 1999 Water Laws (Miscellaneous amendments) Act. The 2009 WRMA Act stipulates that all water in mainland Tanzania is vested in the United Republic of Tanzania and introduces more participatory management through the five levels of water management in the country (see water management section above). It was completed by the 2013 National Irrigation Act establishing a National Irrigation Commission. Finally, the 2009 Water Supply and Sanitation Act (WASSA) organizes the water provision services and establishes the National Water Investment Fund (MW, 2014). More generally, the 2004 Environmental Management Act (EMA) requires irrigated agriculture to protect the land, surface water and groundwater resources, as well as the community.

A wide range of policies further define the water and irrigation sectors:

  • The 2002 National Water Policy (NAWAPO 2002), which amended the first National Water Policy of 1991, was prepared in part as a response to the growing water use conflicts, especially in the Pangani and Rufiji basins, most of which involve irrigation. It addresses the need for participatory agreements on the allocation of water use and to involve private sector in the resources’ management. It recognises irrigation as a dominant consumptive user the water resources.
  • The 2002 National Irrigation Master Plan (NIMP) proposed an irrigation development programme for 405 421 ha to be implemented by 2017 that includes only smallholder schemes.
  • The 2006 National Water Sector Development Strategy (NWSDS) aims to develop a comprehensive framework for sustainable development of the country’s water resources, together with the NAWAPO 2002.
  • The 2006 Water Sector Development Programme 2006-2025 (WSDP) was prepared to implement objectives of NAWAPO 2002 and NWSDS 2006 (SEI, 2007).
  • The 2010 Nation Irrigation Policy provides a vision and step-wise prioritization of irrigation development in the country and research with reference to the NIMP. It leads towards the establishment of financing mechanisms for irrigation–DIDF and NIDF (see section finances above). It has the objective of ensuring sustainable availability of irrigation water and its efficient use for enhanced crop production, productivity and profitability that will contribute to food security and poverty reduction.

Finally, the Tanzania Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plan for 2011-12 to 2020-21 (TAFSIP) and the National Agricultural Policy of 2013 detail the priority for the agricultural production (FAO, Agwa & IFAD, 2014).


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