top of page

Upper Pangani River Basin, Tanzania

The Project

The use of groundwater for irrigation is a recent but growing phenomenon in Tanzania. The expectation is that the utilization of groundwater will help drive agricultural development and modernization. There is, however, very little research done on the practices, knowledges and imaginaries of groundwater and how increased groundwater use may shape new trajectories of agricultural and rural development, resource competition, environmental degradation or socio-economic differentiation and class formation in the agricultural sector.

Map of the Pangani River Basin

The fieldwork of the T2SGS team in Tanzania focuses on local case studies in villages on the dryland plains south of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru. The immediate goal is to document local emerging groundwater practices and knowledges, and to place them in the context of groundwater governance and related local  as well as broader sustainability and development challenges. 

Type of irrigation well (Credit: Hans Komakech - June 2019).


The plains and footslopes south of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, in the upper Pangani basin, are characterised by semi-arid landscapes with a mix of smallholder, middle size and more large-scale agriculture. Increased competition over surface water flows, including those generated by  water demands of agribusiness companies in horticulture (e.g. flowers) and sugarcane production are driving intensification of groundwater use.

A diesel pump pumping water from a deep tubewell - in the back are labourer's tents. (Credit: Chris de Bont - June 2019)

Downstream, smallholders, as well as middle size farming enterprises, increasingly rely on aquifers and cheap pumps for new types of individual and collective irrigation (de Bont et al, 2019). Large-scale flower estates compete with smallholder farmers over this water, resulting in new initiatives to share and protect the resource. Shallow wells, which used to be mainly used for drinking water, have become increasingly mobilized for irrigation. Agribusiness companies are starting to tap deeper into aquifers, which is beginning to cause issues in water quality and quantity. New networks are emerging around creative technological and institutional solutions to address these problems, focusing on ways to better and fairly share water between and within different groups and in initiatives to better protect the resource. These networks operate in the shadow of formal regulatory frameworks, which are not yet backed up by hydrological or engineering support (de Bont et al., 2016). 

Type of irrigation well. (Credit: Kerstin Joseph - February 13, 2020)


de Bont, C., Veldwisch, G. J., Komakech, H. C., & Vos, J. (2016). The fluid nature of water grabbing : the on-going contestation of water distribution between peasants and agribusinesses in Nduruma, Tanzania. Agriculture and Human Values, 33(3), 641–654.

View Team Members

bottom of page