Environmental Problems in Tanzania

A host of adverse environmental factors are contributing to death, disease, and instability in Tanzania, where most people live in the countryside. Unfortunately, many of the agricultural practices lead to deforestation, soil erosion, overgrazing, degradation of water resources, and loss of biodiversity. In urban areas, a major problem is pollution, caused principally by improper treatment and disposal of solid and liquid wastes. Because of these two problems, Tanzania’s air and water have been contaminated with pollutants that are detrimental to human health.

Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology

The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha, Tanzania, is one in a network of Pan-African Institutes of Science and Technology located across the continent. These Institutes, which are the proud brainchildren of Nelson Mandela, are training and developing the next generation of African scientists and engineers with the goal of furthering the continent’s development through the application of science, engineering, and technology (SET). NM-AIST is being developed to become a world-class research-intensive training institution, mainly for postgraduates and post-docs in SET-related fields.

To address Tanzania’s serious environmental problems, NM-AIST recognized the need for a course on environmental governance. The goal was to educate both the environmental industry and environmental champions within communities and government agencies.

The Project

In the spring of 2015, AWB volunteers Jania Chilima and Ayodele Olagunju were posted to NM-AIST to develop and deliver a course on Environmental Governance and Decision-Making. The course focused on environmental governance in developing nations, and specifically on the context of Tanzania’s transitioning economy. It consisted of four modules: (i) Environmental Governance; (ii) Environmental Impact Assessment; (iii) Human and Ecological Risk Assessment; and (iv) Professional Practice and Ethics for Environmental Professionals. Two cross-cutting themes, Environmental Decision Making and Conflict Management in Resource Communities, were taught separately. To enrich the participants’ learning experience, the class made a field visit to a domestic biogas facility site in Arusha.

Twenty-six participants attended the course—10 NM-AIST master’s and doctoral graduate students and 16 others representing industry and municipal government, as well as students and lecturers from other universities). Participants came from different sub-disciplines in the field of environment, including: Biotechnology/Material Science, Natural Resource Management, Land Use Planning, Wildlife Management, Sustainable Agriculture, Geography, and Environmental Education. It was the intent of the course to prepare change leaders who are critical thinkers and are equipped with superior methodologies and internationally acknowledged environmental decision-making tools.

The course also created a healthy social space for networking of ideas and opportunities. Some students are beginning to form collaborations in the area of research and environmental advocacy.

The knowledge gained, the experience shared, and the network created will be valuable to me throughout my career path.

The class wasn’t just a class but a family, too.

– NM-AIST participants



The course has been incorporated into NM-AIST’s list of course offerings and will be taught annually in its School of Materials, Energy, Water, and Environmental Sciences. In addition, NM-AIST is committed to opening the course to nonstudents who are involved in the private and public environmental sectors, so that it can have an immediate impact on the environmental problems in Tanzania. Moreover, some of the course participants, who were faculty members from other Tanzanian universities, are going to adopt the teaching methods used in the course. Lastly, the relationship between NM-AIST and the University of Saskatchewan, the home university of the AWB volunteers, has been strengthened and opened up new areas of cooperation.


The course provided training to civil servants and environmental activists working together to overcome the severe environmental problems that adversely affect rural and urban Tanzania. This collaboration among skilled and dedicated environmentalists will result in improved practices in agriculture and animal husbandry, which in turn will make available more and better agricultural products for Tanzanians. In addition, it will improve the quality of the water and air in urban Tanzania, thereby lowering the risk of diseases that arise from degraded urban environments.

Date: 2015


  • Jania Chilima, Ph.D. Candidate & Researcher in Environment and Sustainability, Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
  • Ayodele Olagunju, Environmental Assessment Consultant & Lecturer, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan