The Unintended Consequences of Development Assistance: The Case of Usangu in Tanzania

CRSP:   |  Region:   |  Topic:   |  Database:

Peter Coppolillo; Deana Clifford; Jonna Mazet

Type of Document:
Research Brief


Livestock-Climate Change CRSP, University of California- Davis

Date of Publication:

Place of Publication:
Davis, CA


Abstract: Three smallholder rice irrigation schemes were established with development assistance in Tanzania in the 1980s and early 90s aimed at improving agricultural livelihoods in the region. The projects did not accomplish their stated Goals, but more problematically, they precipitated a cascade of unintended consequences. The primary effect was that legal channelization of water catalyzed illegal diversions and satellite farms surrounding the rice schemes. The resultant loss of water was (and remains) the central driver in a cascade of unintended environmental and socioeconomic effects including: a 77% reduction in the area of the Ihefu swamp, the important wetland habitat of the Great Ruaha River; over 60% loss of dryseason habitat in Ruaha National Park; the collapse of fisheries in Mtera Reservoir; increased potential for transmitting zoonotic disease; and the loss of electricity produced by the Mtera Hydroelectric Plant. The social and economic costs of these unintended consequences remain untallied, but the power crisis alone likely cost the Tanzanian economy approximately one billion U.S. dollars. This case highlights the need for development assistance to control the genesis and propagation of unintended consequences which could vastly outweigh the benefits of the assistance program. Furthermore, the perception that developing countries, like Tanzania, are not financially able to manage water sustainably should be replaced by the idea that those countries cannot afford the consequences of unsustainable water resource management.

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