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Makanya catchment, Tanzania

Main Contributors:

Johnny Musumbu Tshimpanga

Other Contributors:

Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs


The Makanya agro-ecological system as most of smallholder agro-ecosystems in dry-land environments has been conceptualised as a system that exhibits two alternative stability basins of attractions referred to respectively as productive and degraded regimes. The productive domains resulted from a distinctive kind of management both at field and landscape levels that involved extended fallow periods practices aimed at naturally regenerating soils fertility coupled with strong laws local together with rules and norms for natural resources management . Consequently, the system developed along a trajectory where plentiful and easily accessible of on- as well as off-farm provisioning ecosystem services was generated to support a relatively low population living in the system over time. Early 1980s, the agro-ecosystem underwent dramatic changes that happened concomitantly and pushed the system into the degraded regime. These changes encompass increasing dry-spell frequencies, rapid institutional changes, and population growth that triggered a spiral of mutually enforcing feedbacks, involving increased cropping intensity, cultivation of more marginal lands, yields declines, soil fertility decline and loss of provisioning ecosystem services generated by the catchment. That situation has inexorably set the system on a development path where food and other ecosystem services are not generated fast enough to support local population over time. As a result, local populations appear to be caught into a persistent poverty conditions referred to as poverty traps. There is, however, a window of opportunity which is conducive to sustainably dealing with these highly complex challenges. These include a mix of small water system technologies that bear high prospects for stabilising even increasing agro-ecological productivity, and efficient and enforceable institutional mechanisms that guarantee a successful resource base management.

Type of regime shift

  • Bio-productivity shift in dry-land agro-ecosystems

Ecosystem type

  • Drylands & deserts (below ~500mm rainfall/year)

Land uses

  • Small-scale subsistence crop cultivation

Spatial scale of the case study

  • Local/landscape (e.g. lake, catchment, community)

Continent or Ocean

  • Africa


  • Eastern Africa


  • Tanzania

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Key References

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Johnny Musumbu Tshimpanga, Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs. Makanya catchment, Tanzania. In: Regime Shifts Database, Last revised 2011-12-19 16:44:09 GMT.
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