Climate Witness: Rajab Mohammed Soselo, Tanzania
In the past I used to go out fishing with my own canoe. I currently do not own any fishing craft. Instead I buy fish from artisan fishers and sell them to consumers in Kunduchi and Dare Es Salaam. The profit accrued from this business is very small, but it is the main source of income to my family."
A mosque and five residential houses washed away
As a fisherman I have always kept a close eye to the sea and the seashore. And what I have seen happening to the beach in Kunduchi is worrying me a lot. The beach is gradually being washed away. I think this is due to an increase in the strengths of headwater waves bouncing off the beaches. I have seen how the sea has advanced for about 200m in the last 50 years. The seashore is now much closer to my village, with dramatic consequences. For example, a mosque and five residential houses have been washed away by the sea over the years. These houses all belonged to families which I know very well. It has been a terrible experience for them.
Similarly, the advancing sea has also destroyed an historic fish market that was constructed in mid 1970s.
Another example of the destructive power of the advancing sea is the destruction of the now defunct Africana Hotel in my village. When it was constructed in 1967 the sea was located 200m away from the hotel plot. At that time this distance was deemed safe, as the sea had never before advanced more than 100m from the hotel site. I remember this quite clearly because at the time I was a casual labourer during the construction of the hotel. The first signs of shoreline erosion at the hotel site became evident in early 1980s when the beach shelters were being washed away one after the other. Since 1984 the hotel location started being pounded by stronger waves, also causing damage to the hotel itself, until it completely collapsed in 1996. The original hotel building has disappeared completely, with only three small huts remaining today.
It is clear to me that existing beach hotels and more residential houses are currently at increased risk facing the same fate."
Population of parrot fish decreased
I have also witnessed another phenomenon which I think is related. Along the beach near my village various dune structures used to be commonly found. I have seen these dunes decreasing both in size and numbers over the last decade or so. For example, a locally well-known dune at Mivinjeni, which was located 100m from the Kunduchi beach hotel, has completely disappeared since 1995.
I remember that from 1996 onwards, sea grasses near Kunduchi started to get buried by sand. I remember this because this was the year in which the population of parrot fish suddenly decreased, also leading to much smaller catches by fishers in Kunduchi.
The reduction in fish catch has seriously affected my business. While the demand keeps increasing and supply is going down, the price of fish goes up. The people I usually sell fish to can no longer afford these high prices, so these circumstances are making it increasingly difficult for me to make a living.
I am also noticing other weather-related changes. For example, the temperatures around Kunduchi have increased. As a result the cold season is not well felt. Also, the rainy season has become shorter and we are getting less rain with reduced flows of river entering the Indian Ocean. The reduced river flows have caused a significant reduction in the supply of freshwater. This has turned the brackish water near the mouth of the river more salty. Fish species that were normally caught in brackish water are no longer part of the catch composition. It has also led to poor supply of agricultural products like grains and legumes that are critical for the communities in my village.
All these changes in our climate are reducing the supply of fish and vegetables, among others, and increasing the prices, thus adding to the various other economic and social problems which we face. My community members, my family and I are very concerned about this. I do hope that governments will do whatever can be done to stop these climatic changes. I also hope that measures will be taken to help my community cope with all the changes in our local environment.
Scientific reviewReviewed by: Dr Declan Conway, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, UK
The types of experiences that Rajab describes are good examples of the kinds of environmental stresses that will be experienced by people as climate begins to change. At the moment it is still too early to determine whether some or all of his experiences are directly related to climate change. It is the case that the warming has experienced is part of the regional warming that is known to have occurred in many parts of Africa and in sea surface temperatures.
East Africa is going to continue warming and it is likely that greater intense rainfall events and river floods will occur. The coastal erosion that Rajab has experienced is the type of challenge that will continue as sea level rise happens, although local erosion may be related to other environmental changes than sea level rise.
All articles are subject to scientific review by a member of the Climate Witness Science Advisory Panel.