Impact of COVID-19 on Rural Livelihoods in Tanzania

12 May 2020

The first COVID-19 case in Tanzania was reported on 16 March 2020 in Arusha, a tourist-hub city in the Northern Zone. Since then, the number of cases has been increasing; as of 7 May 2020 Tanzania has had 480 cases of COVID-19 with 18 deaths. Tanzania has now the highest number of cases in East Africa.  A large number of cases have been reported in Dar es Salaam, the business and financial city of the country and gateway to the Indian Ocean for neighbouring landlocked countries

Despite the fact that Tanzania’s borders are still open, a number of measures to protect the spread of the disease have been taken by the government. Among these are: suspending all international flights; a mandatory quarantine for all travellers coming to Tanzania; and enforcing the WHO health standards, which include social distancing, and facilities to wash hands  in all public places like churches, mosques, offices and  places providing services to the public. In a public speech from his home residence in Chato on 22 April 2020, the president reiterated that no borders to Tanzania’s neighbors will be closed and he does not expect to lockdown any cities as the maintenance of social-economic prosperity overrides the risks of the COVID-19.

The COVID-19 infection has moved from imported cases to community transmission, the result of which is the necessity for more public awareness and measures. In Dar es Salaam, for example, it was announced that from 20 April, the wearing of face masks was mandatory. No one would be allowed to use public transport, get services from offices or buy anything from shops and restaurants without wearing a face mask. People were told to make sure they maintained social distancing of two meters from each other and all food and drink were no longer to be sold as takeaways.

Despite the number of measures the government has taken, Tanzania has still witnessed the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector, especially in Zanzibar whose economy is heavily depends on tourism. A number of hotels on the island and mainland have been closed, including the White Sands Hotel on the beaches of the Indian Ocean in Dar es Salam. This does not only affect the workforce who are laid off but also has a far-reaching impact on families who were supplying vegetables and poultry products to the hotels. This filters down through the value chains, affecting other industries such as those that produce raw materials for animal feeds and other food stuff, which initially originate from smallholder farmers.

It is predicted that the above scenario will bring hardship to a big rural population, which will not have enough income to feed everybody, let alone save for the purchase of future inputs. AFAP urgently needs to assist in preparing for the coming disaster by collecting relevant data, parallel to the official data being given by the government, to guide planning for relief food

By Isack Malipa

Consultant – SME Development Specialist

AFAP Country Office TANZANIA