Climate & Agriculture
Coastal vs inland
Along Tanzania’s lowland coastal areas, temperatures are higher and conditions more humid than inland. For example, Dar es Salaam averages 28°C in January and 24°C in July.
Along coastal regions, there are two seasons of rain. From mid-March to May, the masika or long rains bring downpours almost every day. The lighter mvuli or short rains fall November to January. Overall, rainfall is usually around 750mm annually, though offshore islands receive more.
The central plateau is cooler and drier because of its higher altitude. This region generally receives less than 500mm of rain annually. In drought years, it can be less, proving a real problem for farmers.
In mountainous areas of the northeast and southwest, temperatures are cooler (sometimes dropping below 15°C at night) and rain can fall any time.
Many Tanzanians are involved in agriculture, often as subsistence farmers growing food for their families.
Projects are underway in Tanzania to evaluate which seed varieties are best adapted to drought-prone regions. By planting drought-resistant maize varieties, subsistence farmers are more likely to ensure a decent harvest for their families.
The main foods grown are maize/corn, cassava, beans, rice and bananas. While maize is the main staple in many areas, cassava (manioc) and sweet potatoes are used as drought-resistant crops.
Livestock rearing is a key activity across Tanzania, particularly in drier regions. Cattle, goats and sheep are raised by pastoral farmers and cattle meat is the second largest agricultural product (after bananas).
Sisal was introduced by the Germans – see History & Politics – in the 1890s. It was once Tanzania’s most valuable industry, though today it’s not a top-earner. The Germans also encouraged coffee-growing on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, as well as an increase in rubber plantations.
Some Tanzanians work on larger farms. As well as growing crops for the domestic market, commercial farms also produce harvests for export.
Coffee, tobacco and cotton are the highest-earning crops for export. Others include cashew nuts, tea and sisal.
Zanzibar is famous for its spices, but most especially for its cloves, which make up most of its exports. Coconuts and coconut products such as oil and matting are also important.
Zanzibar produces around one tenth of the world’s supply of cloves.