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Tanzania, in southern Africa, with a population of about 27 million, is a poor country but one that has the natural resources to prosper. Tanzania's gross national product (GNP) per capita is a mere S120, compared to $1,170 in Thailand and S21,1000 in the United States.
Agriculture, which accounts for more than half the gross domestic product, is a top priority in the nation's development policy. About 90 percent of the work force is involved in agriculture. About 55 percent of the total land surface is potentially agricultural land, but only 5 percent is cultivated because of a lack of investments, a lack of fertilizer, and, in some areas, tsetse flies. Much of the land has a low and erratic rainfall. The leading export crop is coffee; other exports include cashew nuts, tobacco, tea, sisal, and cotton.
Tanzania, which includes the island of Zanzibar, is one of the least urbanized countries in the world. But, the country's growth rate 3.4 percent - is one of the world's highest; problems of overcrowding and inadequate housing, water supplies, sanitation, refuse collection, and transportation are common in Tanzanian cities and towns. Sixty to seventy percent of urban populations live in squatter settlements.
Tanzania has a widely dispersed population, but does not have an adequate transportation system of roads or railways to carry goods to market. In 1989, the World Bank launched a 5750 million program to improve highways.
The government has made enormous strides in health and education programs. Thirty years ago, literacy in Tanzania was 15 percent; by the 1980s, it had reached 92 percent. Primary school enrollment was 72 percent in 1988; secondary school enrollment was 3 percent. Almost half of the population is under age 15.
The fertility rate (about 71) is noticeably higher than that of other developing countries (4.0). As mentioned above, the population growth rate is one of the highest in the world Although Tanzania's infant mortality rate (158 per 1,000 births) is lower now than 30 years ago when it gained independence, it is still one of the highest in the world and considerably above other developing countries.
Tanzania's energy use per capita (14 gigajoules) is far below the United States (324 gigajoules) and even well below other developing countries. However, the country's very high population growth rate means that there will be a growing pressure on natural resources for subsistence and commercial purposes .
There is no comprehensive national environmental legislation or policy for Tanzania, and there are environmental problems in almost every part of the country. Although half of the country's land is suitable for grazing, 60 percent of this is infested with tsetse flies and thus, is not usable. Animals are concentrated in certain areas, leading to overgrazing, soil erosion, low productivity, and land degradation.
Trees are disappearing as more land is cleared for agricultural purposes. Urban growth has also led to deforestation around cities. And since the population depends almost entirely on wood for fuel, fuelwood gathering is causing serious deforestation.
Tanzania has substantial mineral resources in gold and phosphates and may have offshore oil reserves as well. Fishing is an important industry for Tanzania. Coral reefs near the country's narrow coastline are highly desirable areas for fishing as well as for tourism, but the use of dynamite by fishermen has damaged much of them.
Tanzania's wildlife resources include 11 national parks, 18 game preserves, and 48 controlled hunting areas. Building up the country's tourist industry could be a huge boost to the economy, but without a strong environmental policy, this could have devastating long-term effects.
1. World Resources Institute in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Development Programme, World Resources 1992-93 (Oxford University Press, New York, 1992).
2. The 1992 Information Please Environmental Almanac, compiled by the World Resources Institute (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1991).