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A multi-focus approach to poverty alleviation and poverty eradication is central to economic management in Tanzania. The need to integrate poverty concerns and development requires effective coordination and cooperation among all relevant organs of Government, the business community, civil society, and people. In recognition of this important principle, a department to coordinate efforts to combat poverty has been created. The Poverty Alleviation Department is a division in the Office of the Vice President. Combating poverty is a critical element in the country's development endeavour.

Strategies, policies and plans

Past efforts to eradicate poverty (see below), while inspiring, had some shortcomings mainly because there was no coherent policy to provide direction and guidance to stakeholders. A policy on poverty eradication is now under consideration. Its overall goals, objectives, and strategies are oriented towards:

  1. creating an enabling environment for effective poverty eradication;
  2. empowering the poor to participate in poverty eradication programmes;
  3. ensuring full participation of women in poverty eradication initiatives;
  4. providing coordination mechanisms for the implementation of poverty eradication initiatives; and
  5. promoting equality of opportunity for men and women to lead a decent and productive life.

Major Groups

Besides the government, non-governmental, community, and religious organizations are playing an important role in eradicating poverty. These organizations have been particularly active in the provision of education at both primary and secondary levels, and health care facilities. With respect to health care, for example, about 49% of the hospitals in the country have been constructed and are managed by voluntary organizations. The contribution of voluntary organizations in the education sector is equally significant. Donor agencies have also been active partners in poverty eradication efforts.


Since independence, the government has sought to combat poverty, ignorance, and hunger. To achieve this, various strategies have been launched including state intervention to reduce economic and social inequalities in resource distribution and control. Furthermore, mass mobilization has been undertaken using catch-phrases, such as: "Freedom and Work" (Uhuru na Kazi) to extol the virtues of work as a basis of development and self dignity as well as a strategy to enhance employment opportunities; "Politics is Agriculture" (Siasa ni Kilimo) to increase rural incomes and ensure food security and to improve small holder agriculture through better farm management practices and the use of improved technologies; "Life is Health" (Mtu ni Afya) to increase mass awareness of the importance of health care and to catalyze community action towards the provision of health care services; "Universal Primary Education" (UPE) to promote primary education and functional literacy in the adult population; and "Modern Houses" (Nyumba Bora za Kisasa) to promote adequate and decent housing for all.

Tanzania does not yet have a national definition of poverty. The country still uses conventional measures as indicators of national poverty. In order to develop better poverty indicators, the Government has launched a study on poverty statistics. One indicator currently used is per capita income, and its changes; a measure which relates to population and gross domestic product (GDP) growth. However, this measure does not lead to an estimate of the proportion of the population which could be considered economically poor. Other indicators of national poverty include the rate of employment, dependence on external assistance in financing development, etc. The per capita income was estimated to be Tshs. 5890 in 1995 at 1985 prices, having increased from Tshs. 4919 in 1985 (National Economic Survey for 1995 published in June, 1996).

Employment is an important avenue of earning income among the population. Employment opportunities have been limited in the recent past due to the slow growth of the economy, and the freezing of new recruitment in the public sector. However, employment opportunities in the informal sector have increased in the recent past. A survey of the city of Dar es Salaam undertaken in 1995 indicates that this sector provides employment to about 65% of the city's labour force.


Poverty is linked to environment in a complex way, particularly for a natural resource-based economy like Tanzania. Degradation of natural resources reduces the productivity of the poor and makes them even more susceptible to extreme events (climatic and economic). Poverty makes recovery from such events even more difficult and contributes to lowering social and ecological resistance. Poverty is also a factor in accelerating environmental degradation in many parts of the country, since the poor, with shorter time horizons and usually less secure access to natural resources, are unable and often unwilling to invest in natural resource management but rather strive for a survival existence.

Poverty is a complex problem with both national and international dimensions. The eradication of poverty and hunger, equity in income distribution, and human resource development remain major challenges in Tanzania. As Agenda 21 proposes, sound population, health care, and education policies must be put in place in order to combat poverty.

Table 1: Estimated Per Capita Income Annual Changes for the Period 1988-1995

Year 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
Per Capita Income Annual Changes (%)   1.0 2.3 2.6 1.0 1.1 0.3 0.8
Estimated Population Growth Rate (%) 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.8

This information was provided by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: 1 April 1997.

For information on Tanzania's National Programme Framework for Poverty Eradication, click here.

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Strategies, policies and plans

Tanzania adopted a National Population Policy (NPP) in 1992. The policy recognizes that there is no simple cause and effect relationship between population growth and economic growth, and that population growth may not be the primary obstacle to development. Nevertheless, it is appreciated that a high population growth rate aggravates the difficult economic situation and renders remedial measures more difficult. At the macro level, a rapid and high population growth rate results in increased outlays on private and public consumption, drawing resources away from savings for productive investment. The NPP spells out as its principal objective, the reinforcement of national development through exploiting available resources to improve the quality of life of the people, with special emphasis on regulating population growth rate, enhancing the quality of life, and improving the health and welfare of women and children.

The NPP underscores the following: the impact of population growth on natural resources and the environment; the increased pressure on natural resources, leading to their over-utilization and degradation due to rapid population growth and the increased number of livestock; the increased demand on the environment for land use expansion for agricultural purposes, housing requirements, and recreational amenities; and the need for capacity building, advocacy, and population education through information, education, and communication. Other NPP goals include: the promotion of a sustainable relationship between population, resources, and environment; and the promotion of a more harmonious relationship between urban and rural development in order to achieve a spatial distribution of the population conducive to the optimal utilization of resources.


In 1995, the population of Tanzania was estimated to be 28.9 million. The population has more than doubled since 1967 when it was 12.3 million. Comparable figures for the 1978 and 1988 census were 17.5 million and 23.1 million, respectively. It must be noted that the national census is the main source of population information in Tanzania as the country does not yet have reliable records of births and deaths, nor data on migratory movements. The current population growth rate is 2.8% per year. There are marked differential regional rates of population growth.

Generally regional population growth rates are high, above 2.0% per year, with the exception of Mtwara. A number of regions have growth rates higher than 3.0% per year. These include Dar es Salaam, Rukwa, Arusha, Ruvuma and Mbeya. With the exception of Iringa, Mara, and Coast regions, the growth rates of all other regions declined in 1978/88 when compared with the 1967/78 inter-census period.

At the national level, population growth is mainly due to natural increase, that is the differences between births and deaths. The decline of the national rate of population growth is supported by findings of the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (1991/92) and the Tanzania Knowledge, Attitude and Practices Survey (1994), as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Estimated Total Fertility Rates and Crude Birth Rates






Year 1978 1988 1991 1994 1978 1988 1991 1994 1978 1988 1991 1994
TFR 6.9 6.5 6.3 5.6 - - 6.6 5.9 - - 5.1 4.4
CBR 49 47 43 37 - - 43 37 - - 42 37

TFR = Total Fertility Rate
CBR = Crude Birth Rate

The population of Tanzania depicts a typical young age structure, with about 46% of its total population below age 15; 50% between the ages of 15 and 64 years; and only 4.3% of the total population being 65 years and older. The implication of this age structure becomes even more important when the proportion of the young population (that is, the population aged 15 - 24 years) is added to the proportion of the population below age 15 years. The proportion of young people increases to about 66% of the total population.

Age dependency ratios indicate the estimated number of people supported by one hundred in the working age group 15 - 64 years. The dependency ratio for Tanzania is relatively high because more than 100 persons are being supported by 100 workers. The younger age group is the main contributor to the high dependency ratio in Tanzania. This has implications for the social services needs for this population, especially the provision of education and health care. Due to limited opportunities for schooling beyond primary education, provision of employment for youth is also a major problem.

The broad based young population structure of Tanzania has another implication. More and more persons enter child bearing age every year, with the attendant increase of births annually, thus perpetuating the high growth rate of the population.

Population distribution is the spread of the population within an area available to them for exploitation. The 28.9 million people living in Tanzania in 1995 occupied a total land area of 885,987 km2. Table 2 shows a relatively unevenly distributed population over the land area, with about 54% of the total population occupying 25% of the total land area.

Table 2: Regional Cumulative Percentage of Population and Land Area Distribution and Density 1995

Region Cumulative % Population Cumulative % Land Density






















































































Historically, development has been associated with the urbanization of society. In Tanzania, for example, the proportion of the population in the rural area has been decreasing over time. Before independence, the proportion was 97%. It decreased to 95% in 1965, 85% in 1978, and 75% in 1988. It is anticipated that this proportion will decrease further by the year 2000. This population growth trend is linked to rural-to-urban migration. Population distribution and, in particular the urban and rural spread, will be an important factor in Tanzania's development beyond the year 2000.

Even with this growth in urbanization, Tanzania is still one of the least urbanized countries in Africa. The main features of population distribution are: sharp discontinuities in density, with a number of densely populated areas separated from each other by zones of sparse population; the comparatively low population density in much of the interior of the country; and in most parts of the country, rural settlements tend to consist of scattered individual homesteads rather than nuclear villages.

The population involved in agriculture has traditionally settled in areas suitable for crop production and mixed farming. Indigenous knowledge of trees and grasses was used as an indicator of land suitability. Today, rainfall and soil fertility are still decisive factors governing population distribution and density. About 10% of the country receives adequate rain (over 1000 mm per annum) and carries 60% of the population; 8% is fairly well watered and carries 18% of the population; 20% is poorly watered and carries 18% of the population; and 62% is poorly watered and carries 1% of the population. Thus, about four fifths of Tanzania's population today is concentrated on only one fifth of its land.

The rapid population growth is an environmental concern because of several reasons which include, among others: threatening what is already a precarious balance between natural resources and people; shortening of fallow cycles, exhausting soil nutrients in agricultural activities; and increasing the demand for food and services, and consequently land.

This information was provided by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: 1 April 1997.

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The Tanzanian Ministry of Health is implementing the various programmes to curb communicable diseases including cholera, malaria, schistomiasis and diarrhoea diseases. There are also plans to reduce HIV infection levels and implementation of family planning programmes.

Legislation, regulations and policy instruments

The Constitution of the Republic of Tanzania was amended in 1984 to provide for the Bill of Rights. Article 14 of the Bill of Rights stipulates that every person has a right to life and to the protection of life by society. The High Court in a landmark ruling in the case of Festo Balegele v. Dar es Salaam City Council (Misc. Civil Case No. 90, 1991) interpreted this Article to mean that persons are entitled to a healthy environment, and held that the City's decision to locate the garbage dump near residential areas violated plaintiffs constitutional rights to a healthy environment.

Strategies, policies and plans

One of the obligations given to governments include the building of basic health infrastructures, paying particular attention to the provision of safe water and food supplies, sanitation services, proper nutrition, health education, immunization and essential drugs. The government of Tanzania is implementing the Health Sector Reform Action Plan which aims at:

  1. the devolution of more authority to the public by the creation of District Health Boards and Hospital Boards which will be responsible for planning and administering health services at the district level;
  2. strengthening strategies on funding mechanisms in health services through contributions from the government, the public, and donors;
  3. monitoring the implementation of health projects and services; and
  4. strengthening the system of acquiring medicines and technical facilities.


Development activities affect the environment in a way that often trigger or augment health problems. Chapter 6 of Agenda 21 addresses issues of protecting and promoting human health. In addition, Agenda 21 contains proposals which focus on achieving primary health care needs, controlling communicable diseases, coping with urban health problems, reducing heath risks from environmental pollution and protecting vulnerable groups such as infants, women, indigenous peoples, and the very poor.

AIDS seems to be a factor that is likely to affect population growth as well as increase poverty, leading to reduced environmental quality. Its impact on slowing population growth is generally projected to be insignificant due to the current high level of fertility according to recent studies. However, this impact could become severe if the epidemic spreads more rapidly than is considered likely, and if mortality from other diseases were exacerbated as a result of the HIV epidemic.

This information was provided by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: 1 April 1997.

Click here to go to the Health and health-related statistical information from the World Health Organization.

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Strategies, policies and plans

Human resource development refers to both physical and mental well-being. It involves developing the physical and mental faculties of people so that they are better able to control and skillfully manage the different aspects of life and environment. Such development is fundamental in building a strong, resilient, and competitive economy. Tanzania's history since independence shows that it has pursued policies favorable to human resource development. These include: articulated determination to eradicate poverty and illiteracy; universal primary education (UPE); introduction of the philosophy of education for self reliance; and diversification of secondary education, interfacing work with education as well as expansion of secondary schools and tertiary and higher education institutions.

Main Programmes

In Tanzania, training activities undertaken include environmental research, environmental education, and documentation. In order to promote environmental education in the school system in Tanzania, the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) has been involved in a number of activities: namely convening workshops for teachers and trainers; convening workshops to raise awareness; production of teaching/learning materials as well as hand-out materials for teachers and students in primary and secondary schools; and monitoring the environment in schools and teacher training institutions.


In secondary education, Tanzania has one of the lowest enrollment rates in the world. This, in spite of the fact that societal demand for secondary education is high; and the percentage of primary school leavers entering secondary schools has increased from 4.8% in 1981 to 13.3% in 1993. Private secondary schools have of course mushroomed, and the government has had to liberalize the provision and financing of secondary education.

However, the overall enrollment ratio of boys and girls in secondary school is still low by even sub-Saharan standards. In 1993, female enrollment accounted for 44% of total form 1-4 enrollment but only 29% at the form 5-6 level. This gender imbalance gets worse at the tertiary and higher levels of education and training raising a serious concern for the development of Tanzania's human resource.


However, there are indications that dividends from these policies have dwindled. There has been persistent poverty, illiteracy, underemployment, and unemployment leading to decline in standards of living. Specifically, the following features are evident: investment in human resources has seriously declined in the past decade or so; government budget allocation to social services has fallen far short of the requirements with health and education as the major casualties; and the UPE rate of primary school enrollment, which in 1978 peaked at 93% of all eligible children, has not be sustained. Current figures indicate that this enrollment rate has fallen to 50-60% of eligible children with striking regional variations.

The need to expand investment in human resources is apparent for Tanzania with its plan to become a high middle income country by the year 2025. The share of the government's budgetary allocation to the provision of basic social services will be increased from the present 15%. The private sector will also be encouraged to invest in human resource development.

Table 1: Comparison of Student Enrollment in Form I and V Compared to Std VII Leavers


1) Students in Std. VII

2) Students in Form 1

3) Students in Form V

Column 3) as % of Column 1)































Source: Ministry of Education

This information was provided by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: 1 April 1997.

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Strategies, policies and plans

Urban services are still in a very poor state. There has been a rapid deterioration of the existing infrastructure and extensive erosion of the level of services available to the rapidly increasing urban population. It is the intention of the government to prepare an urban management service delivery and infrastructure investment policy aimed at creating an effective institutional and financial framework for operating a sustainable service delivery system in urban centers. Already municipalities have been given a greater voice in the management of infrastructure. In the water sector, this is being accomplished through the establishment of urban water and sanitation boards. At least six such boards are now operational.

The government has reoriented policy reforms towards increased allocation of resources to the social sector. Basic social services including primary education, primary health care, nutrition, and rural water supply will benefit from this move. The government has also introduced cost sharing measures as a way of ensuring full participation by the beneficiaries in the sustainable provision of the services. High priorities are accorded to the supply of water and sanitation services to rural and urban areas. However, success in the human settlements sector is hampered by the high investment, operational, and maintenance costs.

This information was provided by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: 1 April 1997.

Click here to access "Best Practices for Human Settlements" in Africa, including North Africa and Madagascar.
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