Wetlands of Tanzania

According to the Wildlife Policy of Tanzania of 1998 (rev. 2007), wetlands may be defined as “areas of marsh, fen, peat lands, or water, whether natural, permanent or temporary with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salty, including areas of marine waters the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters. Further wetlands may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six meters at low tide lying within the wetlands”. List of important wetlands. 

Map distribution of wetlands

Tanzania and the Convention on Wetlands (The Ramsar Convention)

The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that was signed in Ramsar (Iran) in 1971, and came into force in December 1975.  This Convention provides a framework for international cooperation for the conservation of wetland habitats.

The mission of the convention is ‘‘the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development through the world”

Tanzania ratified the Convention on Wetlands in April 2000 and became a party in August 2000.  One of the conditions of being the contracting party of the Convention is to designate at least one wetland that meets the criteria for Inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International importance (the Ramsar site).  The Convention underlines the need to promote wise use of all wetlands through local communities and participation in management issues.  Tanzania has so far listed four Ramsar sites:

  • The Malagarasi Muyovozi Ramsar Site
  •  The Kilombero Valley Flood Plain Ramsar Site
  • The Lake Natron Basin Ramsar Site
  • The Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa Marine Ramsar Site

Management Structure of Wetlands in Tanzania.

The Wildlife Division is the government arm charged with the administration of the Ramsar Convention.  The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism recognized the need of multi-sectoral approach in the whole process of wetlands management; therefore it formed multi-sectoral organs to coordinate wetlands matters at different levels as follows:

1. National Wetlands Working Group (NWWG)

 NWWG was formed in 2001 comprising of comprises of 35 institutions from different key Ministries, NGOs, Academic and Research Institutions and Private sectors and two observers, dealing with wetlands matters.    NWWG has six subcommittees formed to analyze technical issues as follows:

  • AEWA/WATER BIRDS  - African Eurasian Migratory Water birds Agreement Committee
  • CEPA – Communication, Education Participation and Awareness
  • Planning & Management Committee
  • Research & Training Committee
  • Inventory & Monitoring  Committee
  • Community Participation Committee

2. National wetlands Steering Committee (NAWESCO)

In May 2003 the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural resources and Tourism formed an organ called NAWESCO.  It is the highest organ in wetlands management, which deals with the coordination of decision making on issues related to wetlands in Tanzania. It comprises of representatives from nine key ministries.


The Wildlife Division is a secretariat to NAWESCO, NWWG and all sub-committees of NWWG.  It is also responsible for day-to-day coordination and support to wetland management at National level, and is the Administrative Authority and Focal Point of the Ramsar Convention.

3. At District level:

At district level wetlands management are coordinated by District Facilitation Team (DFT) under District Focal Person (DFP) in wetland matters.