The seven agro-ecological zones of Tanzania

Tanzania has seven agroecological zones, each with its unique climate, soils, and vegetation. These seven agroecological zones support a wide variety of crops and livestock, and they play a vital role in the economy of Tanzania. As Tanzania grapples with the effects of climate change, the importance of its seven agroecological zones has risen significantly. These zones serve as a guide to pinpoint regions most susceptible to the impacts of climate change and lay the groundwork for devising adaptation strategies. The Tanzanian government is leveraging these agroecological zones to formulate a plan to bolster the country’s agricultural sector’s resilience against climate change.

ZoneAltitudeRainfallSoilsMain crops
Coastal0-1,000 m1,200-2,000 mmFertileMaize, rice, cassava, bananas
Arid0-1,500 m200-500 mmSandyMillet, sorghum, groundnuts
Semi-arid1,500-2,000 m500-700 mmSandy loamMaize, millet, sorghum, beans
Plateau1,500-3,000 m700-1,200 mmLoamCoffee, tea, wheat
Southern and western highlands1,500-3,000 m1,200-1,500 mmFertileCoffee, tea, maize
Northern highlands1,500-3,000 m1,500-2,000 mmFertileWheat, barley, potatoes
Alluvial0-500 m1,200-2,000 mmFertileRice, sugarcane, bananas

The evolution of the seven agroecological zones of Tanzania spans centuries, tracing back to the 19th century when European explorers and missionaries first made records of the country’s diverse climates and vegetation. It was, however, only in the 1960s that these zones received formal recognition from the Tanzanian government.

The establishment of the Commission for Agricultural Research and Training (CRT) in the 1960s signalled a pivotal moment in Tanzania’s agro-ecological zoning. Tasked with devising a national agricultural research strategy, the CRT pinpointed these seven zones as crucial determinants for each zone’s optimal choice of crops and livestock. The CRT also developed a classification system, categorizing the zones based on their unique climates, soils, and vegetation types.

Over the years, these agroecological zones have become an invaluable tool for the Tanzanian government’s agricultural development strategies. Efforts to enhance crop yields, boost livestock production, and mitigate soil erosion have been tailored based on the specifics of each zone. These zones also underpin agricultural extension programs, equipping farmers with the knowledge and training for the best farming practices suitable for their respective zones.

The seven agroecological zones are a vital asset for Tanzania’s agricultural sector. They offer a comprehensive framework that encapsulates the varying climatic and environmental conditions across the country, enabling the design and implementation of agricultural development projects tailored to the distinct requirements of each zone.

Diving deeper into the history of Tanzania’s agro-ecological zones:

The Commission for Agricultural Research and Training (CRT) officially classified these zones in 1967.
In 1984, the Ministry of Agriculture updated this classification.
Presently, these zones continue to guide the government’s agricultural development projects.
Researchers are also leveraging these zones to study the implications of climate change on Tanzanian agriculture.