Climate Change Now Changes Roofs of Traditional Huts in Manyara

The roofs on traditional huts in Manyara Region are slowly but surely losing their iconic reed and straw thatching.

The roofs are being replaced with factory-made corrugated iron sheets.

Are these positive developments? On the contrary, these happen to be among the negative impacts of climate change in Northern Tanzania.

“The thatching grasses are becoming scarce as other invasive plant species take over the landscapes,” residents of Nkaiti Village in the Babati District of Manyara point out.

Their traditional leader, Chief Leteiva Mengajeki Lobulu, admits that many of the indigenous plant species including thatching straws and reeds are rapidly disappearing from the locality.

“That is the reason why many huts now feature iron sheets roofing,” he explained, adding that many residents would rather stick to grass thatching but climate change is forcing them to adapt to new building technologies.

He was addressing members of the Journalists’ Environmental Association that were on special assignments through the ‘Tuhifadhi Maliasili,’ program executed through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in association with JET.

Many mud-walled houses in the villages dotting rural parts of Arusha and Manyara Regions used to be covered by thatched roofs made from water reeds, combed wheat grass or straw.

Zebras grazing near a former mud-walled and grass thatched hut which is now turning to brick walls and aluminium roofing in mswakini

Most residents prefer grass thatches because they insulate the house from weather elements such as cold, heat and keep out the noise when it rains.

Thatched roofs, according to Chief Lobulu, are also durable when fixed properly, lasting for more than 30 years after instalments.

Invasive alien plant species are also taking toll on vegetation within the Kwakuchinja and Mswakini Wildlife corridors, the nature passages that connect Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks.

The Executive Secretary of Burunge Wildlife Management Area, Benson Mwaise, mentioned some of the invasive alien species as, Senna Obtusifolia, Indigofera spp, Agemona Mexicana, Calotrops Procera and Datura Stramonium that are rapidly spreading in addition to inhibiting the growth on indigenous plants.

“Recently there has been yet another latest addition to the list of invasive and harmful species in the form of the alien plant known botanically as Pyrus Niloticus,” Mwaise maintained.

The fact that the busy Arusha-Dodoma highway cuts through both the Burunge Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Kwakuchinja Corridor, hundreds of vehicles passing in the area further contributes to the spread of deadly plant seeds.

Alien plant species are also taking a toll on wildlife in the Northern Zone, because as they spread across land, indigenous grass get stifled then eventually weather and die, thus reducing pastures for the ungulates and other grazing creatures.