The main themes that emerged are as presented below.
Perception of climate variability
Majority of discussants gave out their perception of climate variability, which includes long rain season and long dry periods; heavy rains lead to floods. The droughts and floods destroy crops and lead to low yield and food insecurity. These respondents further pointed out that they started to experience some impacts of climate variability such as floods in Rufiji in 1998. Some participants described climate variability to include food insecurity, lack of electricity, and water and diseases outbreak in the communities. These diseases included diarrhea and malaria. For instance, one discussant had this to say:
[mmh] in 1998 we experienced great flood in Rufiji, however, prior 1998, we experienced severe drought in 1997, which led to low harvests to the farmers. After that, the following year (1998) was when we experienced severe floods, in such people got little harvests from their crops, even those people living in valleys were in suspense and moved from the valleys and lived somewhere else.
A discussant stated:
In my memory, I remember year 1998 when there were floods and all crops were drowned, people brought some items to us as aids including wheat flour, at that time I was a young boy. Again, in 1999 there was a drought and at the end of 1999 there were bigger floods compared to those of 1998.
Majority of the participants confirmed that climate variability has affected food availability in Rufiji. They stated that because of climate variability and low yields they have reduced amount of food that they eat. They said that majority of them resort to doing small businesses so that they can get some money to buy food for their families because what they get from the farms is not enough. Some of them said that they resort to cultivating on valleys so that they can get some harvests. When asked to compare food availability at the current situation compared with 10 years ago, majority of them pointed out that they do not harvest enough crops to survive the whole year compared with past 10 years when foods were abundant due to good climate.
Furthermore, majority of them added that due to climate variability that have been started for about 10 years ago food prices like maize, rice and beans have gone up, thereby lowering the purchasing power among themselves, especially for maize, rice and beans, as they are the main foods eaten by people in this place. They confirmed that sometimes when they experience floods or drought their crops are destroyed as they wither away or get destroyed by floods and result into no or little harvest, especially when they suffer from floods or prolonged drought due to climate variability. They stated that they manage to buy small amount of rice, maize flour and beans for their families. Majority of participants were of the view that nowadays they do not get enough food from their farms as compared to 10 years ago; they buy their foods from shops compared with previous years. Many residents of Ikwiriri are farmers, and a few of them do small businesses like retail shops and few engage in chopping woods. They argued that in previous years, climate was good and they got their foods from their farms.
For instance, one discussant commented:
Climate variability has affected us because food prices are going up; for instance rice nowadays is Tshs 2400 per kilogram … and also price of maize flour has gone up due to climate variability; the drought has affected the crops- like the maize and rice has dried up, therefore we have nothing to depend on now.
Another discussant said:
Last year we faced drought, we didn’t harvest rice and maize due to that drought, all crops withered away, likewise this year we have severe sun.
Assessing food availability
Participants were asked whether they had enough food to sustain them for the whole year. All participants said that they do not have enough food to sustain for the whole year at their households due to prolonged dry season. They stressed that in this year (2015) they do not have enough to eat because crops were affected by drought last year (2014). They all further mentioned that in the past 10 years, they were getting a lot of food from their farms to enable them to survive for the whole year because the rainfall was enough at that time and they did not suffer from climate variability. For example, one discussant stated:
Availability of meals is difficult because I remember we used to eat three meals per day in the past 10 years; but nowadays you can have your meal in the morning, have porridge as your lunch and little meal in the evening that is our life now, we don’t have enough to eat.
Another discussant commented:
This year we don’t have foods at our households because of last year’s floods, so we didn’t get anything to store in our households, all crops were drowned. Very few people harvested little crops of which is not enough for whole year, we are buying foods from shops.
Type of food available
Participants stated that foods that were available in the past 10 years are also available nowadays, but not abundantly as it is used to be due to climate variability. Crops like rice, maize, cassava, vegetables and pumpkins are available even now but not abundantly as used to be 10 years ago, and the price has gone up. They mentioned also the coming of nomadic people (Wamang’ati) and their cattle as one factor that caused food shortage in Rufiji. They claimed that these pastoralists sometimes feed their cattle on their farms, hence destroying their crops. In addition, discussants mentioned reduced amount of rainfall, floods, droughts, late rains and short rain has reduced the crop harvests due to crop failure and destruction. Even those cultivating in valleys around water sources get low yields as they face shortage of water because some rivers and wells have dried up due to climate variability in Rufiji. They pointed out that water quality and quantity is low. For example, some of the discussants said:
The kinds of foods that are available in plenty in Rufiji are maize and rice and people used to harvest abundantly in past 10 years but now due to drought these crops are not available, (mhhh) floods and a lot of rain especially along the valley destroys crops. Crops get drowned by floods, and we cannot farm until floods disappear.
Another participant added on:
Some foods that were available in the past 10 years ago are also available nowadays. However, not in abundance as it used to be. The prices of foods have gone up. For instance, a kilogram of rice for the past years was sold around 1200 or 1000 Tshs. On the other hand, nowadays, it is sold at 2000/ or 2400/Tshs per kilogram. Maize floor was sold at 600/ or 800/Tshs per kilogram while nowadays it is sold at around 1000–1200 Tshs per kilo. Likewise, cassava price has gone up. So foods are available in the shops but the price is high probably due to the reason that, they are coming from other regions not from our area.
For instance, one discussant confirmed:
Formerly we used to get these crops like millet, maize, rice, cassava even nowadays we get them. But we don’t get them abundantly like we used to get in the past 10 years. Formerly we used to get them abundantly and store them in pantries and we ate them till the next harvest next year. Nowadays crops are little in farms and this year for instance we have not cultivated rice due to lack of rain.
Another one opined:
Previously we used to get abundance pumpkins, watermelons bananas, and sugar cane from farms in abundance…but as of now these foods are scanty compared to previous 10 years.
For instance, one participant had this to say:
For the past 10 years food situation was better compared to this time. Crops were plentiful and food prices were low. During those days it was even easy to have small business get money and succeed because people had money from selling their crops. Now, it is not easy to do businesses because it’s hard to get money. Life is hard nowadays as it is very difficult to get our meals.
From the discussions, it emerged that men are the bread winners to their households. Most of the households’ activities are carried out by women in Rufiji, and they are likely to be affected by the effects of climate variability and also food insecurity as they are the ones preparing foods at and taking care of their families.
Eating habits change
Majority of study participants confirmed that their eating habits had changed due to prolonged dry season that affects the district recently. Majority stated out that they have two meals nowadays instead of three meals, and few of them said they eat one meal per day depending on the availability of food at that particular day. They further explained that they sometimes have porridge as a meal when they do not have enough food. New diets were discovered in the study sites such as ugali (stiff porridge) and cooked unripe mangoes. This food was mentioned to be consumed nowadays due to lack of enough legumes and fish that were consumed in the past years. They pointed out all these are caused by little harvest of crops as a result of climate variability and inflation of food prices at the markets and shops.
For example, one participant had this to say:
Eating pattern here has changed a lot because formerly we used to eat three times per day. Nowadays we eat two meals per day so that we can get something to eat in the evening because crops are not abundant so life is hard.
Another one had this to comment:
Eating habit has changed greatly because previously we used to harvest enough food crops and store them and so we prepare any amount of food we like… but as for now we harvest little crops which are not enough throughout the year due to this we are forced to buy food from shops and if you have a large family and have low purchase power you can end up buying little which won’t be enough for your family.
Another discussant said:
Eeh I mean like one kilogram of maize flour I divide it into two parts – one part I cook porridge in the morning as breakfast and the other half I prepare it as dinner so as to satisfy my children.
Another one commented:
As for me it depends I can eat twice or thrice per day. In the morning I can have my breakfast, in the afternoon I don’t eat and in the evening I get dinner like stiff porridge (ugali) and beans. It depends on what you get on that particular day.
Another discussant had this to say:
My meals depend on that day, because there are other days that are better off and I eat thrice per day, and where the situation does not allow me to have three meals I usually have breakfast and dinner only.
A discussant said:
Eating habit has changed because floods and droughts destroys our crops, and you prepare farms again for planting new crops not sure if they will be destroyed again…So eating pattern changes because we rely on farming to get our foods, now it’s different because we have to look for other ways to get our foods something different from what we used to rely on our farms for foods.
Majority of the discussants mentioned that they buy food from the shops most of the time since they do not have enough food from their farms due to floods and droughts.
One discussant commented:
Some people do piece works like farming and selling logs and timbers so that they get some money to buy some foods, so that is the situation we are living in now in Rufiji.