Tanzania is a priority for efforts by Switzerland to encourage development and cooperation and the country receives support from numerous bilateral and multilateral donors and NGOs. The work of Biovision in Tanzania since 2006 has focussed on protecting biodiversity and the responsible use of natural resources.


At the end of 2014, Tanzania’s population was just over 51 million (www.cia.gov) and is currently growing by about 1.4 million per year. In total, almost 64% of the population are under 24 years of age and almost 32% of the population live in towns. As a result of the widespread rural exodus, this urban population is growing annually by more than 5% - almost twice as fast as the national average. 

The Human Development Index of UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme, which determines prosperity on the basis of health, education and income, ranks Tanzania 151st out of 187. It remains, therefore one of the poorest countries.  Average life expectancy is 65 years of age and child mortality as a percentage of live births is 5.2%.

The main health problems include HIV/AIDs with an infection rate amongst adults of 5% and malaria; the number of cases of malaria recorded annually by government health services  is 10 – 12 million, of whom as many as 80,000 die (www.pmi.gov). Some 53% of those living in Tanzania have access to clean water but only 12% to sanitary facilities. Almost 68% of all adults can now read and write.

Land area

With a land area in excess of 945,000 sq. km, Tanzania is almost 23 times the size of Switzerland. It natural landscape is dominated by the tectonic faults of the Great Rift Valley, whose East African Rift System runs through the centre of Tanzania and clearly dissects the high plateau some 1100 metres above sea level. In the west, the Central African Rift System forms the boundary of the country. Along and between these fault lines there are volcanic mountains such as Kilimanjaro and extensive inland lakes such as Victoria, Tanganyika and Malawi.

Tanzania has set aside almost 25% of its territory as protected zones for plants and wild animals. Although, forests still account for more than 37% of the total land area, the unprotected forests are under great pressure as firewood remains the main source of energy in rural areas. Since 1990, the amount of forest cover in the country has declined by 20% (http://hdr.undp.org). Of the total land area, some 14% is suitable for arable farming and permanent crop cultivation (www.cia.gov). The typical vegetation over vast swathes of Tanzania is the dry savannah. According to the UNDP, a quarter of the population already live on degraded soils. Farming families also have to contend with irregular rainfall patterns even during the rainy seasons. Hot, damp, tropical weather is only found in the narrow coastal strip along the Indian Ocean.

Since 2006, Biovision has supported projects in Tanzania designed to protect biodiversity and encourage a responsible use of natural resources, e.g. on the edge of the East Usambara upland forests (BV EH-12).


Since the early 1990s, the Tanzanian economy has been growing at between 6% and 8% per year (http://data.worldbank.org) and between 2005 and 2014, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) more than doubled. This increase was significantly higher than the current rate of population growth of 2.8% and so average incomes are still rising. Despite that, the World Bank estimates that 28% of the population in Tanzania still lives below the general poverty line.

Some 76% of the population work in agriculture (http://unstats.un.org), most of whom are primarily subsistence farmers. Productivity is generally low and so the agricultural sector only contributes some 27% to Tanzania’s economic output – mainly from the export of coffee, tea and cotton. Biovision is supporting the widespread dissemination of information on ecological farming methods through a farmer magazine in the national language Swahili (Project BV IS-02D) and a training centre in the regional capital of Morogoro (Project BV IS-07). Armed with practical tips, rural households are able to increase crop yields using simple and sustainable methods.

Along the coastline of the Indian Ocean and the Great Lakes, fishing is also an important occupation. In contrast, industry only employs some 5% of all workers, most of whom are concentrated in the centres of Dar es Salam and Arusha. This is primarily the result of the economic policy introduced by the country’s founder Julius Nyerere. For more than two decades, the main thrust of his policy was a centrally planned economy that sought to strengthen farming villages. Following the economic liberalisation introduced in the late 1980s, mining – controlled by foreign companies – and tourism have increased in importance. The development of these sectors has also helped to reduce the high trade deficit (http://liportal.giz.de). However there are widespread fears that the rapid extraction of gold, diamonds, nickel and more recently uranium will seriously damage the environment.


For several years following independence from British rule, the first president Julius Nyerere followed his Ujamaa Policy, an African model of socialism. In terms of Tanzanian society, its main aims were to promote a national identity in this multi-ethnic state and encourage the various ethnic groups to live in harmony. For decades, Tanzania was also regarded as a haven of stability that was little affected by the civil wars in several neighbouring countries – despite the flow of refugees from Burundi, Ruanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Systematic violations of human rights by government bodies were unknown in Tanzania as was the persecution of individual ethnic groups (www.auswaertiges-amt.de).

More recently, the traditional peaceful coexistence between ethnic and religious groups – in particular between Muslims and Christians – has been punctured by several attacks on churches and mosques. A factor in this development has also been the internal political arguments about the possible independence of the island of Zanzibar from the mainland.

Tanzania is a centralised presidential republic in which the governing party of the revolution (CCM) – including its predecessors - has set the tone since 1961. Even after the introduction of a multi-party system in 1992, CCM has won all elections; it is the governing party and dominates parliament.

John Magufuli (CCM) has been President of Tanzania since November 2015. He succeeded Jakaya Kikwete, who had ruled the country for 10 years. From the start of his period in office, Magufuli embarked on a policy of austerity und declared war on corruption and waste. For example, he cancelled the traditional, opulent celebrations to mark Independence Day and instead demanded that the streets should be cleaned in order to improve the sewage system and stop the spread of a cholera epidemic.  In addition to many other savings, he reduced the number of ministers in his government by 11 to 19.

As had the previous two incumbents, the current President of Tanzania is pursuing a reformed market economy designed to improve agricultural productivity, strengthen the private sector, improve the efficiency of government bodies and so make the country more attractive to direct foreign investors. The programme also includes an element of decentralisation that is intended to strengthen the autonomy of the regions and districts.

The biggest national opposition party is Chadema that draws its support mainly from young voters in urban areas. The name stands for “Democracy and Progress” and it campaigns largely on an anti-corruption platform (http://liportal.giz.de)