The coastal villager’s main economic activity is farming and fishing with major crops being maize, paddy rice and millet.
As one enters the village from the southern part, it is fascinating because of its unique landscape, grass thatched mud houses which are well arranged in two straight lines with a main road cutting across.
Not only that, the hospitality and humor of villagers will also make one feel like being at home because of their welcoming culture.
To the north, the village is borders the Indian Ocean, which has become a nightmare to residents in recent years as they are now leading almost a nomadic life.
For the past 17 years, the villagers have forced to relocate and move southwards by the surging Indian Ocean waters as climate change leads to rising sea levels.
“It’s been a regular threat in recent years for the ocean waters to flood our homes and force us to relocate,” said 65 year old Mzee Selemani who has been living in the area since being born.
Mzee Selemani remembers an encounter when raging sea waters almost drawn him while sleeping at night some years back.
“It was in 2003 on Saturday, we were getting ready to move but since our house roofing was not done, we decided to stay for a night, it was a bad decision because my family was almost drowned,” he noted.
He was lucky to be rescued alongside his seven year-old son, who fortunately woke up to answer to the call of nature when he met the rising sea tide.
“He yelled and woke us up after witnessing the horror wave which ultimately saved our lives,” the veteran fisherman added.
Mzee Selemani is one of the villages’ 1,390 residents who have been victims of rising sea level of the Indian Ocean for the past 25 years.
His neighbor, Latifa Mbonde, who is a fisher vendor, said her family was forced to leave their original home because of rising seas waves, some years back.
Apart from forcing her family relocate, Mbonde also lost several hectares of paddy rice where her family used to harvest 50 bags of 100kgs each with a market price of 2m/-.
“Of course we had good life and we managed to build family house, but in 2005 things changed after being invaded by sea waves which destroyed our house and the farm,” she said her eyes in tears as her family struggles to resettle.
The 50-year-old grandmother said she started fishing in 2009 after her husband died and life became difficult. Due to poor fishing methods, she only managed to catch shrimp that lives near beaches and earn a paltry 5,000/- each day.
Seeing the regular threat being faced from rising seas waves, some villagers decided to leave the area to complete new places. One such person is Diba Kisagulu who moved to Bonde la Ndege in 2003 following destruction of his home and five hectare paddy rice farm.
Kisagulu moved to a cashew nut farm owned by his late father but was abandoned for many years. “Thanks to my father’s wisdom we are now living here growing cashew nuts, maize which we sell and earn a living,” he said.
Mdimni village Chairman, Kadam Saidi backed his fellow villagers by saying that life along the beach front has been a horror experience for many residents. Saidi said their original village has moved almost two kilometers away with some 2,000 hectares of farmland abandoned.
“In 1990s, our parents used to live in areas close to the seas which we now call Jangwa la Ndege ( a birds sanctuary) but now we are up here due to rising sea waters,” he noted. He said a combination of rising sea waters has also caused salty soils which are not good for cultivation hence forcing villagers to abandon 2,000ha of prime land.
400 left the village
According to the village Chairman, census conducted last year indicated that the village is now left with 1,390 villagers from the original 1,800 who were there before relocating. “Over 400 villagers have left to other safe places because of raging sea waters,” the father of three said adding that some residents have gone to suburbs of Dar es Salaam such as Kisemvule where they are working in factories.
One such resident is Ramadhani Saidi who left in 2014 following Jangwa la Ndege’s destruction. “I left the area where we were cultivating cashew nuts and millet while fishing or so because of raging sea waters,” he said adding that life is difficult waiting for a paltry monthly salary compared to doing business and cultivating crops.
Help from environmental stakeholders
Despite such challenges there are activist groups which are trying to help residents of villages suffering effects of climate change by counseling them on mitigation measures.
One such not for profit organization is TCCI-Mazingira who Vice Chairman, Salum Kigungo said they are sensitizing communities at Mdimni village about the effect of climate change and how to mitigate them.
“We advise them to plant mangroves to protect the environment for fish breeding but also to control sea waves,” said Kigungo who noted that many villagers are heeding to advice given to avoid further damages.
He said the NGO also targets schools to teach children to start taking measures to protect the environment by avoiding destructive practices such as deforestation of mangroves.
District Commissioner speaks
Not only NGOs are supporting community efforts to curb effects of climate change but also the government through Mkuranga District Commissioner’s office.
The DC Philbert Sanga has issued an order to all villagers to relocate from close to the sea and move to higher ground.
“We have instructed the villagers to find suitable places and move while we find a solution to challenges of climate change effects,” said Sanga who also blamed communities for contributing to the challenge.
The country’s environmental conservation watchdog, the National Environmental Management Council, has also moved to assist.
NEMC’s acting Manager for Swamps, Fredrick Mulinda said they have not heard about the particular Mdimni Villagers crisis but acknowledged that communities along the Indian Ocean coastline are being impacted by climate change effects.
“As a nation, we signed an agreement with United Nations Convection for Climate Change (UNFCC) to help us with funding from the Adaptation Fund, to help take mitigation measures against impacts of climate change on communities,” Mulinda said while promising to include many villages in Coast Region to help them with projects to mitigate against rising sea waves.
A report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) concurs with findings by the Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990 which said that by 2020, there will be 200 million migrants, displaced by effects of climate change and they will include erosion, soil salinity which affects agricultural activities and regular flooding caused by rising sea waves.
Meanwhile, a report by the second group of the IPCC of 2007, estimates that sub-Saharan Africa, including Tanzania, will have its rain-fed agriculture yields drop by a half by 2020.