One of the most threatening hazards in Tanzania is a drought – generally defined as a protracted shortage of water for a given activity. Since independence in 1961 the country has experienced at least eleven years of drought in 1966/67, 1972/73, 1973/74, 1974/75, 1979/80, 1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84/1984/85, 1990/91, and 1991/92.
The most vulnerable parts are the semi-arid regions which are, in the first place, marginal for most productive activities due to either inadequate or erratic rainfall. In Tanzania these regions include Mwanza, Mara, Shinyanga, Tabora, Singida, and Dodoma which have the potential for irrigation by the waters of Lake Victoria. This paper looks at Lake victoria in the context of its potential for irrigation development in the above regions so as to mitigate the adverse impacts of drought hazard. The paper traces attempts by the German colonial government to use Lake Victoria to irrigate the Wembere Plains situated in the central part of the above regions. It also examines attempts by independent Tanzania government’s drive to take water from Lake Victoria to irrigate these regions. Obstacles or dilemmas surrounding the drive to use Lake Victoria for irrigation are outlined and the paper ends by suggesting that in order to use Lake Victoria waters for irrigation development in Tanzania’s dryland regions in an internationally acceptable environment, Tanzania should first consult the other riparian states so as to agree on the equitable division of these waters to avoid conflicts and open hostilities that are bound to arise out of interstate competition for the same waters for different uses including irrigated agriculture, domestic and industrial uses and hydropower production.