Smiling Tanazania woman stading in her farm field.

You are here

CRS in Tanzania

Tanzania is often held up as a model of social harmony in an ethnically and religiously diverse country. In addition to having a stable and democratic political system, the country has experienced robust economic growth, averaging GDP growth of 7% since 2013. While Tanzania’s economic success story has raised its global profile, the benefits have not been equally shared. Poverty and inequality remain high, especially in the rural areas where almost 70% of the population reside. Rural Tanzanians, subsisting mainly as poor smallholder farmers, often receive inadequate nutrition, and have limited access to health facilities, clean water and sanitation. Over 35% of children under the age of five in Tanzania are stunted, according to UNICEF, mostly as a result of chronic malnutrition and inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. Stunting is associated in adulthood with poverty, lower cognitive skills and education levels and higher risk of health problems, as a result the current generation will not reach the full potential that would help shape a more sustainable and prosperous society.

CRS has been working with the most vulnerable people in marginalized and underserved communities in Tanzania for over 60 years. Today, the country program supports projects in sustainable agriculture and rural livelihoods, youth entrepreneurship, integrated nutrition and water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and early childhood development, as well as integrated water resource management.

Our agricultural programming focuses on improving the livelihoods and well-being of smallholder farmers in Tanzania. CRS works with local partners and stakeholders to improve the resilience of rural farmers and better integrate them in markets using our inclusive value chain approach. We mobilize smallholder farmers to organize into CRS-developed savings and lending groups (SILC) that build financial literacy and improve access to working capital. Our soybean value chain project takes a “farming is a business” approach and aims to increase agricultural productivity by promoting improved production techniques, facilitating access to improved inputs, and linking agricultural producers to financial services and agro-dealer networks. CRS works to expand trade of agricultural products in the soybean and poultry value chains by training agricultural producer groups, facilitating access to storage structures and market information linkages. We also facilitate “last mile” access to needed products and services through our PSP (private sector provider) model, which empowers local entrepreneurs – including youth and women – to sell inputs and technologies to local farmers.

Our youth entrepreneurship programming uses the “I am an entrepreneur” curriculum that was developed by CRS to build entrepreneurship and life skills specifically in vulnerable and marginalized rural youth, including young women. The youth entrepreneurship project in Tanzania builds on the successes of the CRS YouthBuild program in Latin America. 

CRS helps improve the nutrition status of pregnant women, young children and their mothers through social behavior change communication. We work with mother leaders to promote maternal mental health and to develop positive parenting strategies in order to create an affirming household. Our peer trainer approach offers a multiplier effect to efficiently reach thousands of people through face-to-face communications. Our integrated multi-sectoral approach includes the promotion of early childhood stimulation, positive parenting practices and maternal mental health, improved infant and young child feeding, access to clean water and better sanitation practices, and access to nutritious food through home gardens.

Our water programming improves water security for rural communities by working at three levels – household, community and sub-catchment/basin. Our WASH programming emphasizes activities that contribute to the improved health of individuals and communities, such as excreta disposal, hygiene education and sanitation promotion through a community-led total sanitation approach. In addition to the household level, we work at the community level to improve the commercial sustainability of community owned water systems through reduction of non-revenue water. CRS employs an approach that combines introduction of innovative pre-paid water systems and solar technology to reduce costs and improve performance and transparent revenue collection, as well as building of organizational and management capacity. This approach positions the community owned utility to become commercially viable and operating in a way that promotes sustainable community access to improved water sources. In addition to the household and community levels, CRS works at the basin level. To address increasing water scarcity, CRS engages the community to educate them on the importance of integrated water resource management, and facilitates the creation of multi-stakeholder platforms that link with the basin authorities and local government officials. These platforms aim to assess, plan, prioritize and implement the development, management and monitoring of water resources within the basin.


People Served: 803,042

Population: 53,950,935

Size: 365,755 sq mi; slightly larger than twice the size of California

CRS' History in Tanzania

In 1962, one year after Tanzania celebrated its independence, a devastating drought struck the Arusha region. In response, Catholic Relief Services provided food and non-food emergency relief rations and created economic recovery projects for 85,000 affected people.

Since that initial effort, CRS Tanzania has continued to work closely with the Tanzania Episcopal Conference, other faith-based organizations, government entities, private partners and businesses. Today, the country program supports agriculture, health system and institutional strengthening, vulnerable children and youth programming, and integrated water resource management projects that interweave socioeconomic empowerment and gender transformation.

Through skill sharing and capacity building, our diverse agriculture programs in Tanzania promote sustainable growth, food security and development. 

CRS’ water programming also improves the health of children and their families. It increases access to adequate clean water supply and improved sanitation, and helps establish handwashing facilities and appropriate hygiene services.