Tanzania : Chumbe & Mafia


Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania in East Africa. It comprises the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25-50 km off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, colloquially referred to as Zanzibar) and Pemba. The islands gained independence from Britain in December 1963 as a constitutional monarchy. A month later, the bloody Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed in a genocide and thousands more expelled, led to the establishment of the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. That April, the republic was subsumed by the mainland former colony of Tanganyika. This United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was soon renamed the United Republic of Tanzania. As a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, Zanzibar has its own government, known as the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar. It is made up of the Revolutionary Council and House of Representatives.

The capital, Zanzibar City, is located on Unguja and its historic centre, known as Stone Town, is a World Heritage Site. Zanzibar’s main industries are spices, raffia, seaweed fishing and tourism. In particular, the islands produce cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. For this reason, the islands, together with Tanzania’s Mafia Island situated further south, are sometimes called the Spice Islands. As one of the six districts of the Pwani Region, Mafia Island is governed from the mainland, not from the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, of which it has never been considered to be a part.

For the purposes of this case study we are going to concentrate on Chumbe Island, a small island located 12 km southeast from Stone Town, and Mafia Island. The Chumbe Island Coral Park is a privately established and managed island nature reserve recognized by the Zanzibar Government since 1994. The Mafia archipelago consists of one large island (394 km²) and several smaller ones with a total population of around 46,000. The economy is based on fishing, subsistence agriculture and weaving of mats and baskets. In 1995 the WWF provided financial assistance to help establish Tanzania's first multi-user marine park at Mafia Island following management recommendations and data from surveys first conducted by the Frontier organisation.

Renewable Energy & Eco Housing

Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) supply about 45 MW power to the island of Zanzibar through the 132 kV submarine cable from Ras Kiromoni in Dar es Salaam. The cable is now old and has reached its useful operation capacity. However, a project is underway to lay a new sub sea cable to Zanzibar from the mainland Tanzania financed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation that will enable TANESCO to deliver more power to Zanzibar than the existing one. TANESCO is also supplying power to Zanzibar Electricity Corporation (ZECO) for the island of Pemba from Tanga through a submarine cable that was commissioned in May 2010.

Chumbe Island comprises 7 eco-bungalows and an educational visitor’s centre hosting up to 16 guests at any given time. Lights are powered by photovoltaic panels on the roofs that provide ample environmentally friendly 12V energy for normal usage. The open design of the bungalows, with minimal barriers to the open air, allows for maximum through-draft for cooling and a form of natural air-conditioning. To enhance this louvres are in place that can be lowered or closed depending on the desired temperature.

Mafia Island is currently served by TANESCO through an isolated diesel grid system that is often plagued by shortages and unscheduled outages. The two 525 KVA diesel generators only provide approximately 1500 MWh per year to less than 10% of the island’s households. Most, if not all, major enterprises on the island generate their own electricity. A report published in 2005 indicated a pre-feasibility study had been prepared for a biomass electricity generation project in Mafia. A private investor, the owners of the coconut plantation, wished to generate 1MW of electricity from wood and coconut waste but this venture did not obtain the necessary investment funding. It has subsequently been reported in the press that Patient Capital Partners were acting as advisor to Ngombeni Power Ltd to develop a 1.4MW biomass gasification power plant on the island. This company has been supported under the Small Power Project Programme led by the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority and the new plant will be online in 2012. The Ras Mbisi eco-lodge on Mafia already has a small biomass gasifier to meet the entire electrical needs of the resort and solar heated water.

In October 2010 d.light partnered with Solar Aid to launch a programme allowing some 11,000 local students on Mafia Island to purchase a solar powered task light at a subsidised price. With positive feedback from these students and their families, the entire island community soon became aware of the benefits of solar lighting, and d.light sold over 3,000 solar lanterns in less than a week. The high demand came not only from students, but also from teachers who bought solar lanterns at full retail price. In a similar venture, Village Projects International has partnered with the White Star Society and the Zanzibar Women’s Corporation to implement a solar lights and improved stove project on the small island of Tumbatu located off Unguja.

Waste Minimisation & Recycling

Any unavoidable non-organic waste produced on Chumbe Island is removed and disposed of in a specialised incinerator constructed by the company on Unguja. When purchasing supplies, non-organic products like plastic bags, bottles and cartons are avoided. For the most part, the eco-lodges on Mafia Island recycle their organic waste for biogas and compost as well as return other solid wastes to the mainland to be properly dumped in Dar es Salaam. The Mafia Island Association reports some inconsistent attempts have been made to clean up the island but as there is no established solid waste management and disposal system, people just revert to throwing rubbish anywhere. The association did make a proposal to implement a pilot solid waste collection system for households to be managed by a women’s group in Kilindoni on a cost basis. A waste management education programme has recently been conducted at four secondary schools on the island by the NGO Sea Sense.

Water Management & Security

As there is no ground water source in the rocky substrate of Chumbe Island, each bungalow collects its own freshwater supply from rainwater (captured from the specially designed expanse of roof) during the rainy season. This rainwater passes through a complex filtration system and is stored in spacious underground cisterns. The water is then hand-pumped through a solar-powered heating system into hot and cold water containers needed for the shower and hand basin in the bathroom. The used grey water from showers and basins is filtered through particulate filters, ending in specially sealed plant beds so no polluted water will seep into the fragile reef ecosystem. These beds are planted with species that are demanding in water and nutrients so can easily absorb any remaining nitrates and phosphates.

To deal with sewage, composting toilets have been installed. These prevent any seepage from septic tanks entering the porous ground and into the reef sanctuary. Instead, human waste is quickly decomposed to natural fertilizer when mixed with compost in the compost chamber. To ensure the experience for the client is the same as with any regular toilet, specialized designs have been implemented with wind powered vent pipes and gradient storage so that it feels no different to using a regular toilet. As composting toilets need no flush water at all they also effectively economize on water.

Sustainable Tourism & Niche Marketing

The Zanzibar Commission for Tourism actively promotes their marine parks to visitors for diving and snorkeling. Chumbe Island Coral Park    is an award-winning private Marine Protected Area (MPA) that has become renowned as the first financially independent and self-sustaining MPA in East Africa. This is made viable through an eco-lodge utilizing commercial principles with not for profit objectives to generate self-financing of the park. The park includes a protected reef sanctuary and forest reserve. Ecotourism supports park management, research and a visitor’s centre used by local schools for environmental education programs. 

In the 1960s the Mafia Island Lodge was erected to replace the old fishing club, which had attracted big game fishermen from abroad for many years. More recently, three other eco-lodges have been built on the island namely Pole Pole Bungalow Resort, Ras Mbisi and Kiansi Lodge who also manage Lua Cheia Lodge, which is more a barefoot castaway beach camp in the north. The latter two are owned by the Byrne family who have a strong environmental commitment to Mafia as evidenced by their extensive use of eco practices and provide detailed information about the marine park on their main website.

Biodiversity & Protected Areas

Chumbe Island Coral Park is approximately 1.1km long and 300 metres wide. The park includes a 30ha marine reef sanctuary and a 22ha coral rag forest reserve covering most of the island. Baseline surveys have identified over 200 coral species from 55 genera and at least 432 fish species. Compared to other MPAs (without no-take-areas), Chumbe has a six times greater biomass of commercially important fish species observed in the sanctuary. Terrestrial fauna include possibly the world’s largest known population of coconut crab and the Aders duiker, a small and endangered antelope that was translocated to the island for breeding in 1999. To date 93 species of birds have been recorded including large colonies of roseate tern attracted by abundant fish in the reef sanctuary. 

At 822 km2 the Mafia Island Marine Park   is one of the largest MPAs in the Indian Ocean and a critical site for biodiversity. Over 460 species of fish and 52 genera of hard corals have so far been identified. There are over 160 species of bird plus endemic amphibians and reptiles as well as a rare fruit bat. Six species of plant are probably found only on Mafia and a further eight are restricted to very few other coastal forest sites in East Africa. The large number of people residing within or along the marine park boundary distinguishes it from other MPAs and these social dimensions have been the subject of two case studies.

Sea Sense is an NGO that works closely with coastal communities in Tanzania to conserve and protect endangered marine species including sea turtles, dugongs, whales, dolphins and whale sharks. Tanzania is participating in the region wide South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Project (SWIOFP).  This project has a strong biodiversity component which focuses on the relationship between commercial and artisanal fisheries and species of high biodiversity value. Sea Sense is working closely with SWIOFP staff to implement a sea turtle satellite tagging programme at key nesting sites in Tanzania.  Tracking data will be overlaid with fisheries data to identify areas of high risk from fisheries interactions.

In 2011 WWF won two prestigious awards for their coastal community work in Tanzania under its Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa (RUMAKI) Seascape programme.  “This programme has helped improve the social-economic well being of these communities”, said WWF’s Rumaki Programme Coordinator Josephine Mella. “They have learnt how to manage their fisheries by establishing a workable community-based management system to control fishing efforts and eliminate unsustainable fishing practices. The outcome of this is that fisheries stocks have increased, access to protein has improved and finances from fisheries are healthier allowing communities better purchasing power of goods and services. We have also introduced new mariculture technologies. The general well-being of the communities we work in has improved and this is what I am most proud of.”

In 2008 the UK-based Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences published the first Muslim Theology of the Sea guide to promote conservation among fishing families on Misali Island in the Zanzibar archipelago who had been threatening the fragile coral environment through their dynamite fishing. Although it was created for a specific reason, most of the theology and teachings are appropriate and useful for any marine conservation programme in Islamic areas, particularly in the tropics and sub-tropics - and the wording and geographical references can be adapted accordingly.

Integrated Development Planning

A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Mafia Island was published in 2008 to provide a long-term planning framework that will help the Government of Tanzania address strategic issues that will be triggered by the programme to upgrade the airport and to ensure that the various activities will be compatible with Mafia’s environmental conditions. The SEA also suggests a carrying capacity framework that could be adopted for various activities, for example, in tourism development as continued growth may lead to the degradation of the resources on which this sector greatly depends. Extensive participatory approaches were followed in preparing this SEA, involving key stakeholders, focus group discussions, and meetings with government and religious leaders and elders, informed groups, nongovernmental organizations, and private sector stakeholders. Primary and secondary information was collected, analyzed, and integrated in the report.

Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Measures

Up until fairly recently, climate change had not been systematically studied or monitored in Zanzibar. In 2009 the Finnish University of Turku, Department of Geography, and the Zanzibar Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry published their report on a joint research project   looking into practical measures to tackle climate change in the east coast of Zanzibar where major tourism developments are taking place. Their analysis shows that the coastline has mainly been encroaching inland and the coastal vegetation cover has lessened particularly at hotel fronts. The intertidal zone has reportedly become shallower than it used to be a couple of decades ago and this has consequences for local livelihoods, especially to seaweed farming. Rehabilitation of vegetation on the vulnerable places with a total of 30.5 hectares would require 41,450 seedlings and cost about 14,000 euro. The Zanzibari researchers, who are also forest officers, produced in cooperation with the communities a draft project proposal for such activity. One officer also published his study on biodiversity, climate change, energy crisis and suggestions toward formulation of new Zanzibar integrated environment policy.

The first international symposium on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in small island developing states was held December 2011 in Zanzibar where a wide range of interesting papers were presented.