In the past, Pemba Island, which is part of the Zanzibar archipelago off the mainland of Tanzania, experienced low morale amongst community members, especially women, to actively participate in development activities, due to cultural and religious barriers. Most people engage in fishing and subsistence farming and struggle to provide enough for their families. As a result, women have been entirely dependent on their husbands or family members for survival.
From 2012 to 2019, Community Forests Pemba, part of the Global Climate Change Alliance, funded by the European Union, trained community groups and individuals to engage in various income-generating activities including bee-keeping, tree planting, using improved energy stoves and nurturing kitchen gardens to name a few interventions. The project also trained farmers to grow high quality spices including vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon and black pepper which fetch much higher prices and have boosted incomes significantly.
At the beginning of the project, some community members left the group because they thought they would realize immediate results and an income and didn’t. However, after seeing the benefits others were accruing in the long-term, villagers started asking to be registered again. In the eight years the project functioned under GCCA Tanzania, over 7000 households have benefitted from the experience.
“Females were not allowed to participate in any development activity until recently. Most of the agricultural products were from the mainland, especially nearby Tanga. We were buying almost every-thing we used from there. There was neither watermelon grown nor vegetables, such as cabbage".
- Salma Zaharan, Kiungoni Villager, who also stated that the project has raised awareness of the need to conserve the forests.
Thankfully this has changed with the introduction of kitchen gardens and climate-smart agricultural activities on the island introduced by Community Forests Pemba.
Very importantly, the project invited women to attend training outside of their villages, giving women an opportunity to network for the first time. For some women this was the first time they had set foot outside of their village and many were even given the opportunity to travel to the mainland to learn from other groups and form networks.
One exceptional villager, Salume Ali Khamis from Wingwi Mapofu traveled to Brussels, Belgium to present to EU delegates and development professionals and attend meetings to share her experience of the project. Salume is a member of the group ‘Tujali Wakati’ which engages in kitchen gardens. Salume’s trip to Belgium has been very encouraging to other women in the village, and the village government is also very proud of her achievement. Salume is a role model for school children and her story encourages school kids, that if you work hard you will be able to break any barriers, regardless of your gender.
Through the project, women have been empowered and been given a voice. Many women are now able to provide for their households and actively participate in village meeting, giving opinions and advice, which was simply not possible before the project.
Women in Pemba are responsible for home duties and child rearing and traditionally collect firewood daily to cook meals. Resource pressures and deforestation on Pemba have made this a difficult and time-consuming task. To address this, Community Forests Pemba has assisted in the installation of improved energy stoves by local artisans, reducing the amount of firewood used by half, while simultaneously improving health outcomes for families thanks to the reduced smoke inhalation in the homes. Thanks to these new stoves, women have more time to engage in other productive activities.
Literacy rates for women and men have increased
Asaa Hamadi Salum, Kokota Primary School Teacher, Wete District said that before the project many women on the island were unable to read or write. The project sensitized adult men and women to enroll in adult education. In 2015 about 64 people (more than 50% female) enrolled, including my wife. Graduates can now read, write and count.
“My wife can now send me a text message. In the past she was only able to answer the phone. Now we have men and women with smart phones, they can use WhatsApp, take photos and share with relatives outside this village. It is a development, which we could not have made without the GCCA project”, said Asaa.
Some people want to take English language courses, as the island has been receiving more tourists, and the potential for Cultural Tourism is great.
A cultural transformation has truly taken place on Pemba. Women are now actively involved in household and community development. Women own land, are shopkeepers and can participate in decision making at home and in village meetings. Village Savings and Loans Groups (VSLAs) have also been integral to women being able to access finance, and consequently save and invest in small enterprises.
Key to the island’s future prosperity is the ability to continue with these activities, long after funding has ended. Capacity building in finance management and linking to micro finance institutions, including VSLAs has taken place. Linking community members with technical experts (extension officers) and other farmers is also vital and continues apace. The formation of the Pemba Spice Farmers’ Association has been established. A sense of ownership and sustainability of these interventions is palpable. The Zanzibar Water Authority is now responsible for water projects including water tank harvesting on Kokota Islet. A clear exit strategy has also been developed, which provides guidance on every activity the project was doing and how it can be continued. And a marketing strategy developed in collaboration with various stakeholders from government, private and academic institutions has been produced. The strategy indicates clearly how women and men in the sectors will meaningfully participate.