Coastal conservation projects in Zanzibar
Internship and volunteer placements are possible at three NGOs which deal with coastal conservation: SONARECOD (Society for Natural Resources Conservation and Development), ZAZOSO (Zanzibar Zoological Society) and MICA (Misali Island Conservation Association). All three organisations cooperate closely in the implementation of projects and they are sharing volunteers and interns, according to their projects’ needs.
In East Africa, one can observe radical changes concerning social structures and forms of living. Poverty causes parts of the population to move from the inland to the coastal regions. These people consider the sea a freely available resource for everyone. They engage in fishing and gathering activities, however, not traditionally being part of the coastal environments, they lack the knowledge and awareness of a long-term sustainable use of the coast and sea.
Due to poverty and an ever-increasing need of fish caused by growing populations, destructive and damaging methods of fishing are being practised, such as dynamite fishing and making use of finely woven fishing nets. Furthermore, corals are being destroyed and used as construction materials, mangroves are exploited for the use as firewood, and wildlife of the coral reefs such as seashells, corals and crabs are being collected to be sold as souvenirs.
The NGO's and their main focus:
SONARECOD is a leading NGO in its subject area. All members are senior executives of related ministries; they are academicians of forestry, biologists, ecology and similar subjects. With SONARECOD they are volunteers and their task consists of defining the needs fpr new projects, ensuring funds and then hiring specific experts to actually run the projects.
In August 2008, a mangrove conservation project has been started under full funding of the World Bank. The project employed four fulltime scientists for 1.5 years. Its aim was to analyze the current situation of the Zanzibar mangroves, to do socio-economic field research, and to work out a management plan, including the sustainable conservation of the mangrove's ecosystem while at the same time improving the living conditions of the coastal population.
The project is now finished, but similar projects are planned in the near future to follow up, where volunteers and interns can assist with project management and field work. They should have knowledge in at least one of the following subject areas: Socio-economic field research, forest resources/marine resources assessment, data analysis, statistics and modeling, skills in proper writing of project and research descriptions for the application of funds, as well as the systematic preparation and development of management plans, marketing and public relations.
ZAZOSO (Zanzibar Zoological Society) is committed at protecting marine and terrestrial life forms and conserving their habitats, based on the idea that humans, animals, and their living environment form and interlinked system. The society consists of specialists such as biologists, botanists and zoologists who run the NGO in their free time and while typically having day jobs in related ministries. In case funding of projects are guaranteed, they employ qualified specialists to carry out the project.
One successful project, which has been running for 2 years now, deals with the education of the local population in the Chwaka Bay area about the importance of coastal conservation. This mostly includes campaigning in villages for the protection of the mangroves which are chopped down as construction material or firewood, and the usage of sustainable fishing methods. Currently practised, but unsustainable and damaging fishing methods include the use of finely-woven fishing nets, trawling, which destroys the corals and the seabed, dynamite fishing, and the use of poison, which is being thrown into the sea to make all marine organisms die so that the fishermen just have to collect the dead fishes from the water surface. The poison fishing method not only kills much more fish than can ever be eaten, but also the poison is being consumed by the humans as a consequence.
However, as the locals see their only way of surviving by unsustainably exploiting natural resources, it is fairly pointless just to inform them about the destructiveness of their actions or to impose laws or restrictions which anyway are not being followed. In many cases the locals are fully aware of their unsustainable behaviour, but can’t see any alternative options to make a living. For this reason, besides campaigning, the focus of ZAZOSO’s projects always lies in the implementation of programs assuring alternative, more sustainable ways of income-generation for the local population.
This includes for instance seaweed farming, preservation of fruits or providing micro-credits for small scale new businesses. In this way, ZAZOSO links environmental protection with social aspects, which always need to be combined when human beings and animals share a living space.
Besides the project work, the members of the society also carry out zoological “emergency actions”, e.g. to save dolphins which were unintentionally caught by fishermen, to treat injured wild animals or farm animals which have been maltreated by their owners. Further, zoological research is done from time to time.
The Misali Island Conservation Area is located 10 km southwest of the coast of Pemba Island. In 1996, Misali has been declared a conservation area because of its unique diversity of marine and coastal organisms and species. The coral reefs and seaweed beds are habitats for more than 350 species of fish and 42 species of corals. Misali’s mangrove forests are breeding grounds to sea turtles. Numerous bird species, bats and the critically endangered coconut crab live on the uninhabited island where only fishermen and participants of research projects occasionally stay. The conservation area consists of 9 km² of land area and 13 km² of marine area.
MICA (Misali Island Conservation Association) also started in 1996. It is an alliance of approximately 1600 local fishermen which has the goal to ensure an environmentally sustainable lifelihood for the inhabitants of the 10 villages around the conservation area. Controlled and sustainable fishing in the conservation area with the exception of the reef is allowed, but a patrol consisting of local fishermen is controlling the area, fighting any destructive methods of fishing.
A cast of fortune for the conservation of Misali island is the strong religious belief of the local Muslim population. According to their belief, a few hundred years ago, the prophet Nabii Hadhara had arrived at Misali and asked for a prayer mat. The local people didn't have any, so as a consequence Hadhara declared the whole island a prayer mat. This is why MICA communicates the conservation of the conservation area as a religious duty to the locals, which works perfectly.
As a volunteer, you can to take part in the following activities:
* Environmental education at coastal villages and schools, presenting slide shows and handing out information leaflets and posters which inform about sustainable handling of coastal habitats.
* Field research at Misali Island including dives and terrestrial research to map the biodiversity and current condition of the conservation area
* Support of initiatives for sustainable agriculture to give the coastal population employment and income generation, e.g. by beekeeping and honey production, fungi and vegetable cultivation, fruit drying, etc.. MICA cooperates with other NGOs which provide micro-credits to help the locals improving their farming methods
As a volunteer you can to take part in administrative work at MICA in Chake Chake as well as assist directly in the projects at the Misali island conservation area. The position is suitable for students or anyone with skills and knowledge in (marine) biology, ecology, agriculture, development work, African studies, etc.
Location: Zanzibar, Tanzania
Duration: Minimum 1 month
Costs: free of charge (trouble-free package for € 500
Accommodation: Not included
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