When she spoke, Aysha Hamadi told about her daily life as a seaweed producer in the tidal zone along the Zanzibar coast. She farms using the so-called “cylindrical net” technique. On land, young plants are slipped inside nets and then immersed in six or seven meters of water at a few cable lengths from the shore, at a point where the cooler water temperature stimulates plant growth. But she doesn’t plan to stop there: “To earn more money, I’d like to learn how to swim so that I can better understand the way seaweed is transformed. I’d also like to be trained on how to grow sea cucumbers.”
Hearing her story, along with that of four other local women who are aquaculture farmers, was one of the highlights of the workshop organized on July 17 and 18, 2019, in Zanzibar as part of the AquaCoCo project (for “Aquaculture, Coastal Communities and Conservation”). This initiative aims to give rise to a vision of this fragile ecosystem that is shared by the various stakeholders involved in managing the Zanzibar coastline.
Aquaculture in Zanzibar: A Changing Sector
Pertaining to the “Oceans, Islands and Coasts” initiative of the partnership between Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the AquaCoCo project is part of the work undertaken by the IUCN since 2014 on aquaculture and Protected Marine Areas (PMA). It also comes under the sustainable management of marine resources sought by Tanzania, in particular in the semi-autonomous state of Zanzibar.
Seaweed production in the archipelago was massively adopted by local women some twenty years ago. They were frequently the wives of fishermen and saw seaweed growing as a way to supplement household income. Today, they represent 80% of workers in the sector. But their traditional method, which consists in growing plants on the edge of the beach and harvesting them at low tide, has its limits. In addition to involving hard physical work, it can affect the biodiversity of this zone where the tides roll in and out and where ocean waters are warming.
It was, therefore, necessary to promote methods that protect the ecosystems and that are better adapted to climate change, such as the cylindrical nets used by Aysha Hamadi. It was also necessary to introduce new marine crops that offer an alternative to over-fishing on the coast, such as sea cucumber breeding.
Working Together to Protect Coastal Resources
In sectors like fishing and tourism, economic and environmental issues are now inseparable. Preserving the coasts of Zanzibar means ensuring the long-term survival of an ecosystem as much as it does providing a means of subsistence. By bringing all the private sector stakeholders around a table with representatives of local authorities and independent research workers and experts from the IUCN, the AquaCoCo project provides a basis for sustainable joint management of coastal areas.
This is what Aboud S. Jumbe, Head of the Zanzibar Department of the Environment says: “Only an integrated development approach can promote resilience and social and environmental equity. Without it, protected marine areas in Zanzibar will continue to become more and more vulnerable.”
AquaCoCo Zanzibar, which was the subject of a presentation film and a summary sent to all workshop participants, is a pilot project. The project also includes writing a state-of-the-art report on the theme of Aquaculture and Conservation.
The goal is to take stock of the possible synergies between coastal communities, aquaculture and sustainable development, in particular in view of the IUCN World Conservation Congress at Marseille in June 2020. As pointed out by Catherine Lecouffe, Project Manager for the Fishing, Aquaculture and Ocean initiative at AFD: “The joint management of coastal resources is achieved in each case with a local solution.” However, what is important is to propose an approach that guarantees the viability of the means used by taking context into account.”