Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Zanzibar villages seek their niche in tourism

Women in Fumba display their ornaments to visiting journalists


Tourists are swarming all over the beaches of the Zanzibar archipelago not for adventure, but there is definitely something there for everyone to make a trip of a lifetime.

Of late, these East African off-coast islands have seen increased investment in tourism infrastructure and facilities, which in a way are reviving Zanzibar’s visibility that had blurred with the decline of the clove industry.

A visit to the islands takes one, informatively and entertainingly, through their long cultural and trading history with mainland Tanzania and the Arab world.

Though scarred by long years of Arab slavery and suffering, the islands today are uniquely enchanting and welcoming with their changing landscape.

Authorities on the isles, however, face immense challenges to modernize its transport and communication systems both on land and at sea. In addition, there is a glaring need to develop all the ephemera that go with holidaying such as guide books and adverts that would enable tourists find their place of interest.

Tourism here is obviously still in its infancy and as an industry it provides minimal employment to the rising force of local job seekers, men and women as well.

“The government, let alone the society in general, pay little attention to the plight of women”, said 29 years old Rahma Mussa, who was married at age 17 to an ordinary fisherman.

According to Rahma, many women on the islands are frustrated with their banal rural and suburban life despite the efforts they make either individually or as groups to break ground into small business ventures.

Fortunes and industries that usually accompany a booming tourism into new destinations such as Zanzibar still elude the local population.

“Tradition and outdated customs keep housewives in coastal areas in coastal areas economically dependent on their husbands who make very meager earnings from fishery business,” explained Rahma, a resident of Fumba village.

Thanks to a brief visit to the village last year by a staffer of the British consulate in Zanzibar, the women of Fumba village have picked skills that could, with modest incomes over time, make a big difference in their way of life.

Rahma recalls the visit as an eye-opener that gave the women an insight of the natural resources around the village that could be exploited to transform their lives.

“Over the course of some days the diplomat taught us how to make earrings, necklaces and decorations from seashells. We are now in full business. We sell these items to various visitors, especially those who want mementos of their trip to Zanzibar”, she added. Other groups, bringing men and women together, have been set up at Fumba Bondeni, Bweleo Villages and Chaza craft Association to grow seaweed, manufacture soap and make handicrafts.

The words earrings, necklaces have feminine overtones, but the idea of manufacturing such decorative items at Fumba village foreruns the need for transformation of the East African coastal people’s economic way of life.

With that notion, founders of Western Indian Ocean Maritime Science Association (WIOMSA) set out in 1994 to advance regional cooperation in all aspects of coastal marine sciences and management for sustainable development.

The association groups marines scientists and coastal practitioners as well as related institutions of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Comoro, Madagascar, Seychelles, Mauritius and the small Island of Reunion in research and development.

At the end of the day WIOMSA has relised that its R and D work, tourism and the people’s income generating activities have to run in tandem to make appreciable impact on national development. But this raises the question of how to maintain the linkage.

Though the association did not state its partner for keeping all sides connected, by hosting a journalists’ regional workshop on coastal marine issues it affirmed their vital role to keep the public well informed on the issues that preoccupy the coastal communities. Journalist from Kenya, Tanzania and Seychelles took part attended the workshop in Zanzibar.
Women in Fumba display their ornaments to visiting journalists
The sandy beaches of Zanzibar are a great attraction to tourists

No comments:

Post a Comment