Chumbe Island Coral Park


Winner for the category Water

A pioneer eco-lodge introducing environmentally friendly technology for water and sanitation in Tanzania

General information:

Island (Region, Province, Country):
Chumbe Island, Zanzibar/Tanzania

Island Nature Reserve: no resident population, only park rangers, hospitality staff and about 3,000 visitors/year

Budget / cost of the project:
Overall investment costs about 1.2 million USD, lodge construction about 500,000 USD

Project objectives:

  • Protect a coral reef and pristine coral-rag forest by establishing the first privately managed Marine park in the world on Chumbe Island off Zanzibar/Tanzania;
  • Showcase sustainable and zero-pollution water and sanitation technologies in Tanzania;
  • Promote marine conservation and eco-technologies through Environmental Education programs for local schools, local communities, government officials and all visitors.

Project description of activities and specific interventions:

The coastal region of Tanzania is a water poor area with a fast growing population and booming tourism industry where freshwater resources are largely dependent on seasonal rains, stored in limited aquifers prone to saltwater intrusion.
Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd (CHICOP), a private company with not-for-profit objectives, has turned the small, formerly uninhabited Chumbe Island off the west coast of Zanzibar/Tanzania into a fully protected marine and terrestrial nature reserve where management costs and various research and education programs are fully supported by proceeds from the eco-lodge. The seven bungalow eco-lodge was constructed between 1994-98 using state of the art eco-technologies:

  • Rainwater harvesting systems on all roofs collect rainwater that is filtered through gravel and sand before it is stored in large closed cisterns to provide fresh water for showers and washbasins. The closed systems prevent breeding grounds for disease vectors such as mosquitoes.
  • Only composting toilets, based on the Swedish Clivus Multrum system, that neither use freshwater nor produce sewage are in use. Organic waste is decomposed and reduced to a nutrient rich dry matter. The aerobic composting process is powered by a sophisticated ventilation system using small wind-driven wheels on top of the ventilation pipes of the composting chambers that generate an air draught needed for the aerobic digestion of human and organic waste. The pipes reach above the tree canopy for maximum ventilation and an odour-free environment.
  • Waste water from the showers, washbasins and kitchen pass through artificial wetland systems prior to being released. The waste water from the bungalows passes through gravel and sand filters before entering a sealed vegetation bed containing plants absorbing large amounts of phosphates and nitrates. This system avoids high-energy and industrially manufactured technologies, products and services for water purification.
  • Energy from the sun is used to heat water and to provide energy for lights, freezers as well as sockets for recharging batteries. The eco-technology is used both for guest bungalows, the Visitors’ centre and all staff accommodation on the island.

Public outreach, education and awareness efforts and results:

Chumbe was the first eco-lodge of its kind in Africa. It took 4 years of negotiations with the Zanzibar government to get the required leases, contracts and building permits for this innovative project and its locally unknown eco-technologies. Lodge construction took another 4 years, as no contractors with the required experience were available in the country.
Based on agreements with adjacent villages, the project employed local people even though they commonly lacked formal education and training. Hence, the building process had to be organised with expatriate architects training and all development required substantial on-the-job training, on the construction, use, as well as maintenance of innovative technological solutions.
After 20 years of operating the eco-lodge, Chumbe staff members are now professional in the use and maintenance of all components of the eco-technology, and proudly share their knowledge and experiences with all visitors, as part of the guided visitors’ program.
Along with the conservation work in the nature reserve, Chumbe provides training and Environmental Education (EE) for local and international students and schoolchildren, local government officials, NGOs, and other interested groups. Since the year 2000 more than 9,000 Zanzibari students and 1000 teachers have participated in the EE program and learned about sustainable water and sanitation solutions, eco-tourism, marine conservation, and coral reef ecology. Environmental clubs have been established in schools, which compete for the yearly “Chumbe Challenge Award”.
International awareness was created with the many awards won such as the Tourism for Tomorrow Award 2000, UNEP Global500 Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award 2000, Environmental Conservation and Awareness Award of the Zanzibar Ministry of Environment 2009, BBC World Challenge Award 2010, Energy Globe 2012. In 2000, an eco-bungalow was reconstructed in the Tanzanian pavilion of the EXPO2000 in Hannover, and CHICOP was also twice finalist of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and mentioned in the UN Secretary General’s Report on Protection of Coral Reefs for Sustainable Livelihoods and Development for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012.

Economic value added and how calculated:

As a private sector initiative, CHICOP combines effective and sustainable park management with income generation through genuine ecotourism, which fully funds conservation, education and research. Investing approximately 1.2 Million USD for project development, a yearly minimum budget of 300,000 USD for park management, the Chumbe development and management costs are a fraction of those of comparable government-run parks. In 20 years of commercial operations with annual occupancy rates of 60% on average, CHICOP has contributed ca 8 million USD to the economy of Zanzibar, with approximately a quarter of this paid in local taxes, fees and licenses.
As effective protection of their natural resource for long-term subsistence and livelihood is the most direct and sustainable socio-economic benefit local people can have from a nature conservation project, CHICOP, therefore contributes to poverty reduction by (1) restocking depleted fisheries and degraded coral reefs and (2) providing employment and career opportunities for local people. With
45 full-time employees, 99% of them Tanzanians, for only 7 rooms, CHICOP has the highest employee/room ratio of any tourism business in Tanzania and employs 200% more staff than the international average for eco-lodges, prioritizing women and local people. Over two thirds of the employees come from local communities, each supporting on average 5 individuals.

Provision of wider income opportunities such as agricultural products for the restaurant, local handicrafts, outsourcing road and boat transport, as well as purchasing local building materials (as all buildings were constructed with local natural renewable materials) and using craftsmen services during maintenance, affects an even higher number of local people. Buying local is not only more cost-effective, but also benefits the local primary producers such as palm-thatched roofs that give small farmers a new market for coconut trees.

In summary, CHICOP provides evidence that private coral reef conservation can work effectively and be sustained by ecotourism, has strong incentives for commercial success and sustainability, part of which is the innovative eco-technology, in particular, the water and sanitation system.

Ecological and social project outcomes:

Coral reefs in Tanzania are under serious threats from dynamite fishing, overexploitation, pollution and coastal development. While coastal communities depend on fishing for survival, there is little evidence of traditional reef management or awareness about resource threats. CHICOP creates awareness about these issues and promotes biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of diverse ecosystems.

Through effective management in cooperation with local people and the zero-impact eco- technologies, in particular the water and sanitation system, the project has achieved that (1) the Reef Sanctuary is one of the most pristine coral reefs in the region, with more than 480 marine fish species, 150 species of marine invertebrates and 59 genera of hard corals, (2) the Forest Reserve is one of the last undisturbed semi-arid ‘coral rag’ forests in Zanzibar, particularly after successful rat eradication (1997), and sanctuary to the highly endangered and endemic Aders’ duikers (Cephalophus adersi) as well as to the rare Coconut crab (Birgus latro), both listed in the IUCN red list, (3) rare Roseate terns (Sterna dougalli) bred on Chumbe in 1994, 2006, 2012 and 2017, attracted by abundant fish in the Reef Sanctuary.

CHICOP also minimizes environmental impact of tourism by (1) using and show-casing state-of-the- art eco-technologies such as rainwater catchment, solar water heating, photovoltaic power, composting toilets and vegetative greywater filtration (2) responsibly managing waste with organic waste composted, other waste removed and laundry washed off the island;(3) building a Visitors’ Centre with exhibits on the island ecology and classroom for local schoolchildren;(4) introducing visitors’ management and education with a maximum of 16 overnight guests and limited day visitation; (4) providing solar torches to avoid light pollution and protect feeding and breeding patterns of nocturnal animals.
All operations are guided by consecutive Management Plans 1995-2027 and an Advisory Committee that includes representatives of local village communities, the academia and relevant sectoral government departments.