Tanzania’s Pemba Island shares its reforestation success


Better known perhaps for its beaches and spices, the Tanzanian island of Pemba has earned a reputation for its reforestation too.

Roughly 50km from the Tanzanian mainland and part of Tanzania’s Zanzibar archipelago, Pemba once suffered from massive deforestation. But a successful reforestation project has brought the island back on track.

In fact, the project has been so successful that, in 2014, the Intra-ACP GCCA Programme funded two consultants to produce a website, training videos, and documentary so that others could learn from this example.

“The clay stoves alone have had a huge impact,” said Craig Norris, the filmmaker who spent over two months documenting the islanders’ efforts, referring to fuel-efficient stoves that reduce the pressure on forests.

“They’re twice as efficient as open-pit fires and that means less trees need to be cut for firewood,” he said. “It also gives replanting programmes a chance to take root.”

The educational films have helped spread the word about best practices in land care, agroforestry, kitchen gardening, plant nursery development, apiary care, and even how to build clay stoves and sturdy housing with earth blocks.

Pemba’s reforestation began when Mbarouk Mussa Omar from Pemba visited the nearby (and much smaller) island of Kokota. He was shocked at the deforestation and decided to take action on Pemba.

In 2007, he rallied community support and – with the support of a young Canadian, Jeff Schnurr – started a small-scale tree nursery. Communities began to collect seeds from nearby forests.

The seeds were sprouted in nurseries, built in the centre of each participating village. These nurseries became community centres, serving as a place for women to meet, weave bas- 25 kets, share news, and grow trees. Over the years, communities trained each other, shared best practices, wapped seeds, and even shared seedlings when pests or disease destroyed neighbouring nurseries.

Since 2007, over one million trees have been planted for fruit, timber, and conservation.

“We have also planted because we want our children to know these trees,” says Farma Rashid Seif, a community member and tree planter.