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Zanzibar’s spice forests: Restoring the Spice Islands

Publication

Authors: Rebecca Jacobs

General - 2024

ISSUE No.: 62

DOI: http://doi.org/10.55515/LJPG6881

Language: English

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Spice farming in Zanzibar has been integral to the country’s culture, history and economy but in recent decades, Zanzibar’s role in the global spice trade has diminished as declining market prices and government interference have pushed many farmers to convert spice forests into monoculture farms. Community Forests International (CFI) and Community Forests Pemba (CFP) have been working since 2015 to re-establish these diverse agroforest ecosystems and restore farmers’ livelihoods. Unlike monoculture farming, spice forests offer better economic incentives, ecological sustainability, and equality for women, and have the potential to restore a resilient spice-farming economy that is ecologically and socially sustainable. By revitalising local and indigenous knowledge, including from Tanzania, agroforestry practices are being implemented by small-scale Zanzibari farmers to grow a mix of timber, fruit and spice tree crops. This has enabled farmers to improve their household nutrition, increase their crop yields and diversify their income streams, ensuring energy, food and income security. The use of agroforestry practices in spice forests has also promoted structural and ecological diversity, regenerated soil health, enhanced carbon stores, and ensured resilience against climate change. Stories of individual farmers, Saidi Khalifa and Kibano Omar Kibano, exemplify how landscapes and lives can be positively transformed when spice forests are restored to replace monoculture farms with training and support from CFP. The story of Bimajo Masoud Juma also exemplifies how CFP has promoted agroforestry to empower women to have an independently earned income, ensuring their economic independence. CFP is also working with farmers to create stronger cooperative models that would enable them to sell directly to international buyers. The global organic spice market is expanding, so farmers involved in these sustainable and organic agroforestry practices are well-positioned to thrive.  

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