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About Zanzibar

Shifting cultivation

Shifting cultivation involving land clearing and seasonal planting of annual crops and agriculture as a whole is the main cause of environmental degradation in Zanzibar. Subsistence farming for crops such as cassava, banana, sweet potatoes, yams, and other food crops is often practiced in areas that had a good forest cover. Some of these lands harbour a wide diversity of species.


Loss of fresh water species

The dominance of marine species in Zanzibar has undermined the significance of fresh water species. However, it should be know that Zanzibar has a good collection of fresh water species but their number is dwindling day after day. Part of the problem is a natural process but use of herbicides and pesticides has also played a role. In the 70s and 80s, rice farmers in many areas of Unguja and Pemba had to use some dangerous pesticides such as Malathion and DDT that caused a big loss of fresh water species.

Unfortunately, nobody seems to care for this loss of fresh water species. The government does not seem to know what is going on and environmental activists are concentrated on rising awareness for problems that already receives large sums of money.

Soil erosion

Zanzibar's higher annual precipitation, loose soils and hilly terrain (see climate and soils) are good ingredients for soil erosion. The effect is more marked in the deep soil areas on the western sides of both islands.

Exploitation of Marine resources

The rich marine resources of Zanzibar are also under threat from over-exploitation. This is particularly true for the mangrove forests, molluscs, shell fish, and a number of bivalve species. Cockling and shell gathering takes place at a very fast pace in different parts of Zanzibar. Vivid examples can be seen in many coastal villages but the situation is intense in remote villages and small islands. Houses in these villages are built using lime made from sea shells and mangroves is an essential component of people's lives.


Urban desertification

This is a less spoken problem but Zanzibar's urban areas are experiencing a desertification problem of a wider scale. New settlements have no aforestation plans in place and every square inch of land, which once had good vegetation is now filled with a concrete structure. As a result, urban temperatures have been increasing at an alarming rate.


Quarries and mining

Limestone quarries and sand mining are emerging environmental problems in Zanzibar. Apparently, people do not seem to realize the extent of the problem due to higher demand for building materials and due to the concentration of these activities in the less fertile, coral rag areas. However, it is alarming to see hundreds of hectares being denuded by over exploitation through mining activities.