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Workshop addressing water inequity in Zanzibar produces encouraging results

Posted: Dec 14, 2012


Our workshop aiming to identify sustainable solutions to pressing water inequities between communities and hotels in Zanzibar has yielded promising results.
Download workshop report

Hosted by our local partner, Mwambao Coastal Community Network (MCCN), representatives from the communities of Kiwengwa and Jambiani, the Zanzibar Water Authority (ZAWA), and hoteliers gathered on 16 October to discuss our WET research findings, watch films made by the communities documenting the issues, and begin exploring ways to ensure that community water rights are not compromised by the activities of the tourism sector.

Ali Thani of MCCN, who was the key workshop facilitator, commented, “I was very happy with the participation at the workshop. The most important work for MCCN now is to provide support to the community members in following some of the resolutions made in the workshop'.

Open and constructive discussions were held and a strong willingness was expressed by all parties to continue the dialogue and identify measures to resolve the water-based issues.

Specific outcomes include:

  • ZAWA has said it will continue discussions with the hotels and residents of Kiwengwa with a view to resolving the current disputes. Any new agreements between the communities and hoteliers will include ZAWA in the negotiation process.
  • Another hotel has stated its willingness to provide water for the residents of Kairo, an area of Kiwengwa, if MCCN and Tourism Concern organise another forum to discuss the issue.
  • The process has helped to empower the participating communities by increasing their awareness and understanding of national water policies, tourism industry practices, and community water rights. It has helped to foster constructive relations between communities, government and hoteliers. The process has also furnished Kiwengwa and Jambiani residents with an audio-visual record and advocacy tool, which can be used to increase wider community awareness and support on-going efforts to defend their rights to water.
  • The workshop was covered by Zanzibar’s TV news station and appeared twice on the evening news, helping to raise wider awareness of this issue in Zanzibar.

Although the participation of hotels was disappointing (just three attended, despite 12 invitations being hand delivered), the government and community-level attendance was strong. Tour operators Kuoni and TUI were also asked to encourage their Zanzibari hotel suppliers to attend the workshop, in recognition that business responsibilities to respect human rights, including the right to water, extend up through supply chains.

Tourism Concern and MCCN are very encouraged by the outcomes of this pilot process, notably the shared recognition of how tourism is impacting upon community water access that has been generated.

Lorna Slade, Executive Director of MCCN, added: “Through the process of participatory research and film-making, we have really managed to explore and expose some of the critical issues Zanzibar villagers are facing with regard to access to fresh water in the face of tourism. We now need to keep these issues in the spotlight and continue to advocate for fair community access.”

The community film-making process

The films screened at the workshop and used as a starting point for discussions were produced as part of a wider process of participatory video advocacy (PVA). This method, which has been pioneered by MCCN in Zanzibar, enables marginalised communities to document issues in their own terms, time and space, and to use the resultant films as advocacy tools to engage decision-makers and convey concerns from their own perspective. PVA is also an effective means to overcome barriers to participation caused by, for example, illiteracy or gender.

PVA is a process where community members are trained in the use of video equipment, and then plan and shoot a film themselves in the community. They identify the issues which matter most to them, and interview selected members of the community. PVA is an effective means to overcome barriers to participation caused by, for example, illiteracy or gender. Once the footage is collected, the team perform a primary edit and are then guided by MCCN facilitators in the production of the final film.

Watch film on our You Tube channel

Background to the issue

Insufficient water and sanitation access is a key poverty factor affecting people in Zanzibar. While Zanzibar is heavily dependent on tourism for economic growth and job creation, our research has shown how tourism development is undermining water access for poor communities. Water problems linked to tourism around the coastal villages Kiwengwa and Jambiani around include the inequitable appropriation of mains supplies by hotels, and conflict caused by hotels reneging on promises to facilitate community water access. This has led to incidents of residents cutting hotels’ water pipelines out of anger and frustration. 

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