Thomas Chale, Enterprise Development Coordinator, Mafia Island Marine Park, Tanzania
What do you love about the ocean?
On the leisure side, the ocean and life in the tropical coast line is amazing! Each day is unique depending on the tide, sunshine and wind. And that will dictate your mood and activities for the day. The ocean will be blue, another time emerald green and in the cloudless sunrise the golden sunrays reflect on the water like molten gold. Its lovely to be near the ocean, especially a place like Mafia Island where other people come for holidays. I also love the sea because it supports human life.
What do you love about your work?
Working for WWF is the best thing that happened to me work-wise. It takes me to places Tanzanians usually don’t go to, as we are not a traveling people, like the Europeans. Since coming to work in Mafia, I have learned to snorkel and dive, and to really appreciate the life under the surface.
What work do you do?
I joined WWF in 2001, to plan and implement a micro-credit programme for small businesses in Mafia Island Marine Park. When I joined the team here, the park was still riddled with destructive resource use, such as dynamite fishing and seine netting.
Seine netting is an easy and effective way of fishing, but it’s also destructive and takes everything, as mesh is small. In order to help fishers swap from destructive seine netting to more sustainable practices, or to give up fishing altogether and take up other livelihoods, WWF has established a sustainable livelihoods revolving funds scheme. This has to date led to seine netting fishers turning in their nets in return for alternative gear, or for training in tailoring, help with setting up a small petrol station, and one adamant opponent to the gear swap was even given a truck to transport goods across Mafia Island!
The village-based micro-credits scheme was established after identifying poverty as the root cause for unsustainable resource use in the park. Each participant contributes the equivalent of USD1 as a joining fee, and is then entitled to make regular savings and borrow twice the amount saved, against a 12% per year interest. This is creating a favorable climate for small businesses and led to fishers and their wives to test other ways of living than fishing. For example, one woman whose husband handed in his seine nets has bought a TV set and a satellite dish and now has the only cinema on Chole Island, earning about USD6 per evening.
What is your hope for the future of the sea at Mafia?
One of the greatest challenges for me is to make the park meet the socio-economic needs of the people living here. I want to make people feel the park is theirs, and that they can get an outcome from activities other than fishing. Mafia’s protected waters will be a refuge to many threatened species, and Mafia’s seas will continue to be an attractive destination for tourists. However, due to the abundant marine resources, there is a danger of influx of people in search for new opportunities of investment and livelihood!