These photographs, taken at the Kizimbani Spice Farm,demonstrate the biological diversity of Zanzibar’s renowned tropical treasures and describe how they benefit people there.
The Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, known locally as Unguja, has been a central trading place for spice as well as for ivory, gold and slaves in the past. Over the centuries, Indian and Persian influences were added to the initial mix of Arabian and African culture.
In the 2000 years of trading across the Indian Ocean, fruiting plants and spices from around the world have been introduced to Zanzibar and the smaller Pemba Island 80 kilometres to the north. The growth of plantations and trade in the sought-after spices brought new settlers, increasing demand for resources such as wood for building and herbs for medicine.
Spices are still a big part of daily life on Zanzibar and in Swahili culture, not just in food but as traditional medicines and for spiritual, cultural and cosmetic use. They are also a major export and tourist attraction. In 2013, tourism overtook agricultural exports as Tanzania’s main source of income — despite official statistics excluding informal activities such as spice farm tours, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Tourism income and jobs help alleviate poverty on Zanzibar, but the industry’s impact on livelihoods and the environment is questionable. Figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization indicate that about 60 per cent of the island’s population work in agriculture, about half unpaid. Climatic pressures such as unreliable rain patterns and increasing temperatures also threaten agricultural productivity on the island.