Development of independent business models

Published: 14 December 2017
Last edited: 01 April 2019

While the first sponge farms were set-up the appropriate business model needed to be established. The objective is to generate a stable income for sponge farmers and to enable them to gain independence from as early as possible. Some of the aspects that needed to be addressed:

  • Sufficient access to sales market(s) for sponge farmers.
  • Who will assume the responsibility for commercialisation in Zanzibar and/or overseas? Possible solutions:

> Formation of a cooperative.

> Appointment of a salesperson.

> Direct sales through sponge farmers.

> NGO or company purchases complete or partial harvests for overseas sales.

  • Ensuring continuous training of new sponge farmers.
  • Ensuring quality control.
  • Establishing local competency and responsibility for multiplying sponge farms at existing and new sites.


Co-management building
Education, training and other capacity development activities
Management planning
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Scale of implementation
Phase of solution

Enabling factors

Zanzibar is a popular tourist destination which made it relatively easy to find customers interested in buying locally and sustainably produced souvenirs. The proximity to the sales market allowed us to directly test the customers’ price sensitivity using small quantities of sponges and to adjust the prices accordingly.

Lessons learned

The biggest challenge for gaining market access is the limited scalability of the sponge farms. Each sponge farm needs to be able to continuously deliver a certain amount of sponges that meet certain quality standards. This implies that sales representatives pitching the product to customers cannot jump ahead and promise more than what sustainable production is able to deliver.

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