Community-based aquaculture development and marine protection

Published: 26 April 2016
Last edited: 30 September 2020
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This solution addresses poverty reduction in Zanzibar for its coastal communities through a more sustainable management of their natural resources, additional income, and consequently, better quality of life. The approach of implementing ecological aqua farming of bath sponges with women in coastal communites promotes healthy economic growth, reduces environmental pressure and threats to marine life and othernatural wildlife, improves public health and strenghtens the economic and social status of women.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Fisheries and aquaculture
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Sustainable livelihoods
Increasing temperatures
Loss of Biodiversity
Ocean warming and acidification
Shift of seasons
Tsunami/tidal wave
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Physical resource extraction
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Other targets
SDGs, JPol, NEP & EMA Tanzania


Jambiani, Zanzibar Central/South Region, Tanzania


Major problems in the area are high unemployment, unsustainable management and overwexploitation of marine resources, destruction or degradation of coral reefs, gender inequality, poverty, and lack of economic opportunities. To reduce poverty and to create jobs we developed 2009 sustainable sponge farming and started 2014 with a coral farming trial.


Focus on single mothers since they have nearly no job opportunities. After training, beneficiaries become independent and start their own business. From their product sale they get a good income to feed their families and build their own house.

How do the building blocks interact?

Continuity, participatory management and full sustainability are dependent on each other. Only through a continuous pursuit of environmental, economic, and social goals sustainable development full sustainability can be attained. Each change and each planning of a future step requires a new check of the 3BL sustainability and corresponding adjustment. Do this together with the participants. Implement the thinking and that they get used to it in their daily work for the development of the product.

Start with a common evaluation, do the mini business plan and decide always collectively what should be done next. Make a small trial and if it works start a small production and work on the quality of the product. Make test sales and check the customer feedbacks together with the farmers. Start to scale the production only if the market wants your product. If the farmers cannot sell their product they will be disappointed. Develop sales and marketing together with them. The farmer must learn how to acquire new clients so he can develop his production and scale according to the demand of the marked.


  • Each sponge farm feeds about 2-3 large families with ~10 people. We install 4 new farms per year. Scaling is depending of the production in the nursery farm.
  • Women of Jambiani learned how to farm sustainably bath sponges and how they can sell them locally. After one year training they get independency.
  • An artificial reef (AR) with reef balls was built with the fishermen committee of Kibigija to learn more about the importance of reefs and biodiversity. Our coral farmers learned to cultivate corals and plant them on the AR.
  • The pilot project mooring & buoys in Jambiani & Paje proved that anchor damages can be reduced and corals get protection and more respect. 2016 we will install 40 more buoys in Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia.


In 2007 we build our resident home in Zanzibar. Impressed by the seaweed farmers we discovered there very bad income from the product and thought there must be better marine products that guarantee a better income and quality of live for the coastal community. We did a research trip in Asia and the Pacific region and found in Micronesia the organization MERIP. They cultivated sponges, corals and invertebrates together with the community and with simple techniques that did not cost a lot of money. Back in Zanzibar we started 2009 our first sponge farm. We had to do a lot of research to find a sponge species that can be used and sold as a bath sponge. The common bath sponges species we could not find in the waters of Zanzibar. After testing more than 120 different species we found a nice intertidal sponge that can be cultivated sustainably because we can take fragments of the sponges in the productive farms as seeds. We had to invest a lot of time to figure out best farming methods. Today we have 3 productive farms and can open 2-3 new farms a year. The slow scaling of the business model has its reason that the number of seeds is limited if you want to bee sustainable. Because our aim is to create jobs we started 2014 coral farming for the aquarium trade that allow much faster scaling and so has the potential to create faster more jobs in the future than sponge farming. Without healthy water aquaculture has no future. To save the created jobs in the long term the coastal communities of Zanzibar have to learn more about the sea, the importance of corals, sea grass, mangroves and the biodiversity to manage their natural marine resources themselves sustainable. That’s why we have different marine protection and educational projects.

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Christian Vaterlaus

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