BY OUR CORRESPONDENT- ZANZIBAR
KITOGANI village is one of the nine villages surrounding the famous Jozani National Conservation Area (JNCA) in Unguja South Region. The village is about 35 kilometers from the Zanzibar town.
The village is adjacent to Charawe village in the north, Ukongoroni village in the east, Pete in the west, and Muungoni in the south.
Majority of Kitogani inhabitants are peasants, cultivating cassava, vegetables, and other agricultural products that flourish in coral areas. Besides cultivation activities, the villagers are involved in wood cutting for charcoal production and firewood for sale.
After seeing that human activities carried out in that village can cause environmental disaster to the forests in the conservation area, JECA, an organization involved in environmental protection at the JNCA decided to establish a tourist village of Kitogani to promote environmental conservation in that village.
Asked why they established a tourist village, JECA Secretary, Awesu Shaaban Ramadhan said the main purpose was to promote local tourism at Kitongani village and protect the environment.
Village tourist attractions
Highlighting the tourist attractions at the village, he mentioned a village cave whose water source would attract the visiting tourists at the village.
“This will be a new tourist attraction in the locality which will promote local tourism” Ramadhani said in an exclusive interview.
He also talked of the diverse animal and bird species that are found in the area which may attract foreigners; mangrove and other natural tall trees, to mention few attractions.
He emphasized that the establishment of the Kitongani tourist village was a strategy to conserve the forests that were on the verge of extinction due gradual deforestation.
He added that once fully established women villagers will showcase local cuisine that is prepared by the women who are involved in the forest conservation process.
According to Ramadhan, development partners have shown interest to support the village project and added that if materialized, they have plans to establish a play-ground that will be used for hand ball and other sports.
“Seeing that great part of our peasants depends on forest natural resources, and how the climate change affects cultivation activities and other spheres of our living, the villagers resolved to embark on the project.
“In collaboration with the Department of Forests and Non-renewable Resources, Jozani National Conservation Area, Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Programme and Jozani Environmental Conservation Association, we resolved to embark on local tourism through Kitongani village,” he said.
He added that a good number of students and researchers from outside and inside Zanzibar pay visits to the area and sit together with the Forest Committees whose activities are in the programme.
“They sit together and discuss the ways that could enable them to have sustainable natural resources and manage good living standards without relying heavily on great usage of natural resources.
According to him, JECA committee conducted a village general meeting and deliberated to conduct tourist activities in the area by establishing a village near the cave essentially to preserve the natural resources around the area.
Some of the association objectives are to effectively involve the community in preserving the natural forests within Jozani and Chwaka Bay areas for sustainable development; to educate the people on the best way to make use of natural resources and to rehabilitate destroyed areas by replanting mangroves.
According to Ramadhan, there are number of challenges facing their conservation efforts. These include destruction of natural resources which is caused by forests clearance; forests are drastically destroyed to generate income especially among the youth.
What the Villagers say
He said that many villagers have supported the idea of promoting tourism at the village level and have received it wholeheartedly as it will promote the history of their village.
Salum Rashid Juma, said that establishing a tourist village at Kitongani was an investment opportunity that has been supported by the villagers.
He added that if the project materialized the villagers will have an opportunity to conduct business without destroying the forest leading to environmental degradation and destruction of the village landscape.
Ali Mkanga Mwita from Charawe village and Salama Ali Khamis from Pete village observed that a tourist village will increase economic opportunities in the area.
“Many community members will grow vegetables and sell them in their village and expand business opportunities in the village”, they said and added, “establishing a tourist village will widen the economic scope of the villagers.”