Kiweni Fights to Save its Endangered Forest.

by Community Forests International on November 17, 2017

Outlined in red is the last of the Kiweni Islet’s ‘Coral Rag Forest’, a sensitive ecosystem that grows on extremely shallow soils above ancient coral reef - Kiweni, Pemba, Tanzania 


Empowered communities use their collective voice to challenge unwanted developments and illegal cutting.


Pemba and its sister Island Unguja are blessed with some of East Africa’s most beautiful coastlines, complete with shimmering turquoise waters and idyllic white sand beaches.  The coastlines are also home to a unique and biologically rich forest known as the Coral Rag Forest - part of the larger East African Coastal Forests Ecoregion that stretches from southern Somalia through Kenya and Tanzania to southern Mozambique. This unique forest ecoregion is home to more than 630 bird species; several endemic mammals, including the Pemban flying fox [1]; and over 4,500 plant species. The East African Coastal Forest is classified as Critical/Endangered by the World Wildlife Fund [2]

Pemba’s pristine beaches have long attracted foreign developers looking to capitalize on the island’s natural beauty by building secluded tourist getaways. Sadly, these developers tend to have little interest in community rights, improving the local economy, or preserving endangered ecosystems. Based on this poor track record, many communities in Pemba have become vocal opponents to hotel development.

This conflict is only one visible symptom of the much larger issue of land insecurity facing rural Pemban communities. To make a lasting impact on this systemic problem, Community Forests International has started bringing communities together with government representatives to build collaborative land use plans that can provide a stable foundation for good livelihoods and climate change resilience, amplifying the voices of the people most directly affected.

Based on this poor track record, many communities in Pemba have become vocal opponents to hotel development.


Planning is protection

Since 2015, Community Forests International has brought together elected village representatives and several government agencies including the Dept. of Forests and Commission of Lands to develop sustainable land use plans in vulnerable coastal communities. These plans provide opportunities for communities to shape how the land is used now and in the future, including decisions on where livestock can be grazed and which areas to set aside for forest restoration and conservation.

This past month, Kiweni’s community land use plan was put to the test when locals reported that someone was cutting an endangered forest that they had recently set-aside for conservation. It soon came to light that the cutting was on behalf of a hotel developer working with permission from a high-ranking government official. In the past, communities had no recourse to stop this cutting.  But this time residents were able to mobilize the community land use plan and a coalition of partners.The people of Kiweni Islet acted quickly.  They identified the infraction of community governance structures and informed officials from the Department of Forests who then moved to enforce their mandate – ending the illegal cutting of this endangered forest ecosystem.


Partially-cleared Coral Rag Forest on Kiweni Islet. Rapid response from the community and a clear definition of the land’s intended use saved this endangered forest and proved that communities and government can work together to help limit the impact of unethical development. 


By bringing together community and civil society stakeholders to determine how land will be used, Community Forests International has been able to empower communities to use their collective voices to challenge unethical development and illegal forest destruction while increasing the ability of governments to discover illegal cutting and act before it’s too late.

Development pressures like this are only increasing in Pemba. Please consider donating to Community Forests International to ensure we can continue our work to empower communities like those on Kiweni to use and develop tools to shape their own futures and protect endangered forests. To donate please visit or contact the office at 506-536-3738.


[1], Nov 14th, 2017

 [2] Nov 14th, 2017

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