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The Mafia Island Marine Park

Case Authors

Jennifer Lee Johnson, Julia Wondolleck and Steven Yaffee, University of Michigan


Mafia Island, located 20 kilometers east of the Tanzanian mainland in East Africa, includes a terrestrial and marine ecosystem of high biodiversity. The presence of endangered marine life has made Mafia Island a high priority for conservation initiatives spearheaded by non-governmental organizations.

International NGOs, such as World Wildlife Fund, supported the creation of Mafia Island Marine Park in 1995. The park has quickly become an exemplar of the successful implementation of Marine Protected Areas in non-industrialized contexts.

After a number of initial challenges, the park protects a significant portion of Mafia Island’s valuable habitat and species, while the development of ecotourism provides consistent funding for the operation and maintenance of the park.

The park has met a number of its initial objectives, but the bright picture painted in official documents tends to obscure the political conflict surrounding the establishment and continued management of the park. Other more targeted and locally-based efforts, such as the work of the Tanzanian NGO SeaSense, have met considerable success, albeit on a smaller scale.

The establishment of the park, as well as the work of SeaSense, provides valuable insights into the strategies, successes and challenges of donor-driven ecosystem-based conservation efforts in resource-rich, but capital-poor contexts.

MEBM Attributes

  • Complexity: Recognition of a range of ecosystem stressors.
  • Scale: Focus includes fisheries outside the political boundaries of the park.
  • Balance/Integration: Focus on stakeholder involvement in fisheries management.

Mission and Primary Objectives


The mission of the Marine Parks and Reserves Unit of Tanzania, the governmental agency that manages Mafia Island Marine Park, is to “establish and manage Tanzania's marine protected areas for sustainable use.”  

It has the following set of core values:

  • Marine and coastal resources are conserved for sustainable development.
  • Communities are involved and fully participate in the management and conservation of marine and coastal resources.
  • Management of Marine Protected Areas and delivery of high quality services from them is carried out efficiently.


Key Parties

Lead Organizations

Tanzanian Government

  • Tanzanian Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources
  • Marine Parks and Reserves Authority Tanzania

Non-Governmental Organization

  • World Wildlife Fund Tanzania
  • Wildlife Conservation Society Tanzania (during program’s early phase)
  • Frontier (during program’s early phase)
  • FAO (during program’s early phase)

Key Parties

Academic Partner

  • University of Dar es Salaam Institute of Marine Science

International Partner

  • Government of Norway

Local Tanzanian Government

  • Mafia District Council
  • Local Councils

Non-Governmental Organization

  • SeaSense

Stakeholder/Advisory Bodies

  • Mafia Island Marine Park Advisory Committee
  • Mafia Island Marine Park Village Liaison Committees and Village Enforcement Units


Program Structure

Marine Parks and Reserves Unit

Day-to-day administration of the marine parks in Tanzania is conducted by the Marine Parks and Reserves Unit (MPRU) of the Fisheries Division, as well as the Warden-in Charge and various support staff. Duties include management, control and fundraising.

Board of Trustees

Overall management guidance is provided by a Board of Trustees. The board is comprised of up to 11 members from government, academic, non-government organization, and private sectors.

Mafia Island Marine Park Advisory Committee

Specific guidance for management of Mafia Island’s Marine Protected Area is provided by an Advisory Committee comprised of local government representatives, members of the tourism and fisheries sectors, academics, non-government organizations, and the regional authority of the Forest Division. 

Village Liaison Committees

Each of the 11 communities within the park boundaries has formed a Village Liaison Committee. Each committee is a sub-committee of the democratically elected Village Local Council. The committees communicate information between the Mafia Island Marine Park management and the villages. They also appoint a village liaison officer who is essentially a village ranger.

World Wildlife Fund

Despite sustainable funding for park operations through ecotourism, WWF remains an important actor within the park, although it has moved to nest its conservation efforts on Mafia Island within a larger eco-regional approach. WWF has also outsourced specific conservation programming through the funding of smaller, nationally-based NGOs, employing and working closely with Tanzanians to protect endangered species and their habitats.

Motivations for Initiating Effort

Increases in fishing intensity and use of harmful practices in the 1970s provided the primary motivation to establish Mafia Island Marine Park.

Tanzania has a long history of terrestrial conservation, beginning in the colonial era. But the implementation of marine parks was a relatively new development. In response to the observed depletion of fisheries and fish habitat, the recently independent government of Tanzania in the late 1960s began discussing strategies to protect its coastal and marine life. Mafia Island’s coral reefs gained legal protections through the 1974 Wildlife Conservation Act.

The government of Tanzania created eight small no-take marine reserves under the Fisheries (Marine Reserves) Regulations of 1975. Despite the development of this legal infrastructure to support the reserves, the lack of funding and staff relegated these first reserves to little more than paper parks.

In the late 1980s, scientists with the University of Dar es Salaam and the United Kingdom-based conservation group Frontier conducted a baseline study to assess the ecological status of Mafia Island and its marine resources. Funded by Shell Oil, the study resulted in maps showing habitat and marine species distribution and abundance. It also produced a survey of resource use.

Frontier carried out public workshops and education programs to raise awareness of the importance of Mafia Island’s marine ecosystem and the need to reduce destructive practices such as dynamite fishing and live coral harvesting.

In 1991, the Tanzanian Ministry of Tourism, Natural Resources and Environment convened a Steering Committee to discuss strategies to protect Mafia Island’s resources. The committee included representatives of the Fisheries Division, the Institute of Marine Science, World Wildlife Fund, the Coast Region’s Regional Natural Resources Office, Wildlife Conservation Society for Tanzania, and the Mafia District’s member of Parliament. Financial support was provided by WWF.

The Steering Committee agreed to pursue a marine park on Mafia Island, recognizing that new legislation was required to establish a “much more serious MPA that would take into account resource users and have a proper management structure.”

The Steering Committee held a public meeting to consult communities and initiate the planning process. More than 70 participants from Mafia Island and mainland Tanzania attended. Local government representatives who attended the meeting expressed concerns for habitat destruction, due to dynamite fishing on the island, as well as fears that a marine park would prohibit them from accessing their traditional fishing grounds.

In 1995, the park was officially gazetted and WWF began funding several full-time staff on the island.  Between 1995 and 2000, however, there was “very little progress getting the park up and running as a functional outfit,” according to one WWF participant.

Without a management plan and formal, functioning institutional structure, all of the parties found it difficult to establish a well operating marine park. Many Mafia Island residents felt that WWF and the Tanzanian government had not fulfilled their promises to institute a park that integrated development and conservation concerns.

In 1999, the British and Norwegian governments provided WWF with a five-year grant that facilitated meaningful progress in the development of a functioning marine park. By 2001, WWF was supporting the development of management procedures and plans with 15 to 20 government staff on the island. By 2004, due as much to the investment of the Tanzanian government as WWF and other donors, WWF began concentrating its efforts on development and community-based fisheries management in the broader Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa ecoregion, known as the “Rumaki Seascape.”

According to WWF staff, community-based fisheries management is essential to maintaining satisfactory protections within the park. One WWF Tanzanian program coordinator stated “it's all very well managing fishing activities inside the park, but all the time you have things building up outside the park boundaries, because you basically didn't have any fisheries management going on at all at the district, or national levels in practice.”

The Tanzanian government was also supportive of WWF’s efforts to improve fisheries governance outside the park.

Ecosystem Characteristics and Threats

The Ecosystem

Located 20 kilometers east of mainland Tanzania, Mafia Island contains a diverse range of tropical habitat and wildlife. The Mafia Island Marine Park encompasses 821 kilometers of coastal forest, islands of raised reefs, corals, sponges, sandy and soft bottom sub-tidal habitats, seagrass beds, cays and mangrove forests. These habitats provide feeding, breeding and nesting grounds for threatened marine species such as dugong and sea turtles, more than 110 species of birds, and more than 400 species of fish, including sponges, mollusks, starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. About 40,000 people live in the Mafia District.

The Mafia Island ecosystem is influenced by the East African Coastal Current flowing north along the Tanzanian and Kenyan coasts, as well seasonal monsoons and tidal patterns. The influx of nutrients carried in sediments from the Rufiji Delta on mainland Tanzania towards Mafia Island supports a large sardine fishery. A variety of structurally complex coral reef habitats support a reef fishery important for subsistence use and commercial trade.  

Mafia Island played an important role in the trade between East Africa and the Far East, and the development of Swahili coastal culture. With a strategic location and vibrant ecological life, the island was at the center of a long history of political-economic development and conquest. At different times, Portuguese and Arab traders controlled the island. It was also colonized by the Germans and the British. Mafia gained its independence alongside mainland Tanzania in the early 1960s. Despite its cosmopolitan past, Mafia remains one of the most marginalized districts in Tanzania in terms of formal government support.

The health of the ecosystem is also related to regional ocean conditions and weather patterns. For example, Mafia Island lost significant portions of its live coral reefs due to record increases in ocean temperatures and a record breaking El Nino in 1998. Extensive coral bleaching and mortality was reported throughout the Indian Ocean. Some reefs around Mafia Island lost 80 to 100 percent of their live coral. Future warming events are likely to influence the composition and abundance of fisheries around Mafia.


Stressors to the Mafia Island ecosystem are primarily anthropogenic and include:

  • Increases in local, regional and global demand for the island’s resources.
  • Advances in transportation and the increased importance of fishing as a source of cash in rural areas.
  • Use of mangrove trees and corals for building materials has reduced forest and coral cover.

The stressors reflect changes in the economy of Mafia Island. By the 1970s, increases in fishing intensity and use of detrimental practices were harming the ecosystem. Large trawling vessels from the mainland began fishing around Mafia Island and competing with artisanal fishermen, causing conflict and damage to the marine ecosystem. As fishing moved from small to large-scale commercial enterprises, fishing pressure around Mafia increased, viable habitat decreased and fish populations declined.

The conversion of marine and coastal habitat, such as corals, mangroves and former turtle nesting beaches, into homes and tourist lodges continues to place additional stress on the Mafia Island ecosystem. 


Major Strategies

Mafia Island Marine Park Zoning

Mafia Island’s accessibility to Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, was one reason it was selected for the creation of Tanzania’s first Marine Protected Area (MPA). Other possible locations were more than a day’s journey from the capital. Mafia Island was only a half hour plane ride away, making it accessible to government and NGO staff. Mapping and surveys conducted in the early 1990s confirmed the presence of diverse habitats and species of the island.

Access to marine resources within the park is guided by a three-tiered zoning policy that prioritizes:

  • Preservation of core nursery sites through non-consumptive use of core areas.
  • Areas designated for regulated local use only.
  • Those regulated, but open to use by non-residents.  


The General Management Plan also outlines precautionary steps that would-be developers must take to ensure the protection of park resources. Park regulations apply to the following: “extraction of living and no-living [sic] resources, construction, tourist activity, net sport and octopus fishing, coral mining, mangrove and other forest harvesting, brick and salt making, construction and research.”

While there have been a number of challenges in establishing the park, WWF and the Tanzanian government have used their experiences on Mafia Island to guide their management efforts outside of Mafia along Tanzania's marine coast.

Supporting Capacity Building for Co-Management of Fisheries Outside the Park

WWF's close working relationship with the government of Tanzania helped facilitate the passage of legislation encouraging the creation Beach Management Units (BMUs) on Tanzania's coasts. These co-management institutions are designed to engage fishing communities in the enforcement of fisheries regulations, data collection and management decision making. WWF has focused its efforts on four BMUs on Mafia, eight in Rufiji District and one in Kilwa.

Each village forms a representative group of fisheries stakeholders into a BMU. BMUs create bylaws, develop five-year management plans, and enforce community and government fisheries regulations. One WWF program coordinator stated that this is a “completely different approach to fisheries management.” Previously, the government had exclusive responsibility for protecting fisheries resources. WWF's wants fishing communities to know “they have the power through fisheries laws to decide on conservation of their fisheries resources” through the creation of management plans.

Through its efforts on Mafia, WWF learned that supporting non-fishing livelihoods and providing conservation education would be essential precursors to successful BMUs. Often, fishing communities and governments lack the resources to facilitate participatory decision-making and monitor and enforce fisheries. WWF has a number of full-time staff dedicated to building the capacity of communities for co-management on Tanzania's marine coast. BMUs receive funding, training, awareness raising programs, technical support and assistance in decision-making. For example, WWF helped facilitate a workshop to address illegal and destructive fishing practices.

WWF and the Tanzanian government realized no single village fishes on its own in a discrete fishing territory, so they began establishing an umbrella institution called “Collaborative Fisheries Management Areas” (CFMAs). CFMAs are collective co-management bodies of several adjacent BMUs.

WWF's partner, SeaSense, meets regularly with BMUs to ensure they incorporate concerns for endangered species into their bylaws and management plans. SeaSense encourages communities to take a more holistic picture of ecosystem management. One SeaSense staff member stated, “local communities are involved in decision making. It has been very, very successful in some places, or not at all in some places. Some are really, really fantastic, and others, really do not do great at all. It's a process, constantly evolving, we invest a lot of resources into education to try and increase understanding and awareness of why this process is so important.”

Education Campaigns

WWF and SeaSense provide additional educational programming. SeaSense conducts education activities in local schools to encourage youth people to grow up with a conservation ethic and understand the importance of environmental protection.

When SeaSense first began work on Mafia Island, it held village meetings and distributed leaflets, T-shirts and presentations to raise awareness about the high rates of poaching from turtle nesting sites. Poaching has been dramatically reduced.

As more traditional ways of knowing the environment are lost with commercialized fisheries and the influx of migrant fishers who may be unfamiliar with local practices, fostering environmental appreciation becomes increasingly important.

The WWF project manager involved in the effort commented, “In the beginning, they (fishing communities) did not want to hear that any conditions were being placed on using their resources, but now, based on the education and awareness raising they can even identify potential areas and decide to protect them based on their indigenous knowledge.”

Despite these efforts and the participatory goals of Mafia Island Marine Park, most residents feel they are excluded from decision making. As one anthropologist commented, the residents “fail to speak the language of the ‘educated.”

While educational programs and management structures based on western techno-science are designed with the best of intentions, they may serve to “buttress the social position of national and international elites and undermine that of residents” by placing greater importance on scientific knowledge than the experiential knowledge gained while fishing.

Promotion of Alternative Livelihoods

WWF and SeaSense have focused on the development of alternative, non-fishing livelihood activities to reduce pressure on wild fish stocks. 

During the initial implementation phase of the Mafia Island Marine Park, communities were told that the Marine Protected Area would help economically and socially develop Mafia Island. Fishing communities on quickly became aware these were empty promises and their distrust obstructed meaningful implementation of the park for years. It was only after WWF stepped back and invested more heavily in generating alternative livelihoods and building management capacity that the park became what it is today.

WWF supports two specific programs to promote the development of alternative livelihoods. WWF works with communities to identify ongoing non-fishing livelihood activities in the region. WWF provides technical and financial support to “enterprise groups” comprised of community members. Some examples of enterprise group activities include seaweed and pearl mariculture, and promotion of more 'hygienic' food preparation techniques for female food vendors, so they can cater to hungry tourists. 

The second arm of WWFs livelihood development strategy is the relatively recent promotion of community banks. WWF gives communities “seed money” to start or expand business projects. 

In its community-based fishery management efforts, WWF spent several years “purely doing livelihood projects in the coastal areas in the three districts outside of the park” and, “didn't touch fisheries management,” according to one WWF project manager. WWF has to overcome a massive conceptual hurdle. “People think we want to protect cuddly animals at the expense of people.” Strategically, these efforts were “entirely about building goodwill with the community and engaging with people and building credibility that these guys [WWF] are not just here to conserve fisheries, but 'hey' they actually care about the well-being of people who live here. ”The livelihood work is a strategic means to an end. “It's not that we don't want the livelihoods work to be successful, of course we do, but we find ourselves doing things that certainly 10-15 years ago conservation organizations really didn't do.”

The success of these efforts is directly reflected in the frequent requests of established, but non-functioning BMUs that approach WWF for technical and capacity building assistance. Unfortunately, due to limited funding and resources, WWF is unable to provide support for all communities that request their assistance. That said, it is rare for communities to directly solicit the involvement of a conservation NGO in resource-dependent communities, and the number of requests for WWF support is a major testament to the success of their revised conservation model.

Employment of Local Technical Staff, Conservation and Monitoring Officers

WWF Tanzania and SeaSense are committed to hiring Tanzanians to implement the majority of their programming. The overwhelming majority of staff is Tanzanian in both organizations. In WWF Tanzania's case, only two Europeans and one Kenyan are on staff, and all work on regional efforts. All other staff are Tanzanian citizens. SeaSense is run by two European women, but all of its conservation officers who conduct on-the-ground development and conservation work are Tanzanian. Hiring local staff not only increases the perceived legitimacy of their conservation efforts, but also provides tangible economic benefits to those employed by these organizations.

SeaSense’s hiring of local conservation officers to monitor and collect data has been essential to meeting the monitoring goals of Mafia Island Marine Park. Conservation officers are elected by their communities and trained by SeaSense in marine conservation theory, species identification and translocation of turtle nests, species tagging and how to measure identified species. 

They also are trained in community awareness and how to approach community audiences, such as fishers, and women's and youth groups. The conservation officers “are not only responsible for collecting data, but also responsible as a point of contact in their community.” They provide an essential link between local communities and SeaSense.

Performance Payments

To protect sea turtles and the species’ habitat, SeaSense began offering performance payments to Mafia Island residents to identify nesting sites and based on the number of eggs that hatch from each nest. Residents are eligible to receive $2.50 per identified nest, $.03 per hatchling and $.01 for each egg identified, but not hatched. In 2004, the performance payment program disbursed $1,000 to local residents. Prior to the implementation of the program, nearly every turtle nest found by Mafia residents was poached for its eggs. By 2004, the poaching rate had decreased to less than one percent.


Ecotourism is seen as the future of Mafia Island Marine Park. Visitors can learn to scuba dive, take sport fishing cruises, and watch endangered sea turtles hatching. Mafia Island is being promoted as a required add-on to a standard Tanzanian safari holiday, weekend escape from office work, or destination for a tropical wedding. 

SeaSense has worked to develop turtle ecotourism on Mafia Island to promote alternative, long-term value and conservation of sea turtle nesting sites. SeaSense trains local conservation officers to guide tourists to turtle nesting beaches, ideally when young turtles are hatching. Their combined presence provides additional protection against poaching.

Turtle ecotourism provides about $10 of revenue per tourist visiting a nesting site. Half of that revenue returns to SeaSense to fund salaries, training, and field equipment for its conservation officers. The other half is placed into village environment funds established to be spent on community identified needs. The money has funded construction of one school, and refurbished another. A SeaSense official commented: “It's been very important for SeaSense that the local community see that they are directly benefiting from turtle tourism, so there is a real incentive for them to realize the value of a live turtle. If they slaughter the turtle and sell the meat, they gain in the short term, but slowly, slowly they are starting to realize that if they don't slaughter the turtle, it comes back to the same beach to nest, two to three times every year, then it becomes an ongoing resource.”

Monitoring, Assessment and Evaluation

Conducting monitoring, assessment and evaluation activities on Mafia Island has been difficult. However, external evaluations -- often based on proxies rather than a complete ecosystem evaluation -- have concluded that the Mafia Island Marine Park is meeting its biodiversity and socio-economic goals. 


Mafia Island Marine Park and the efforts of the Tanzanian government, World Wildlife Fund and SeaSense have accomplished the following:

  • Created a functioning institutional structure for conservation.
  • Funded operations through ecotourism.
  • Provided protections for important habitats and species.
  • Improved the reception of conservation messages among residents on the island.
  • Increased community involvement in resource decision making.
  • Provided alternatives to resource extraction.

In 2003 the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Eastern African Regional Office tested a draft version of a Western Indian Ocean MPA evaluation toolon Mafia Island with park officials and stakeholders. While the IUCN identified the lack of regular biological monitoring as a barrier to a full evaluation, it concluded “the protected area is well run and is largely achieving its biodiversity and socio-economic objectives.” Specifically, data on coral health showed improvements in many areas, except for those heavily impacted by the 1998 coral bleaching event. Significant increases in turtle nesting and hatching were found.

A 2004 study conducted by scientists from the University of Dar es Salaam and Stockholm University evaluated the effectiveness of the park. The study examined the density and size of the blackspot snapper. The fish was more than four times more abundant – with a biomass six times greater and individual sizes more than 30 percent larger – within the park, compared to the heavily fished areas outside of the park. Fish numbers and biomass were positively correlated with hard coral cover and structural complexity and negatively correlated with fishing intensity. Although it is unclear whether the protected areas within the park produce spillover effects that benefit intensively fished areas, it is clear that reducing fishing pressure and protecting fish habitat benefits the ecosystem within the park.


Factors Facilitating Progress

Mafia Island Marine Park in Tanzania has been facilitated by a number of factors, including:

  • Dedicated Individuals: Key individuals collected baseline information that proved to be crucial.
  • Community Crisis: Mafia Island residents wanted to stop dynamite fishing and overfishing.
  • Legal Foundation: The Parks and Reserves Act No. 29 of 1994 and the Marine Parks and Reserves Regulations of 1999 provided a formal institutional context.



Mafia Island Marine Park in Tanzania has encountered the following challenges:

  • Local Resistance: Island residents still find the core zones to be too restrictive. Some fishing-dependent communities, such as Jibondo, refused to observe prohibitions on fishing in core zones. Close connections between mainland fish traders and local and migrant fishermen on Mafia Island perpetuated destructive fishing practices, and in some cases made Mafia’s fishermen the clients of wealthy mainland fish traders. Moreover, the development of a local processing industry for lobster and octopus has "indirectly permitted the consistent abuse of regulations," particularly the harvest of undersized species using prohibited harvesting methods, according to one study.
  • User Conflicts: Conflicts between user groups have increased, exacerbating frustration and dissent on the island.  Fishermen and tourism industry representatives are at odds. Each side claims the other encourages on access to the resource with the park.
  • Disputes over Benefits: One challenge is a tension between the establishment of the park as a source of local revenue, development and environmental protection and its status as a national park that ought to benefit the Tanzanian nation as a whole. Much of the rhetoric surrounding its establishment stated that the park was created because of community-based calls for protection and for their benefit, rather than to explicitly protect a national asset, such as the mega fauna of Tanzania's parks like the Serengeti, Selous and Ngorongoro Crater. While the marine park has yet to provide tangible national benefits, it is protecting an identified national asset. But the focus on the benefits to local communities conflicts with the status of the park as a national asset and has caused turmoil in the ongoing management of the park.
  • Bottom-up Management in a Top-Down Context: Although participation and community-based management is often heralded as the hallmark of the park, several close examinations recount the top-down nature of its development and management as a major barrier to effective community participation. As acknowledged by WWF and the Government of Tanzania, the strategy of participation through representation can be problematic. As one participant stated, “there are thousands of stakeholders who have very little opportunity to communicate with their representatives.” As documented by anthropologists on Mafia, corruption is common and information travels down (however incompletely), but it rarely travels up. On Mafia, this has fostered mistrust, misunderstanding and violations of park rules. Others found that increased protection within the park has resulted in greater pressure to “abuse” the fisheries outside the park boundaries.
  • Mistrust, Fear and Skepticism: Mistrust, mismanaged expectations and the lack of information among WWF headquarters, government staff and local users continue to be barriers to further conservation. As one SeaSense participant stated: “There is such a high level of suspicion on the ground. Local fishing communities have been promised so much by the government, aid agencies, and donor organizations that haven't come up with the things they said they would. Over the years people develop suspicion and people are very reluctant to cooperate, because there's a lot of fear.” This fear is “related to poor education, ignorance.” There is a general “fear that if you cooperate with a conservation program, your area is going to be made into a marine park and you will lose your fishing rights.”
  • Conflict over Revenue Management: Conflict has emerged around the park’s revenue collection and management decision-making among communities and local, central and district level governments. The park is a central government institution, receiving its mandate and staff from the ministry, but is working in a very remote rural context with a very real need for local infrastructure and government assistance. Initially, all revenue from the park went back to the central government with local communities receiving little to no benefit from park revenues. In practice, the net revenue for much of the park's history was essentially zero.
  • Community Representation and Participation in Decision-Making: Balancing competing interests around management decision-making is contentious. One participant identified two problems with the institutional structure of the park. The Advisory Committee is truly advisory; it does not have authority to make decisions. And it tends to get manipulated by park management, who influence what comes out of the committee. Secondly, despite the good intentions of placing community representatives on the committees, the community members have “no experience in democratic politicking, they have no idea what their role is supposed to be.” So, in practice, community members on the committees are given a great deal of information, such as data on financial accounts and revenues. Technically, the park satisfies its mission of sharing information. But, the information is likely to sit on a shelf in the home of the community members and is not conveyed to the greater community. This is the very same information the community feels it is being denied.

Lessons Learned

People involved in the Mafia Island Marine Park in Tanzania have learned:

  • Forge Close Working Relationships with Government at Multiple Levels: World Wildlife Fund's long-term engagement in developing countries allowed the organization to adjust strategies to local contexts and norms. The main offices of WWF in major metropolitan areas in the developed world lobby governments, fundraise, and can publicly oppose national government policy and action.  In developing countries, according to one WWF participant, WWF “play(s) a very different role.” WWF Tanzania, the participant stated, “specifically doesn't lobby, say nasty things about the government and do[es] not go to the media and say, 'We think that government screwed everything up and shouldn't be doing this.'” WWF wants a close working relationship with governments at a variety of levels. Many staff members are former government employees; their projects are created jointly with government institutions and they try to work from within the government itself. “We are here by the grace of the government,” the participant said.
  • Maintain High Levels of Transparency, Accountability and Communication: Because of the politically charged nature of revenue generation and distribution from conservation efforts, WWF and SeaSense believe that transparency and accountability are essential for success. According to one participant, “communities have been promised a lot by NGOs and when those things are not delivered they become disillusioned, thinking, 'Why should I participate? It's all just words.'” Also, because community members may see non-Tanzanians at the helm of organizations they may “assume we're making all this money and none of it is coming back to the community.” For SeaSense, the participant stated, “it is really important for us to be very transparent and to make sure that everything is accounted for.”  To do that, SeaSense holds village meetings and keeps the village councils work well informed.


Website Links

Marine Parks and Reserves Tanzania: