- Environmentalist groups and commercial telecommunications interests have joined hands in Mafia Island, Tanzania, to link up the archipelago with mainland Tanzania. Improved connectivity will enhance reporting of environmental crimes and empower island dwellers to use their fisheries resources in a more effective way.
- When a fisherman gets a good catch out at sea he can now call the fish-buyer in Dar-es-Salaam to arrange a good market for his fish, explains Jason Ruben, who works at the Mafia Island Marine Park for the international environmentalist group WWF Tanzania. "It will also support Mafia's developing eco-tourism industry and is likely to enhance the development of the island's industries and communities," he adds.
WWF engaged in a rare cooperation with the international telecommunications giant Vodacom to link Mafia Island with mainland Tanzania under a network system for the first time. The hope is to improve communications and the environment at the same time.
WWF, together with the Mafia Island Marine Park, hope that the new telecommunications system will benefit the small island community through the improved ability of patrol units to report and prevent illegal fishing incidents, as well as report accidental turtle and dugong catches back to the authorities in the capital, Dar-es-Salaam, about 120 kilometres away.
Tanzania's world-renowned Mafia Island Marine Park - a group of five islands whose coral reefs, sea grass beds, and mangroves - host some of the richest life on the East African coast. Marine turtles, humpback and sperm whales, 400 species of fish, a host of corals, sponges, molluscs, starfish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers, and even the occasional dugong, all claim the waters as home.
Some 15,000 people also call the islands home. Most people earn their living from harvesting coconuts and fishing the turquoise seas. The new telecom connection with the mainland is also set to improve living standards. "Most importantly, telecommunications will support the people of Mafia," comments Mr Ruben.
Attending the network launch ceremony under the banner "improved communications for improved marine conservation" Tanzanian Environment Minister Arcado Ntagazwa emphasised the importance of marine conservation for the sustainable future of Tanzania and its role in poverty alleviation.
- In the case of Mafia, said the Minister, "Vodacom has reached out beyond the usual commercial considerations, and looked to see how they could sincerely contribute towards marine conservation efforts of Mafia's marine park and the work of WWF, and in doing so, also to help change and improve the lives of the local people."
Also the telecom company celebrated the initiative. "Vodacom is proud to be Mafia Island’s first and only network provider," said Junaid Munshi, Vodacom's new Marketing Director. "The environment of Tanzania is an important asset to the national economy and to its people, an asset Vodacom is proud to be protecting."
- This developing partnership has the potential to firmly position Vodacom as a leader in corporate social responsibility in East Africa, added Hermann Mwageni, WWF Tanzania's country representative. WWF was heavily involved in the creation of Mafia Island Marine Park, which was established in 1995. WWF currently assists in the management of the marine park.
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