Privately Managed MPAs: An Economic PerspectiveThe Chumbe Island Case


Sibylle Riedmiller and Eleanor Carter

Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd.,

P.O.Box 3203, Zanzibar, Tanzania




The Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP) in Zanzibar, was established in 1991 and is probably the first fully functioning MPA in Tanzania, and the only privately created and managed marine park in the world. The project was developed along the lines of a commercial enterprise, but is a non-profit project, with all profits from the tourism operations going into conservation management & free educational island excursions for

local schoolchildren. Donor support helped set up several project components, such as nature trails an d a visitors' centre, that cover about a third of invetsment costs. There is however, no donor or government support for operations.

Many challenges, particularly severe bureaucratic red-tape and delays, and complications of the ecologically friendly building technology employed on the island, have resulted in much higher investment costs than originally anticipated. However, due to low overheads and the use of local fishermen as rangers and expatriate volunteers for many professional tasks, management costs of this privately established and managed park are only a fraction of what is normally needed for donor-funded projects through government agencies. As no donor and government support was available for operational costs, income-generating activities are fully developed and successful, thus creating better prospects for sustainability.

Chumbe island has been developed as a fully functioning protected area, but also as a genuine eco-tourism destination, that offers guided snorkelling and walking nature trails in the reef sanctuary, the intertidal area, the forest and a mangrove pool. Accommodation is in not more than seven specially built eco-bungalows that have close to zero impact on the environment. Each bungalow is equipped with rainwater catchment, solar water heating panels, solar lights, compost toilets and vegetative filtration of greywater. Any sewage that could run off into the reef is completely avoided.

Marketing in the eco-tourism niche markets is primarily through the internet, with a comprehensive and attractive website, renowned environmental awards, travel journalism and film documentaries. The project does not pay for advertisements and does little marketing in the traditional marketing media as these have proven little responsive.

One of the major economic challenges remains the fact that up to the present, the project has to pay the same taxes and licences to Government as any other tourism operation, and no allowance is given for the non-profit and conservation orientation. Meeting bureacuratic and legal demands of, for example, the immigration and labour departments, can be enormously cumbersome, both in costs and management time. In the case of Chumbe, a noticeable exception is the efficient co-operation that has evolved with the lead ministry of the project, the Zanzibar Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural resources.

In addition to the drastically increased investment costs, operational risks for private investors remain high though, due to the generally difficult investment climate, lack of long-term security of tenure and legal protection, political insecurity and the volatile tourism market. Because of these risks, and the more noticeable conservation impact on the ground, a case is made for more political and donor support to private initiatives related to the sustainable use and management of marine protected areas.




The Political Challenge of Private Sector Management of Marine Protected Areas: The Chumbe Island Case

Sibylle Riedmiller and Eleanor Carter



The Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP) in Zanzibar, established in 1991 and probably the first fully functioning MPA in Tanzania, provides an interesting illustration of issues that arise with the instalment of a privately created and managed protected area. The history of CHICOP and the legal processes involved in the establishment of such a privately owned protected area are briefly discussed. Management experiences, problems and achievements are described and lessons learned are summarised.

One of the major achievements of the project is the succesful on-the-job training of local fishers as park rangers. Lacking more robust means of enforcement, the rangers protect the closed areas by educating visiting fishers about the value of a healthy reef as a breeding ground for fish and other marine organisms that will help restock overexploited adjacent and downstream areas. This fisher-to-fisher-education approach led to a comparably high degree of compliance, as evidenced by monitoring data produced from 1992. Thus the Chumbe Reef Sanctuary is probably the only totally protects reef in Tanzania that also functions as such.

A discussion on how private investors can cope with challenges from the legal and institutional environment for private investment in conservation is presented. These challenges, which could sometimes be more daunting than anticipated, may arise from a wide range of issues, including the lack of legal and institutional framework for conservation, issues related to bureaucratic redtape and lack of enforcement of existing legislation. This is coupled with a risky environment e.g. a hostile climate for foreign investments, cumbersome regulatory frameworks, rent-seeking practices in the civil service, lack of trained manpower, the volatile tourism market and the lack of long-term security of tenure.

Because of these risks, and the more noticeable conservation impact on the ground, a case is made for more donor support to direct resources users of marine protected areas. These include both informal traditional fishers and conservation-minded tourism operators. As direct stakeholders from the formal and the informal sectors of the economy, they potentially have a strong interest in a healthy marine environment, and thus more common grounds for agreements and their implementation than sometimes remote management bureaucracies dominated by vested interests that may have little to do with marine conservation.