Act Today for a Better Tomorrow: Chumbe Island’s Appeal


The Long Run is not a fundraising platform but during this challenging time, with the halt in tourism putting livelihoods and ecosystems at risk, we’re sharing our member fundraising campaigns that are most in need. Here we talk to Chumbe Island about its Covid-19 appeal. 


How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected Tanzania and Zanzibar?


Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the effects on Zanzibar and Chumbe Island have been devastating. Within the space of two weeks, tourism in Zanzibar came to a complete standstill, with the closure of the international airports, temporary shut-down of all tourism establishments, and the departure of all tourists from the island.


Tourism accounts for 28% of GDP in Zanzibar, with an average 15% year-on-year growth, and it is the most crucial source of foreign exchange (82% in 2018). Tourism accounted for 22,000 direct and 55,000 indirect jobs in 2018 (World Bank, 2019). Due to COVID-19, for the first time in its history, Chumbe Island finds itself in a deep crisis. All revenue from tourism has come to a halt, and we have had to temporarily close the island sending 45 staff members on unpaid leave, besides small stipends. Only a small team of rangers is active to ensure core operations.


What are the consequences for Chumbe’s community and conservation work?


As a not-for-profit enterprise, the revenue generated by eco-tourism on the island funds all conservation management. It also supports Chumbe’s extensive environmental education programmes with local schools and communities in Zanzibar, which has been endorsed by the Ministry of Education and involved 10,815 school students, teachers and community members since its inception in 1996.


Schools in Zanzibar have been closed, and the environmental education programme has been put on hold until further notice. We’re devastated because this deprives hundreds of school children of fundamental conservation education and eye-opening moments when they get the chance to snorkel along the Chumbe reef for the first time (for many, it is the first time in the water).

Sibylle Riedmiller and employee Omar Nyange on Chumbe Island, which is several miles off the coast of Zanzibar. Photo: Visual Narrative

The complete halt of international tourism to Zanzibar has left large parts of the local population unemployed. Fishing communities are also directly affected, as tourism establishments constitute a large, lucrative part of their market. Many communities in Zanzibar are part of the informal economy, and with social distancing measures in place, basic income for food security is under pressure. With fish constituting 90% of food protein in Zanzibar, the pressure on the already reduced fish stocks is further increasing during the current crisis. Migrant fishers from as far as Pemba can be observed in close vicinity to Chumbe’s marine park, together with local fishers, with several incidents of illegal entrance and fishing attempts within Chumbe’s coral reef sanctuary since late March 2020.


The situation is cause for great concern. It does not only threaten nearly 30 years of protection of one of the most diverse reefs in the Indian Ocean, but it will have direct effects on the fishing grounds of local communities, due to the vital function of Chumbe as a fisheries nursing ground.


What are your biggest fears?


Sybille Riedmiller, director of Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP), comments, “Our biggest fear is that it may take several years for tourism to recover to levels that can sustain at least the basic operations of park management and conservation of the precious island resources, the marine protected area and forest reserve, not to mention the Environmental Education programs that are at the core of our mission. It is worrying how this pandemic can threaten a project that took 30 years, half a lifetime and the help of many amazing and committed people to build and develop. We are also incredibly worried that the extended closure will impoverish our employees, and the longer this lasts, we are also worried for their continuing health and safety.”


Can you give us examples of how the money raised to be spent?


The money raised will help Chumbe to:

  • Guarantee continued day and night ranger patrols to protect the reef sanctuary and forest reserve.
  • Ensure stipend support for all of the Chumbe Team to cover bare essentials for their families instead of salaries.
  • Cover full health insurance for all team members and their families for as long as the crisis persists.


Every penny will make a difference:

  • £1 – covers the cost of a reusable protective face mask for the rangers.
  • £5 – covers the cost of fuel for one day of patrolling.
  • £15 – covers health insurance for one team member and their family for one month.
  • £20 – covers one month’s food costs for one ranger on the island.
  • £100 – covers one-month reduced stipend salary for one team member.


What guarantee can you give to people concerned about where their donations might go?


Since its inception, Chumbe island, as a social enterprise, has operated entirely transparently. Funds are collected in Europe and directly transferred to Chumbe’s accounts in Zanzibar where the money is then used for the points mentioned previously.

A ranger on patrol at Chumbe Island Coral Park, which is one of Africa's most pristine, and was the world's first Private Marine Protected Area. Photo: Visual Narrative

Here are a few words from Enock Kayagambe, Environmental Educator at Chumbe Island 


How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your family and community? 


I have six people in my household, directly depending on me. Since COVID-19 happened, I lost my salary, and this stops me from taking care of my family as I used to do. Our food menu has changed to cope with the reduced budget. I used to provide my mother with a small budget each month which I can no longer do. I also used to pay members from my community for gardening, which I had to stop. I have close friends who used to work in hotels, and all of them have been sent home without any further support.


What are your biggest fears? 


I feel financially insecure; I don’t know if one day, I might not be able to pay for food for my family anymore, as I have many people who depend on me. Culturally here in Zanzibar, I would say that on average, a person with an income supports at least six members of the family. If you look at this from the Chumbe perspective, that means that roughly 258 people depend on the revenues from Chumbe.


I am also concerned about the health of my loved ones. Healthwise my mum and father in law are sickly, and both are aged, so it makes them high risk. My wife is pregnant, and I feel if Corona came to my house, I would probably lose a close relative, this makes me feel very uncomfortable at the moment.


I also fear for Chumbe, especially our protected area. In these financially challenging times, community members will increasingly try to access protected areas to find alternatives to survive, which increases the risk of fishing pressure on our reef. Chumbe always stood out as a financially independent project, and now we find ourselves facing a risk of failure.


How is Chumbe supporting you during this time? 


Chumbe offers me a monthly stipend, which will ensure that my family will never suffer from hunger. It helps us cover our basic needs and services. Chumbe also continues to pay my health insurance for me and my family members, which is very important as it is costly in my country. This gives me more hope that even if one member of my family falls ill, I can at least feel comfortable to send them to the hospital to get them treated.


To support Chumbe’s Appeal, please go to

Chumbe Island's reef and forest. Photo: Visual Narrative

KEEP IN THE LOOP. Add your name to our mailing list and keep informed on The Long Run.