Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science

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Coping with Change: Local Responses to Tourism and Seaweed Farming in Coastal Zanzibar, Tanzania

Eva Tobisson


Although Zanzibar has a long history of international contacts, parts of the rural hinterlands have remained largely unaffected by globalization processes, until a few decades ago when Zanzibar emerged as a tourist destination and commercial seaweed farming was introduced. This article focuses on local responses to these two external drivers of change, from the perspectives of women and men on the southeastern coast of the main Unguja Island who struggle and strategize to improve their livelihoods. The tourist boom in the 1990s has been followed by a dramatic decline, mainly of ‘backpackers’ who benefited the local economy. Seaweed production, handled almost exclusively by women, has been on a steady increase since the late 1980s. Although it entails hard work for limited cash returns, seaweed has become highly significant for livelihood security and for boosting the women’s empowerment. For women who are poor, economic diversification is key to livelihood security. The paper is based on longitudinal social anthropological research, using interactive fieldwork methods, seeking to bring out the perspectives and coping strategies of women and men who experience poverty in its different dimensions. It focuses on micro-level diversity and diversification of modes of livelihood over time and in a macro-level context.

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