Bridging conservation and women’s empowerment in Tanzania

The Randilen Enaboishu Women Trading Center, a vibrant hub supported by TNC and OIKOS, shines as a beacon of hope, championing community-driven initiatives for Maasai women in the Randilen Wildlife Area. Photo © Roshni Lodhia.

What you need to know:

  • The Women featured in here are driving change and making a difference in their communities and nature across the country. From the management of marine environment and fisheries resources to tapping into tourism opportunities, they are transforming the fortunes of their communities.

Amongst communities in Tanzania, a transformative women-led movement is underway. Women are taking the lead in ensuring that as they generate livelihoods for their families, it is done sustainably, while protecting the environment.

These women are driving change and making a difference in their communities and nature across the country. From management of Marine environment and fisheries resources to tapping into tourism opportunities, they are transforming the fortunes of their communities.

In many ways, they are ambassadors for conservation and change-makers within their families and communities. In the coastal regions of Pemba and Unguja Islands in Zanziba, and Tanga, there is a significant shift in seaweed farming, with more than 600 farmers, 85% of whom are women, transitioning from traditional methods to sustainable farming practices.

The shift is inspired by the need to improve their yields while safeguarding marine ecosystems for future generations. Trained in modern techniques, these women are more than just farmers but also guardians of the ocean, showcasing the power of sustainable agriculture.

Empowered to learn: Schoolgirls relish their study time at the Lagosa Secondary School in western Tanzania, benefiting from a newly constructed dormitory funded by the Tuungane Project. Photo © Roshni Lodhia.

Alongside the communities, as well as national and local governments. TNC and its partners Mwambao Coastal Community Network Tanzania ,the Pangani District Council (Tanzania ) . And the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar's Ministry of Blue Economy and Fisheries ,have been investing in empowering women to access and participate in conversation and community development. In places like Tumbe, Pemba Islands, and Bweni (Pangani), 450 members, with 315 being women, have embraced co-management of ocean spaces, supported by MKUBA micro eco-credit loans.

They are now community-led conversation and community development interventions. These initiatives are empowering women to lead marine and fisheries conservation, ensuring that the sea’s resources are preserved for their communities.

This March marks a milestone, as 105 community members,  majority of them being women, set to graduate from the A Leadership and Management Program ( LAMP ) training course customized for women from  coastal fishing communities .

LAMP training is designed to enhance gender equality within the context of conservation and community development. Through a customised and engaging capacity-building approach, LAMP equips participants with the leadership skills necessary to navigate and thrive in their roles, assert their human rights, steward natural resources, and secure sustainable livelihoods.

Hailing from places like Pangani and Pemba Island, these women showcase the impact of education on conservation. Their journey from learners to leaders in sustainable practices highlights the critical role education plays in protecting the environment.

On the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the Tuungane Project that is run by The Nature Conservancy "TNC" and partners, is integrating fisheries conservation, agriculture, and sustainable livelihoods.

By promoting co-management of fisheries and enhancing farming practices, the project is nurturing sustainable livelihoods. It aims to establish or strengthen co-management of fisheries to conserve fish reserves covering 300 hectares of nearshore water, improve soil health and reduce lake sedimentation from 100 hectares of watershed lands, while creating new opportunities for alternative livelihood projects and long-term funding for conservation.

Women seaweed farmers are embracing sustainable practices in Pemba and Pangani areas. This initiative has in improved 500 hectares of ocean area, cutting mangrove use by 20% and reducing plastic waste by 44%, showcasing the power of eco-friendly agriculture. Photo© Roshni Lodhia.

The initiative also addresses the unique challenges faced by girls in accessing education and healthcare, including provision of boarding facilities and other amenities, significantly impacting their lives and futures.

Population, Health and Environment (PHE) Clubs have also been formed in schools in Tanganyika and Uvinza Districts, to arm schoolgirls with knowledge on conservation and reproductive health.

This has translated into improved academic performance with more girls joining tertiary institutions. There are also more girls completing secondary schools.

Elsewhere, the Randilen Enaboishu Women Trading Centre stands as a vibrant hub of economic and cultural activity. Here, women and youth engage with tourism, sharing storing their rich heritage while forging sustainable livelihoods from the beautiful products that they create.

The Centre that is supported by The Nature Conservancy "TNC" and their partners OIKOS, is more than a marketplace; it is a celebration of culture and conservation, where every beadwork, dance, and traditional craft tells a story of resilience and empowerment.

These are not just stories of conservation and sustainable development from Tanzania. They are tales of empowerment, resilience, and hope, led by women committed to shaping a better future for their communities and the environment.

Their efforts highlight the vital role of women in conservation, proving that when women thrive, nature flourishes.

TNC Work – Impact in Tanzania (Pemba, Zanzibar and Tanga)

The Nature Conservancy "TNC" is working to empower women, with a focus on strengthening leadership, livelihood, financial stability, access and how they benefit from marine and fisheries resources, in Kenya and Tanzania.

In Tanzania, we have supported seaweed farmers, facilitating their transition from practicing old unsustainable farming techniques to adopting best farming practices.

500 are formally trained and more than 600 adopting these practices. Among these farmers, 85% are women. Through the co-management of ocean spaces via MKUBA micro eco-credit loans, 450 community members in Tumbe (Pemba) and Bweni (Pangani) have benefited. Of these, 315 women are beneficiaries championing various marine and fisheries conservation interventions.

This month, March 2024, 105 community members graduated from the LAMP training course. Of these, 30 and 55 are women from Pangani (PAMBWEBO CFMA) and Pemba Island (Gando, Shumba Mjini, Tumbe Mashariki, Tumbe Magharibi, Fundo, Kukuu Shehia, Kiuyu Mbuyuni) respectively.

Our work is a collaborative effort with the local communities, national and local governments.

Women seaweed farmers in Tanzania. Photo © Roshni Lodhia.

Girl’s empowerment through conservation and reproductive health education Tuungane program has been working on Lake Tanganyika’s shores for over 10 years.

The work centers on fisheries, agriculture, and sustainable livelihoods. The objective for the current project is that 32 communities have established or strengthened co-management of fisheries, resulting in the conservation of 20 fish reserves covering 300 hectares of nearshore water, improved soil health and reduced lake sedimentation from 100 hectares of watershed lands, and new opportunities for alternative livelihood projects and long-term funding for conservation.

Some of the communities travel distances to access school and health care. Both boys and girls face the challenge of accessing education easily as some must walk up to 50 km to school.

Though this is a challenge to both, girls are more vulnerable to the situation because of the gender triple roles. Girls are expected to assume responsibilities of the adult women when they are off to school like preparing meals for the family, cleaning and collecting firewood, fetching water, and taking care of the elders and the sick.

Girls experience sexual temptations on their way to or from school. This leads to school dropout and early pregnancies.

Tuungane Program formed PHE School Clubs in 44 schools in Tanganyika and Uvinza Districts and supported the building of girls’ dormitories, dining hall, and computer lab and the installation of solar electricity and access to water at Lagosa Secondary School in Uvinza District.

Through these interventions, girls get enough time for private studies after school hours, they access safe and clean water, and they acquire conservation education and reproductive health education through the PHE school Clubs, coordinated by The Nature Conservancy and her partner, Finder International. These interventions have resulted in an increased number of girls completing secondary school education. This delays the first pregnancy as they stay in school for up to 18 years.

Prior to these interventions it was common for girls to get pregnant at the age of 12&13 which was a risk to their lives and risk to their lives and made them mothers at a very young age, requiring they quit school and loose the potential education had for their future. Before 2019 when the program first introduced dormitories at Lagosa Secondary, only 5-8 girls were completing secondary education.

Starting in 2019 the trend changed, and 11 girls graduated, in 2020-16 girls graduated, in 2021-33 girls graduated, in 2022-37 girls graduated, 2023-25 girls graduated. The girl’s academic performance has also increased. In 2019-7 girls were selected to join middle colleges attaining basic certificates after completing secondary education.

MKUBA Eco-credit Fund disbursement to Bweni Fisheries Beach Management Unit Pangani.

In 2020- 15 were selected for the college level, in 2021-29 girls were qualified to join colleges, and in 2022-27 girls were selected for the colleges and 1 was selected to join high school. In 2023-22 girls were selected to join colleges and 1 to join high school.

So far, from 2019 up to 2023 a total of 122 girls have graduated from Lagosa Secondary School and there has been no early pregnancy case or dropout reported.

By offering a platform where women and youth can engage with tourism opportunities, the trading center becomes a conduit for empowerment.

Through cultural exchange, visitors gain insights into the rich heritage of Randilen, and women find avenues to enhance their livelihoods. It aims to establish a sustainable ecosystem one that enriches not only women’s livelihoods but also village life within Randilen WMA.

The Boma becomes a microcosm of resilience, where cultural pride meets economic prosperity. TNC’s and OIKOS’ support ensures that women and youth actively participate in Randilen’s conservation efforts. By engaging them with tourism opportunities, we bridge the gap between cultural heritage and modern livelihoods.

The trading center becomes a gateway to empowerment, fostering a sense of ownership and pride. The trading center provides a physical space where women can produce and showcase their cultural products. From beadwork to traditional crafts, these creations find a market within and beyond Randilen.

TNC’s and OIKOS ’assistance in setting up this center ensures that women have a dedicated space to hone their skills, collaborate, and access markets. Visitors to Randilen WMA now can immerse themselves in Maasai culture.

The trading center hosts mesmerizing traditional dances performed by Maasai warriors and women. The trading center breaks the cycle of food insecurity by diversifying income sources. Women no longer solely rely on subsistence farming.

These income streams are sustainable, allowing women to invest in education, healthcare, and other essentials. The Randilen Enaboishu Women trading center is more than a marketplace, it’s a testament to resilience, creativity, and collaboration.

TNC and OIKOS’ support has transformed it into a thriving community hub one that not only sustains cultural heritage but also uplifts lives.

As women engage with tourists, share stories, and create beautiful products, they become ambassadors for conservation and change-makers within their own families and communities.