Human settlements decrease pace of clove production

Land suitable for cultivation, including cloves farming, is being cleared for house construction. The two main islands of Unguja and Pemba have an approximated area of 1,660 and 980 square kilometres respectively. The rights of use, access to land and tenure security of land are forming an important part of efficient economy of which people earn a living.

According to Mr Mohammed Omar from the Department of Surveys and Mapping, all Zanzibar land was declared public property by the power of the Presidential Decree of 1965, after the government confiscated land that was privately owned by Indians and Arabs, and distributed it among the tenants and land-less people. He says many poor Zanzibaris were entitled to get three-acres of agricultural land so that they could cultivate it to get food and generate income.

Until 1985 when the allocations of 3-acres plots was suspended, about 24,000 plots were given free of charge to people on both Unguja and Pemba islands. But due to expanding human activity, land intended for farming is now being used for houses including development of tourists’ hotels.

The Zanzibar Second Vice- President, Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi, said that avarice for attractive prices offered by wealthy people and investors is to blame for the increasing land lease, which “if not checked may have an effect on agriculture including the expansion of cloves.” Launching a nationwide campaign on the production of cloves, the acting Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr Ramadhan Abdallaah Shaaban, asked people not to construct houses on the 3-acre pieces of land or lease to investors.

“It is contrary to government objectives.” Shaaban said that Zanzibar has the opportunity to restore its status as the leading producer of cloves if farmers plant many clove trees and avoid unnecessary sale of land. Zanzibar recorded about 5,000 tonnes of cloves in 2011/2012 season, the biggest harvest in the last five years. Mr Nassor Ahmed Mazrui, the Zanzibar Minister of Trade, Industries and Marketing informed the ‘Daily News’ that the harvest during the 2010/2011 season was 2,164 tonnes, adding, “the government is now determined to boost production, targeting to produce at least 10,000 tons by 2020.”

Mazrui said the government has set about 20 million US dollars for the programme to revive and boost cloves production on the islands. Currently, Zanzibar is the fourth largest producer of cloves behind Indonesia, Brazil, and Madagascar. Other countries producing cloves are Sri-Lanka, India, and Comoro Islands. The minister revealed that Zanzibar spent over 70bn/- in buying cloves from farmers, as he attributed the bumper harvest this season to the successful anti-cloves smuggling campaign, and attractive pricing of 15,000/- per kilo of dry cloves.

He said that the government has strategies to improve cloves production such as, “The counting of all clove trees on the islands, replacing old trees and planting at least 500,000 trees annually for ten years, restructuring the Zanzibar State Trade Corporation (ZSTC), introduce new laws governing cloves, and branding before establishing a Clove Development Fund (CGF).” He added, “As we prepare new clove laws, the government is also considering liberalising the market with caution.

The government will not rush to liberalise the clove market to avoid risks of collapse.” Zanzibar was the world leading producer in the 1970s, but annual clove sales plummeted by 80 per cent later due to ageing, poor farming methods, unattractive global pricing and smuggling. Farmers and Zanzibar authorities believe that after experiencing steady decline and stagnation over the last four decades, the clove sector in Zanzibar is finally showing good signs of recovery.

Mazrui said measures, include curbing smuggling. The smuggling of cloves has been high over the last ten years with traders taking the cloves to Kenya and selling it at a higher price. Minister Mazrui revealed that between 2001 and 2009, Kenya sold 9,510 kilos of cloves, worth USD 16 million. Kenya does not produce cloves. Cloves are evergreen trees botanically known as Syzygium aromaticum that are cultivated for its aromatic dried flower buds.

According to the information from the Ministry of Trade, cloves contain between 11 and 17 per cent essential oils, mostly eugenol -- an effective anaesthetic. Clove buds essential oil is used in perfumery and, though less frequently, in pharmaceuticals. The essential oil from cloves is also used in the food industry especially for meat products, sausages and pickles, confectionery and bakery products.

The less expensive stem oil, pale yellow, obtained after distillation is used for massage and in seasoning meat. A survey made by the ‘Daily News’ in Pemba Islands, shows that many families were enjoying better living conditions and some have gone as far as to renovating their homes from the profits made from the production of cloves.

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Author: ISSA YUSSUF in Zanzibar

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