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Free guide to Waste in Zanzibar now available on Ecologue in English and Kiswhaili!

Free guide to Waste in Zanzibar now available on Ecologue in English and Kiswhaili! published on No Comments on Free guide to Waste in Zanzibar now available on Ecologue in English and Kiswhaili!
Free download of education guide - cover
Education and awareness guide to waste in Zanzibar

It gives me enormous delight to be able to share with you a fantastic education and awareness guide to waste in Zanzibar available to download free from Ecologue in English and Kiswahili.

This guide was produced by ACRA and compiled by Ulli Kloiber, Conservation and Education Manager at Chumbe Island Coral Park.

There are sections on different kinds of waste, and different things you can do with them – including a fantastic, really simple, easy-to-follow guide to composting (Kiswahili).

There are also sections contributed by various Zanzibar  projects, organisations and businesses involved in recycling and education about waste (including Sustainable East Africa).

Free download of guide - Takataka katika Zanzibar - Kiswahili
Also in Kiswahili!

Congratulations to ACRA and Ulli for a phenomenal publication and essential resource for anyone doing environmental outreach in Zanzibar and thank you so much for giving me permission to make it available online here on Ecologue.

You may be wondering why am I raving so much about this book in particular? Well the thing is – an education resource is only any good if it is used. You can compile all the pertinent information in the world into the most comprehensive resource – but if nobody ever uses it, then you may as well not bother. And I love this book because I have seen first hand that people want to read it. The information is presented in an easy-to follow, simple, straightforward and relevant way, and is all about Zanzibar.

And when I gave a copy to members of the PLCI Environment Club (SEA partners) during a clean-up day recently in Vikokotoni – every time I looked, a different student was reading it.











So what are you waiting for? Get it now!

New sections on Ecologue! Check them out and let me know what you think!

New sections on Ecologue! Check them out and let me know what you think! published on No Comments on New sections on Ecologue! Check them out and let me know what you think!

I’ve been making some more changes around here, adding new sections, and am delighted to announce the new features!

Translate Ecologue

  • English not your first language? No problem – you can now translate this site! Look up and to the left and you’ll see a row of flags. Click on the one that relates to the language you prefer and the site will be translated. You can even correct any errors in the translation.
  • Please let me know how this works for you! I can change the languages available and add new ones. So let me know which you use (to make sure I keep it there), or if your language isn’t there yet, let me know in the comments and I will add it for you!


  • While we’re speaking about languages, under the Resources tab above you can now find a page of Swahili Sayings relating to the environment that you might enjoy.  Let us know in the comments if you know any more (or if you have any corrections to the translations).
  • Also under the Resources tab are some Links. I plan to expand this page with more sections and more links as time goes by, to be as useful to you as possible. So if you have any links you think should be there, or new sections to request, let me know in the comments!
  • The third page under the Resources section is Downloads – which will become a repository for all sorts of interesting materials related to the subjects I blog about – and so far includes a link to the text book I wrote with colleagues at Chumbe back in 2011. Contact me if you want the Kiswahili version!

Ecologue Shop!

  • The third exciting new feature is a shop! Help keep me blogging (and working to support Sustainable East Africa‘s projects) by visiting the new shop pages.
  • There are different ‘departments’ based on where you are shopping from. Ecologue Shop UK is here ~ and Ecologue shop DE here.Others are coming soon – see the Ecologue Shop home page for links (that you can use to shop from for now)!
  • Again – this is supposed to be useful for you, so let me know what you think and what products you’d like to see. If you already have any of the products I’ve listed, I’d love to start including some product reviews from you! So have a look around, start shopping, or follow the links to Amazon websites if you can’t find what you want here (yet).

So enjoy looking around the new features and let me know what you think!


Henna-handed: A lesson in listening, learning and shelving our assumptions

Henna-handed: A lesson in listening, learning and shelving our assumptions published on 2 Comments on Henna-handed: A lesson in listening, learning and shelving our assumptions

Amid the hustle and bustle of (relatively) cosmopolitan Stone Town, Zanzibar’s only city, people of all nationalities mingle on every street – camera-toting tourists lost in the winding bazaars will inevitably encounter groups of young local children playing games in the street, looking adorable, and the children are accustomed to being photographed. If you raise your camera to ask permission to take a picture (courteous photographers always ask), the children will more than likely pose enthusiastically – and love to look at the image on the back of your camera afterwards. In fact, starting to take photographs will often result in more and more children emerging from nearby buildings to get in on the action.

Step away from the tourist areas, however, and taking photographs becomes a different matter altogether. Young children in rural communities may never have seen a white person before, and be terrified at the very sight of us. In particularly isolated regions of the country, there is even a cultural belief that to take a person’s photo is to take a piece of their soul. To photograph a person uninvited is therefore perceived as a gross personal violation and one of which travelling photographers should be extremely aware. If you raise your camera to indicate a request to take a photograph in such an area, the potential subjects will raise their hands to the camera (children may even run away screaming). In these cases the message is abundantly clear: no photographs. However sometimes the message can be more ambiguous: perhaps one person will nod permission and pose, but the person next to them will raise the palm of their hand in front of the lens to say ‘no’. I’ve accidentally taken photographs like this, and I delete them.

The other day, in Stone Town, I was sitting in a café working, when some children from the neighbourhood came and stared in through the window a couple of feet away from me. I know these kids by sight as I pass this way most days. Adorable as they are, they were getting a bit persistent in trying to engage me in conversation and I was trying to concentrate.

There are bars in the café window through which the children were peering, and I joked on facebook (I was distracted from my work by this point!) that their staring made me feel as though I were an exhibit in a zoo. I was tempted to roar at them. They then started playing peep-bo with me to get my attention, and the temptation became unresistable. Smiling, I treated them to my best fierce animal impression. They jumped, and then burst into peals of laughter.

My concentration thoroughly broken, I got out my camera to take (with their enthusiastic permission) a couple of photos of them. I showed them the pictures, and more children came to the window till there were about five little faces entreating ‘Picha picha!’ So I took more, showing the pictures as I went along.

Then, to my astonishment, one of the girls raised her hand in front of the lens, front and central in the picture. I lowered the camera and looked at her for clarification. In shamba (rural areas) this would be expected, and photographs unwelcome – but these kids were urban, they knew me, and were soliciting my attention, not the other way round; moments earlier she had had no problem. What had changed? What had I done?

The other children continued to call out to me: Picha! Picha! But she was still waving the palm of her hand in front of my face. I lifted the camera to photograph the others but leave her out… but she only called out louder. What should I do?

Now, I like to think I know a bit about the Zanzibar culture. I like to believe that I am culturally sensitive, relatively experienced at local nuances, and that I know how to read the signs. I usually feel as though my Swahili (rudimentary though it is) is enough to understand the general tone of the message people are trying to convey. But here, I was baffled. How had I upset her? What had I done wrong?

At long, long last, realisation dawned. I’d been overthinking completely. I finally picked up on what she was calling out:  Heena! Heena!

I had completely misunderstood her: I couldn’t have got it more wrong.

‘Heena’ was what she was saying to me: and heena was what she was showing me! Her hands had been painted with henna, a traditional custom in Swahili culture for Eid, the celebration of the end of Ramadan a few days earlier.

And she was just a little girl, showing me her beautiful Heena and asking me to photograph her pretty hands…

So I did.





All photographs ©Nell Hamilton

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