Integrated Preservation Economic & Development at Kilwa Kisiwani & Songo Mnara, Tanzania, 2011-2014
The US Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr. Mark Childress, and the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Hon. Lazaro Nyalandu, in August 19, 2014 will unveil a plaque commemorating the successful conclusion of the project to conserve Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara World Heritage Site, implemented in partnership between the Antiquities Division and World Monuments Fund, with an amount of $ 700,000.00 funding from the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
The project has preserved one of Tanzania’s most important heritage sites and created significant economic benefits for the people of Kilwa. Kilwa has important cultural and natural assets, which, if properly managed, can bring long term benefits to the community, particularly women and youth, creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs, jobs in the community, and helping to tackle poverty.
The project launched in 2011 coming to an end on the August 19, 2014 was aimed at creating a framework for ensuring that the competing demands of economic development, tourism, social cultural change, heritage preservation and the natural environment are balanced for the benefit of all while preserving Kilwa and its heritage for future generations and creating an exceptional heritage tourist destination. A sum of $ 287,100.00 has been spent for conservation works and capacity building programs in Kilwa District.
The fund has been spent to accomplish the following: Preservation of cultural heritage whereby 70% of historic monuments in Kilwa Kisiwani and SongoMnara have been rehabilitated, Conservation and Management Plan for Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara developed, GIS database of heritage sites developed, Coastal sea wave defences improved around the monuments of Husuni Kubwa and the Gereza, 130 people trained in GIS, Stone Cutting, Heritage Mnagement and Archaeology whereby percentage of women was 52%.
The heritage site of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara is one of only seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tanzania. In June 2014, in recognition of the successful conservation work undertaken by Antiquities Division, World Monuments Fund and other partners such as France, Norway, Japan, ILO AND EU, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in its 38 session in Doha, Catar voted to remove Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara from the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger. This international recognition is a testimony of the tremendous efforts made towards preserving the site, and the generosity of the American people in funding conservation efforts.
Residents of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara have also enjoyed economic benefits from the investment in heritage preservation. 600 Kilwa residents were employed during the course of the project.75% of the adult population on Songo Mnara was employed, 37% of which were women and 30% Adult population of Kilwa Kisiwani. 50 residents of Songo Mnara were directly employed by the project each month out of total population of 450. In total 53% of the female population on Songo Mnara was employed by the project. Tsh. 238,000,000.00 spent by the project in Kilwa District whereby 57% were paid directly in salaries, while Tshs. 82,000,000.00 were spent by the project on the island of Songo Mnara alone. This project has generally contributed in empowering women through job creation, improved education for children, improved family health hence reduction of poverty.
The project is therefore of sustainable befits to Kilwa. Many of the structures on Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara are exceptional. On Kilwa Kisiwani, the building known as Husuni Kubwa (or ‘large house’), which was built from 1320 to 1333, is the earliest and by far the largest and most sophisticated surviving major building south of Somalia, and carried coastal architecture to greater heights than were ever attained later. Close by is the Great Mosque, which was founded in the 11th century, and by the 14th century was the largest and most sophisticated mosque south of the Sahara. Songo Mnara contains the remains of 40 stone houses dating from the 14th to 16th century, some of which are better preserved and more archaeologically intact than any comparable domestic building in East Africa. The Portuguese fort is one of few remaining Portuguese defensive structures in the region. The superlatives go on. Each of the structures at Kilwa Kisiwani is exceptional, and as an ensemble, its significance, from an historic, scientific, and cultural point of view cannot be overstated.
The World Heritage Sites of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara are considered key tourist attractions in the fast growing Southern tourism circuit that is highly complimented by the giant Selous Game Reserve (WHS)