ZANZIBAR harvested 8,000 tonnes of cloves in 2017-2019, the highest ever in the past decade as it struggles to revive the clove industry to restore its status as a leading producer of the spices in Africa.
While motivating farmers to grow more cloves and increase production, the government has also been promoting forest conservation in the archipelago amid a rapid increasing population, now surpassing 1.5 million, according to 2018 projection of Office of the Chief Government Statistician Zanzibar (OCGSZ).
But the growing real estate industry or expansion of human settlement, leading to clearance of land is hampering national campaigns to promote the islands’ leading cash crop and forests. The rate at which people are constructing houses, selling, or leasing land to investors, is worrying Zanzibar authorities.
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 how people earn a living.
According to Mr Mohammed Omar from the Department of Surveys and Mapping, all Zanzibar land was declared as 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 2nd Vice President, Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi says that attractive prices offered by wealthy people and investors are to blame for the increasing land selling.
The nationwide campaign for cloves development revival was launched in 2011, followed later by the environmental conservation programme for forests in the country, where people were asked not to construct houses on 3-acres land or lease to investors “because it is contrary to the objectives.”
Government authorities say Zanzibar still has the opportunity to restore its status as the leading producer of cloves should farmers’ plant many clove trees, stop cutting down of trees, and avoid unnecessary sale of land. He said that the government was determined to boost the production, targeting to produce more than ten thousand (10,000) tonnes annually.
The government set more than 20 million US dollars for the programme to revive and boost cloves production in the islands. Currently Zanzibar is the fourth world producer of cloves behind, Indonesia, Brazil, and Madagascar. Other countries producing cloves are Sri-Lanka, India, and Comoro Islands.
The minister for Trade and Industries Ms Ambassador Amina Salum Ali says the country is on track in hitting the cloves target and that the recent good production is attributed to successful anti-cloves smuggling campaign, and good price of 15,000/= per kilogram of dry clove.
Other strategies to improve cloves production includes counting of all cloves trees in the islands and replacing old trees by planting new. At least 500,000 trees have been distributed to farmers, restructuring the Zanzibar State Trade Corporation (ZSTC), review of clove laws, and branding before establishing a Clove Development Fund (CGF).
Zanzibar was a world leading producer of cloves in 1970s, but its annual harvests plummeted by 80 per cent later due to aging trees, poor husbandry, low prices, smuggling, and fast-moving global market and international competition.
Farmers and Zanzibar authorities believe that after experiencing steady decline and stagnation over the last four decades, the clove sector in Zanzibar has been showing good signs of coming back with a bang.
The comeback is signified by workable plans and that the ongoing measures, including branding of cloves and good buying price, will help to curb smuggling by dhow traders to a neighbouring country where they export it at a higher price.
It was estimated that many tonnes of cloves from Zanzibar were sold illegally in Kenya, and that between 2001 and 2009, Kenya sold 9,510 kilogrammes of cloves, worth 16 million US dollars in the international market. Cloves are evergreen trees botanically known as Syzygium aromaticum that are cultivated for its aromatic dried flower buds.
According to the information from ministry of trade, cloves contain 11 - 17 per cent essential oils, mostly ugenol, an aromatic oil extracted from cloves that is used widely as a flavoring for foods and teas. It is also used as an herbal oil to treat toothache and more rarely to be taken orally to treat gastrointestinal and respiratory complaints.
The essential oil is also used in food industry in meat products, sauces and pickles, confectionery and bakery products. Less expensive stem oil, pale yellow, obtained after distillation is used in the massage-market products and in meat seasoning.
Clove still contributes significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP) and export earnings. The contribution shows that there are opportunities in the clove industry for reduction of poverty and efforts to curb food insecurity, if constraints to local production and marketing are addressed.