The Stone Town of Zanzibar became a World Heritage Site in December 2000, joining a select list of sites around the world of 'outstanding universal value'. But Zanzibar is a living city where daily life is a struggle for many of its inhabitants. Poverty, degradation, inequity live side by side with built heritage of great beauty. The community-based rehabilitation programme addresses these two realities.
The objective of the community-based rehabilitation programme is to tackle physical degradation of the built environment by improving the basic quality of life of those who live and work in it. The Programme focuses on the needs of the community that inhabits and breathes life into the town, very many of whom are the urban poor. Eradicating poverty is a more intractable problem, but many of the causes of degradation are found in the way the town is occupied and administered. Community-based rehabilitation tackles these systemic problems, which perpetuate inequities, create a sense of powerlessness in both tenants and administrators, stymie investment in repairs or maintenance, accelerate the downward spiral of decay and fail to provide the resources, skill or incentive to reverse the situation.
Investment in social and economic development produces a clear dividend for the quality of the built environment. By focusing on the causes of degradation, the community-based rehabilitation programme is helping to preserve the cultural heritage of the Stone Town. This is an end in itself, and a means to an end: visitors come to see the Stone Town, and growth in the tourism industry generates wealth and stimulates economic activity at all levels of society.
Organisations such as AKCS-Z can help kick-start development processes, but none of the Stone Town's problems will be solved without the active participation of the local community. The Programme has facilitated a number of initiatives:
Zanzibar Stone Town Heritage Society Conservation Centre Training in Traditional Craft Techniques Providing Support for Tenants Groups Conservation & Design Guidelines
Battle, Stephen and Tony Steel. “Stone Houses”. In Conservation and Design Guidelines for Zanzibar Stone Town. Geneva: Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 2001.
These Guidelines have been drawn up to protect the traditional character of the Stone Town. The Stone Town is very special. There is nowhere else in the world like Zanzibar Stone Town. Visitors come from from all over the world to see it. There is nothing like the Stone Town in the rest of Tanzania. It is one of the things that makes Zanzibar different from the Mainland, and special. It is an important part of the island's unique cultural identity. Zanzibar should be proud of its Stone Town.
The Stone Town is the embodiment of Zanzibar's long and great history. It is proof that the island was once the greatest power in Africa, and a great Islamic state. But the Stone Town is delicate. As times change, people wish to change their buildings, or need to carry out repairs. But these changes, unless properly guided, can destroy the Stone Town's special character. Like a shell on the beach, slowly eroded by the waves, each change takes something away, and soon the Stone Town will lose its beauty and fineness, and become like a pebble. If the Stone Town is destroyed, visitors will no longer come to Zanzibar, and the economy will suffer. The best way to preserve the special character of the Stone Town is to repair and maintain buildings using the correct methods, but otherwise to leave them as they are. If changes cannot be avoided, then the changes must be influenced by these Guidelines.
The law requires anyone wanting to do building work in the Stone Town to first ask permission from the STCDA. The STCDA's job is to guide people wishing to do building work so that the changes they make and the building methods they use do not destroy the special character of the Stone Town. The STCDA will judge the building application according to these Guidelines. If the building application follows the Good Practice Guidelines, approval by the STCDA will be quicker and easier.
The foundation is a part of the building that is never seen. It is the job of the foundation to support the weight of the house, so foundations are the first thing to be built and are buried underground. In Zanzibar, foundations are the same as walls except they are a little wider and perhaps made of bigger stones. It is their job to make sure that the building does not sink into the ground or that heavier parts of the house do not sink faster or further than lighter parts.