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
Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme: Zanzibar Stone Town Projects. Geneva: Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 1997.
Following the restoration of Baltit Fort in Northern Pakistan, the Old Dispensary in Zanzibar is the second major historic building restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture since its establishment of the Historic Cities Programme in 1992. As in the case of Baltit Fort, the Zanzibar restoration project was complemented by a wider urban planning and conservation effort, with a view to guiding and controlling future development in the sensitive area of the Stone Town. A cosmopolitan city which developed and flourished in the context of Arab and European marine trade, Zanzibar has now become an attractive tourist destination, and the Stone Town is subject to increasing pressure as a result of modern development. The planning surveys and proposals, carried out in close co-operation with the Zanzibar Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority on the basis of earlier efforts sponsored by UNCHS Habitat (United Nations Conference for Human Settlements), are presented in this brochure in summary form, since a separate monograph entitled Zanzibar: A Plan for the Historic Stone Town has been published by the Trust.