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
Bianca, Stefano & Francesco Siravo. Zanzibar: A Plan for the Historic Stone Town. Geneva: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 1996.
This publication includes the documentation and proposals prepared for the Conservation Plan. It begins with a review of Zanzibar's urban development and the character of its architecture, then surveys the Stone Town's present condition and looks at the pressures threatening its historic fabric. It ends with a presentation of the plan itself; including land use policies, protective measures, and a series of programs and proposals to improve the town's infrastructure and principal open areas.
The Old Dispensary in Zanzibar was the second major historic building restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The project has since been expanded to the restoration of other landmark buildings and several modest dwellings and caravanserais in the Zanzibar's Stone Town, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In this book an argument is put forth suggesting that growth and new development are not incompatible with the preservation of the Stone Town's old buildings and spaces. On the contrary, they can contribute to protecting the cultural heritage, while improving standards of living and promoting economic activity in Zanzibar's central area. The Conservation Plan provides a framework needed to encourage appropriate development, and foster a living and working environment in the Stone Town that is both attuned to today's requirements and in line with Zanzibar's traditional urban character.