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With both a beautiful simplicity and smile, he urges all Zanzibari's to make their country "beautiful again". His message is 'INAWEZIKANA' ('it is possible'). Proudly boasting this campaign slogan on his tshirt, Farid extends the message to his entire culture.
"There's 216 tonnes of waste produced per day in Zanzibar. The government can only collect 45 percent. The rest is ours to move." Farid reveals this alarming figure, most of all the Swahili who have to live amongst the excess trash that is left covering their homes. Visitors and residents in Zanzibar are also struck with the contrast of a paradise where rubbish piles up in postcard scenery and where strips of beach are often studded with plastic flotsam and jetsam. Now Farid wants the Swahili to start sorting it all out. "The rubbish makes us stuck" he continues, "but if everything is clean, you can think clearly. We begin to think clearly, then we produce."
Farid does not hold back any negative opinions about the island. Yet he's not involved in the 'blame-game' of many co-patriots, clearly stating that everything must lay at the feat of the people. He points out that both Bububu and Mkunguni communities have good cleaning strategies, and they need to spread the message to the surrounding areas. "People here are very good at looking for other people to blame, not themselves. But you cannot. I took action because if I don't take action, we will sink with this 216 tonnes."
"If everything is clean, you can think clearly"
FAZACH was launched on the 2nd of February, targeting locals to begin their own development, starting with the trash. Farid is emphatic. He wants all Zanzibari's, especially youth, to take pride in their greatest heritage; the Island itself. This is why FAZACH is running the 'Beautiful Zanzibar' competition. It's an initiative to bring out the best in the islands and people. Every shehia (or electorate) is now competing for the FAZACH prize, a yet-to-be-disclosed sum that will be a great opportunity to the residents within the shahia's boundaries. Farid wants everyone on the island to start cleaning. "It will take 10 years, because things here are slow. But after 10 years we want this island to be clean. It can be done because it is a small population."
Every person on the island produces an average of 2.5 kilos of waste per day. A 'civilisation problem' as he calls it, Farid outlines that the countryside has much less pollution, but hotel and touristic areas are becoming rubbish dumps, Stone Town in particular. "[In] the countryside they just use things that can go back into the ground. But it's fashionable [this everything plastic]. I went to a picnic and there were 50 people, I could not believe [it]. A pile like this! Everyone with plastic bottles, plates..." A culture that has traditionally relied on natural, biodegradable products is now coping with the influx of artificial rubbish; many Swahili items like ukili (weaving for baskets and bags) and kangas (which are used until they are rags) have been replaced. "Of course when you look at the culture, its all there [recycling]. The problem is just people not using these things enough now."
The organisation known as ZATI (Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors) are supporting the 'Beautiful Zanzibar' campaign, but it remains very much a local ambition. Farid believes that Swahili listen to him more because they are desensitised to foreign organisations telling them what to do. And though he's not shy of doing the dirty work, he expects Zanzibari's to initiate their own clean-ups. He's also happily received text messages from people who've spontaneously started making 'Beautiful Zanzibar' a reality in their shehia. "Most of the young people are doing this" he says smiling "they understand much more quickly." He stresses that they need to be educated on the dangers of pollution for their health, environment and livelihoods, and on the principles of recycling.
"We cannot teach Zanzibari's slowly, [not theory] we must teach them with exhibition. We have to use politicians and religion to get people cleaning." As strange as this sounds, it's not the first time faith has been incorporated into a conservation and development program in Zanzibar. Pemba's Misali Island was the victim of devastating local dynamite fishing practises. Conservationists persisted with their work with little results, until they targeted local religious authorities. They convinced Pemban fisherman that the destruction of nature is haram (uncleanliness) and that Allah requires Muslims to protect what he has given them. Now Misali is not only dynamite-free, but it's protected by the fisherman who were once blowing up its coral reefs. Farid expounds on this teaching. "You know the Koran tells us we cannot abuse animals - it is haram. And we have to live clean. That is something people must understand."
For his work in urging all Zanzibari's to take out the trash and get their hands dirty, Farid Himid is our Local Hero.
The FAZACH competition is currently on! Deadline is September 10th. Spread the message throughout your shehia and compete to make your piece of Zanzibar the most beautiful. Judges will award a cash prize that will be used to develop a much-needed project in your shehia.