Foundation History

The Pemba Foundation grew out of visits that two of our board members paid to the island in 2007 and 2008. At that time, John Angier (foundation president) was producing a pilot episode for a new US public TV series, Saving the Ocean, for which Carl Safina (a founding board member) was the host.

Saving the Ocean production crew at Pemba airport, March, 2008.
Left to right: Peter Hoving (videographer), Carl Safina (series host), Hassan Ali Gharalla (sound recordist), John Angier (producer), Valentina Cucchiara (underwater camera).

Pemba Island, roughly 40 miles long and 15 wide, supports a dense population of about 500,000. People are quite poor: most are subsistence farmers or fishers. For details of the Pemba way of life go to where we work.

The TV episode in Pemba (called The Sacred Island) was about how, in the late 1990s, the fishers who use the most important reefs and fishing grounds, around the small nearby island of Misali, discovered plans for a new resort that threatened to deny access to their traditional areas. A local group representing the fishing villages that would be directly affected was formed to fight the development. It's all too rare that such "little guys" prevail, but thanks to an imaginative and politically sophisticated campaign, with wide support ranging from local Imams to international NGOs, the resort was cancelled and Misali and surrounding waters became Pemba's first marine reserve. The reserve combines a small area closed to fishing with a larger regulated area. Read Carl's Safina's blog about TV production in Pemba, including a description and pictures of the story being filmed.

Excerpt from The Sacred Island, TV program we made about Pemba and the campaign to save its rich fishing grounds for local communities. Watch the full episode here.

The people we met during production, from remote villages, to mosques and government offices, were especially welcoming, friendly and helpful to our crew. So we decided to try to return this goodwill, to develop more lasting ties to the island and work to create projects to benefit Pembans as widely as possible. One of our current projects is to support the extension of fisheries regulation and conservation to Pemba's entire west coast, modeled on the successful Misali Island Marine Conservation Area.

Sheik Mohamed Suleiman preaching at the Central Mosque in Chake Chake.