The Chole Project
Chole is a small island approximately 1km square located in the Mafia Island Marine Park in the Rufiji River Delta in Tanzania, 200km south of Dar es Salaam. The population is fewer than 1000 people, 70% of whom are under 18 years old. Chole is in one of the least developed parts of Tanzania, itself a very poor country. The island has no running water, and drinking water has to be transported daily from the neighbouring Mafia Island.
Since the late 1990s an unusual, holistic open ended development project conceived by Anne and Jean de Villiers, owners of Chole Mjini Lodge, the biggest employer on the island, has been running on Chole, combining: When the Chole Project started life expectancy generally was short, and high rates infant mortality and deaths during childbirth reflected the fact that the nearest healthcare was 15km away on another island, Mafia. Only one person on the island was in full time employment. Now there are many more wage earners; some are employed by the Marine Park, the District and hotels on Mafia, and approximately fifty by the Chole Mjini Conservation and Development Company, which operates the Chole Mjini Tourist Lodge on Chole island, and associated activities. Other income earning activities include boat building, commercial fishing, limited farming, and trade in citrus, coconuts, sea products and handcrafts, such as rope making and weaving. It remains a very hard and precarious life.
Until June 2010 Chole, which is a very long way from the electricity grid and has no prospect of being connected, had only a small amount of electricity supplied by an antiquated solar power system which was very limited and at best intermittent. However in June 2010, through the generosity of the charity Solar Aid, a new state-of-the-art solar power system has been installed for the Learning Centre, opening up the potential to develop IT skills and use the internet for learning, Health Centre and Women's Market.