Chole Island, in the Mafia Island Marine Reserve in southern Tanzania, lies about 200km south of Dar-es-Salaam, in one of the least developed parts of a poor country
“It is our hope to exist in peace and understanding with those visitors who reach Chole. And when you leave to return to your homes, we will take it as a sign of gratitude if you say that you have been welcomed here with warm hospitality - and indeed we will endeavour to welcome you in such a way.”
The late Mzee Suleimani Bacha, formerly Chairman of Chole Village Council
Since the 1990s the Chole Project, which has its origins in a partnership between Chole's community and Chole Mjini Lodge (owned by Anne and Jean de Villers), has flourished to become an example of open ended social development which may be a model that could be adopted by other isolated African communities. The focus on long term development empowers the local community to shape its own self sufficient future, rather than imposing solutions from outside.
The Chole Mjini Trust Fund supports the Chole Project though the Harambee Committee, a body on Chole which represents multiple stakeholders, by funding priorities that the community itself sets. The relationship between the Trust and the community is unusual; most efforts to assist Africa tend to be prescriptive, with donors specifying how funds should be spent. The Chole Project is different. The Harambee Committee develops a spending plan each year reflecting the community's own priorities, which the Trust then reviews solely to determine if they can be afforded (they never can; there is always a re-plan, carried out by the community itself!) and that they conform with UK Charity Law. Funds are then transferred to a nominated, carefully controlled bank account for the community to draw upon as needed. At the end of each year an audit is carried out by an auditor visiting from Dar es Salaam.
This empowerment of the community gives the Chole Project its holistic approach. The community's principal focus at present is academic education, but healthcare, the empowerment of women, regard for local history, culture and the environment and long term sustainability are all part of the Project,and it is likely that in the near future the community will seek to expand education to include vocational training (see The Chole Project).
THE SUCCESS STORY: by the mid 1990s only one child from Chole had ever progressed beyond Form IV in formal secondary school, only one adult on the island was in full time employment - and there was only one bicycle on Chole. During 2011 67 children were awarded secondary school bursaries (including 27 girls) and a further 4 were supported either at university or studying for a diploma in college, and scores of adults are now in employment. In 2012 8 are going to university or college. And bicycles are ubiquitous!
THE CHOLE PROJECT WILL HAVE FINALLY SUCCEEDED WHEN THE TRUST IS NO LONGER REQUIRED