The Great Guano Rush of 2007–2008: “Filth,” Bats, and Food Sovereignty on Northern Pemba Island, Tanzania



During late pre-colonial and colonial times, European authorities represented Zanzibar as “filthy.” This caricature enabled government planning schemes as a means of social control. However, close investigations of “filth”—in this case, excrement—in the Zanzibar Archipelago reveal its possibilities to improve African livelihoods, to advance food sovereignty, and to revive an island ecosystem in an era of change. Led by farmer Amour Juma Mohammed, the bat guano rush of 2007–2008 helped to initiate farmer experimentation with waste on northern Pemba Island. Such creativity continues to elevate farmer productivity and collaboration in new ways.

Author Biography

Jonathan R. Walz, SIT Graduate Institute, US and Tanzania

Jonathan R. Walz is associate professor at SIT Graduate Institute. He earned his PhD in anthropology in association with the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida. Dr. Walz leads SIT’s Zanzibar Office and its programs on the human-environment interface in eastern Africa. He has conducted anthropological, historical, and environmental studies on mainland Tanzania, in the Zanzibar Archipelago, and in Kenya and India. His ongoing projects and the graduate and undergraduate programs he leads collaborate with African communities to understand their knowledge systems, histories, and practices.