Local Economy and Village Life
The majority of Mafia inhabitants live in small villages scattered along the coast and interior of Mafia Island itself and on the other islands nearby (Chole, Jibondo, Juani and Banja). Typically villagers have a number of sources of income and subsistence: fishing amongst the members of a family, including crop farming, permanent tree crops and skilled work (carpenters, weavers, sailmakers, etc).
The farms are smallholdings, growing plots of cassava, rice, pigeon pea, pineapples, pawpaws and beans; it is typical to also find cashew, coconut and mango trees on each household’s land. Farmed areas are usually surrounded by woodland, grassland or coconut plantations. Low-lying areas (mbuga) are adapted to upland rice (a variety that is not “paddied” under water, as in Asia).
Large areas of the island – especially the south and northern sides – are planted to coconuts, mostly by pre-World War II German settlers and descendents of Omani Arab, Shatri, Shirazi and Baluchi pioneers. These provide work for many inhabitants and a source of cash income, especially during the dry season when most coconuts are harvested and home-grown food is in short supply.
The north-east of the island is covered by a dense coral rag forest – Mrora Forest – which is protected. The north-central area is an undulating plateau that has spectacular baobabs, doum palms and Euphorbia.
Guests of Kinasi can make an excursion to any of the island villlages, where the people are welcoming and friendly. We offer both road and boat with guides. The people of the villages of the islands of Chole, Juani and Jibondo are engaged in a variety of activities from boat building to animal husbandry. Small scale farming (rice, cassava, fruits) is practiced on fertile soils and fishing and fish drying contributes to their income.