FUMBA: Zanzibar’s newly built Town

You might ask why has the building of a new town in Zanzibar been given a space in our blog? The amazing thing about this development is its serious attempts to enhance and not destroy the natural environment of the area – and for that reason it is something potentially of great importance, for other developers to see!

After a 15 minutes’ drive from Stone Town the car turned into a straight dirt road. We kept going on there for few minutes more. The ground changed and became dry and rocky. The road ended in front of a huge fenced area.  That’s it! The FUMBA-Town-Service centre. A member of the security staff received us. A very well-trained man. To get though the gate he needed to ensure that we truly had an appointment with Franco – who’s working with Fumba introducing Permaculture not only in the gardens and landscaping, but in the very heart of its approach. He also set up the Practical Permaculture Institute in Zanzibar.

The FUMBA Service Station people run a tree nursery where they grow bamboo and many other plants for all kinds of purposes. It was a quiet and peaceful atmosphere here. Supported by the government of Zanzibar , Environmental Systems Ltd., together with a group of German engineers, architects, urban designers and permaculture specialists FUMBA spent the last three years developing a master plan for a comprehensive residential housing project on a 1.5km stretch of breath-taking seashore of the west coast of Zanzibar.

As Franco explained to us, their current aim is to use composting techniques in order to turn the rocky ground into fertile soil. Therefore, they need a lot of organic waste which they can get, for example, from waste recycling enterprises such as JMJV.

The first houses are almost finisch

Working with the unusual circumstances of the rocky area FUMBA-people regularly have to deal with unforeseen obstacles which they do very creatively.  Since they still don’t have a shredding machine at FUMBA they now chop the bamboo waste by driving over it.

The whole project seems to be well thought through. Right from the beginning FUMBA-town-development treats its departments like independent companies. This creates a great sense of responsibility within the staff. Each area has to be self-sustaining.

On a second trip – this time to the actual construction area – we could convince ourselves, that every aspect of the way FUMBA-Town is planned serves a certain purpose. The arrangement of the houses makes sure nearly every flat and house has some view of the sea. In between the houses some space is left clear and furnished for people to meet. However, each house has its own little garden, so people can decide how much interaction or privacy they want.

Public areas between the houses invite people to meet and to interact

Even the fences are special for this purpose. Initially the wrought-iron railing does not block the view and allows immediate interaction of neighbours, but they are also perfectly suitable to let plants rail up and build a beautiful green boundary for those who need more privacy. For the apartment houses the planners included a special area with little garden departments and a place to meet so even those living on second, third and fourth floor can grow their own food.

FUMBA-Town is meant to become a fully equipped city including shops and service providers needed in daily life as well as a leisure area with gastronomy and beach at the seashore. All of this shall be implemented in a sustainable and environment-friendly way.

Each appartement comes with one of these pretty allotments

By putting emphasis on functional pedestrian walks throughout the area, the planners try to encourage the inhabitants to walk most of the shorter distances rather than take the car. Natural water filtration as well as energy-saving design contribute to the sustainability of life in FUMBA.

The only aspect that unfortunately could not be included without unreasonably increasing the property prices is solar energy. The most affordable properties are sold at about 30 000 USD and that has a reason. FUMBA-Town shall not become a place only for the rich, but be affordable for as many people as possible. That’s why it might be better to allow people to decide for solar power themselves rather than excluding people with lower income from buying a property by increasing the price.

There are so many aspects to consider for a complex project like this one to work.

You can sneak a peek at the ocean from nearly every appartement sneaks a peek

It was quite exciting having an insight into how things are done at FUMBA-Town Development. They are working hard towards their goals. We are very interrested to return to see how it all works once occupied.

The vision is admirable. We would love to hear from other developers and architects who are finding ways to address sustainability issues in their new buildings.


Interview with FUMBA-Town Landscape Manager