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"Vodacom is proud to be Mafia Island's first and only network provider," said Junaid Munshi, Vodacom's new Marketing Director.

"The environment of Tanzania is an important asset to the national economy and to its people, an asset Vodacom is proud to be protecting."

WWF, together with the Mafia Island Marine Park (MIMP), hope that the new telecommunications system will benefit the small island community through the improved ability of patrol units to report and prevent illegal fishing incidents, as well as report accidental turtle and dugong catches back to the authorities in the capital, Dar-es-Salaam, about 120km away.

Tanzania's world-renowned Mafia Island Marine Park - a group of five islands whose coral reefs, sea grass beds, and mangroves host some of the richest life on the east African coast. Marine turtles, humpback and sperm whales, 400 species of fish, a host of corals, sponges, molluscs, starfish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers, and even the occasional dugong, all claim the waters as home.

Some 15,000 people also call the islands home. Most people earn their living from harvesting coconuts and fishing the turquoise seas

"Most importantly, telecommunications will support the people of Mafia," said Jason Ruben, WWF Tanzania's Technical Advisor for the Mafia Island Marine Park.

"When a fisherman gets a good catch out at sea he can now call the fish-buyer in Dar- es-Salaam to arrange a good market for his fish... It will also support Mafia's developing eco-tourism industry and is likely to enhance the development of the island's industries and communities."

Attending the network launch ceremony under the banner - improved communications for improved marine conservation - Tanzanian Environment Minister Arcado Ntagazwa recognised the importance of marine conservation for the sustainable future of Tanzania and its role in poverty alleviation.

"In the case of Mafia, Vodacom has reached out beyond the usual commercial considerations, and looked to see how they could sincerely contribute towards marine conservation efforts of Mafia's marine park and the work of WWF, and in doing so, also to help change and improve the lives of the local people."

Prior to the launch ceremony, WWF and Vodacom sponsored a litter clean-up campaign, collecting some 400kg of waste. The aim of the campaign was to send a message on the importance of maintaining clean towns for health, marine life, and tourism.

In addition, the fishing communities of Mafia Island held Tanzania's first Dhow (traditional fishing boat) race, with locals lining the shores of Mafia Island and neighbouring Chole Island to cheer on the 15 competing boats. Winners received a mobile phone and a solar powered radio each. Free sails - donated by Vodacom Tanzania - were given to all competing boats.

"This developing partnership has the potential to firmly position Vodacom as a leader in corporate social responsibility in East Africa," said Dr Hermann Mwageni, WWF Tanzania's country representative.
Mafia Island, Tanzania © WWF-UK/E Parker