Islands of Change

Artist Statement

The photographs and stories presented here are from the Island of Pemba, Tanzania, and its surrounding Islets. The isolated Island of Pemba has been inhabited for over 2000 years, but resource pressure and a growing population has slowly been transforming the island.

Now, the island, 1/3 the size of P.E.I. and with over 400,000 inhabitants, is also experiencing the chaotic hand of climate change.

Ask the farmers and fishermen who live off the land. They speak of transforming weather patterns, unpredictable growing seasons and fresh water wells and coastlines threatened by increasing sea level rise. Climate change is very real for Pembans.

These photographs and voices tell the story of Pemba today – the challenges people are facing and the incredible resiliency, ingenuity and hope that is transforming Pemba into a model for sustainable community approach in East Africa and around the world. Pembans are perched on the edge of a changing climate are becoming the experts in how to deal with and adapt to these changes.

Pemba is a microcosm of our planet and its people are tracing a path for us to follow in the uncharted waters presented by our changing climate.

I am presenting this work in partnership my friends in Pemba, who have asked me to tell others about their struggle. The people I have met and stories I have heard inspire me everyday. The message is simple: we are resilient and we can adapt. This is our chance to come together and learn from one another, to work together and solve our collective challenges.


Zachary Melanson is a photographer, sculptor and co-founder of Community Forests International.

Born in 1983 in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, Melanson studied photography and fine art at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, graduating in 2007. He is currently Communications Director at Community Forests International.

During his time at N.S.C.A.D. and until 2009, Melanson exhibited many of his sculptural installations throughout the city of Halifax Nova Scotia for direct public engagement, the most notable being Public Plinth, a concrete plinth installed at the corner of North St. and Robie St. from 2006 – 2014, where other artists and community members displayed art works.

Melanson also worked as a treeplanter in northern Canada, spending countless hours in devastated forest landscapes know as clear-cuts. This experience has had a profound influence on Melanson’s work, and led him to found Community Forests International, a non-profit organization that has helped rural communities plant over 1.5 million trees to date for fruit, medicine, timber and conservation around the world.

All proceeds of print sales support Community Forests International.