Where the Ordinary becomes the Extraordinary: New initiatives and new opportunities for coastal communities in Northern Mozambique
This article was written by Dominique Bovens in March 2014
In February, I travelled to Moma District in Northern Mozambique to conduct a socio-economic impact survey on the fish sanctuaries in Thapua and Coroane. Driving into the communities for the first time, they seemed like ordinary communities with mud brick houses and thatched roofs, women coming back from the fields carrying produce on top their heads, and children playing and eating big ripe mangos. It all seemed so normal.
Over the next few days I came to understand that these communities were not ordinary at all, as they are part of an initiative of the CARE-WWF Alliance to create conservation agriculture and sustainable livelihoods, using locally available natural resources. In 2008, the CARE-WWF Alliance, in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries and the local communities, established 2 fish sanctuaries in the District of Moma (1 in Thapua and 1 in Coroane). Essentially, these fish sanctuaries have a “no-take” zone, where fisherman are prohibited from fishing, while allowing artisanal fishing in spill-over areas. The driving force behind these sanctuaries is community members themselves. Sanctuary monitors have been appointed by the community to ensure the compliance with fishing rules in and around the sanctuary, and community members themselves have had to adapt their fishing methods.
The concept sounds simple and straightforward, but the question really remains, what is the impact of these sanctuaries on the surrounding communities? After careful observation, conversations with community members and the completion of a qualitative and quantitative questionnaire in 6 communities, the conclusion is clear: These sanctuaries are having a positive socio-economic impact in these communities. Not only are there more fish now than there were 5 years ago, they are bigger and the communities have found species that they had not encountered for years. The success can also be noted in the fact that fisherman from different communities are coming to fish in waters surrounding these sanctuaries. These two elements alone demonstrate a positive force.
Fish is the main protein in the diet in the majority of the households in these communities; 79% of households eat fish on a daily basis, and their intake of fish has increased due to the more abundant availability of fish.
“When I was little, my mother would prepare fish 2 or 3 times a week” says Amelia, a 26 year old mother of 3. “Now, I am able to give my children fish 5 times a week. And if my husband doesn’t catch any, we know we can go to the market and buy some”.
Not all households have a member that goes out to fish, but Amelia´s experience is reinforced by other community members who say that families in their own communities and surrounding communities are indirectly benefiting from the sanctuaries because more fish is available. So if these two sanctuaries are having this significant positive impact, what are the next steps?
Fishermen from different communities have demonstrated their interest in the creation of a sanctuary closer to their communities. In our survey, 88% of fishermen reported that they thought the no-take zones help to increase fish stocks, and a similar magnitude (84%) thought that the no-take zones deliver an increased number of species. They want their community to also have a sanctuary that they can manage and be proud of. They want to have the fate of their livelihoods in their own hands. It is however very important to realize that fish sanctuaries are not an alone-standing solution. Although fishing is an important source of income and diet, 90% of the households rely on farming for either their main source of income, or their main source of food for their families. The combination of marine sanctuaries and conservation agriculture initiatives form a strong joint foundation that provides these communities with a basis for sustainable livelihoods.
There is nothing ordinary about these rural communities that have been supported by the CARE-WWF Alliance in Northern Mozambique. They are the scene for exciting pro-active conservation agriculture and wildlife preservation initiatives that stimulate sustainable livelihoods. The collaboration between the CARE-WWF Alliance, the Ministries and the communities is a formula for success that can be easily replicated and adapted for different communities. It is where ordinary becomes extraordinary.
The CARE WWF Alliance and the Primeiras e Segundas program in Mozambique have been featured in World Wildlife Fund’s flagship magazine. “Can Protecting Fish and Improving Farms Ease the Food Crisis in Mozambique?” by Brendan Fisher assesses the simultaneous introduction of no-fishing zones and of conservation agriculture by coastal communities in the Primeiras and Segundas that have access to both marine and terrestrial resources. This approach helps to improve food and income, in ways that sustainably use the natural resource base.
Also read “Carter Roberts Talks with CARE’s Helene Gayle” the two CEOs talk about the importance of partnerships in general, and of the CARE – WWF Alliance in particular.
A mural depicting the colorful land and seascape of the Primeiras & Segundas Environmental Protected Area (PSEPA) stretches across the principal wall on the south side of Angoche’s major avenue. The design depicts linking ecosystems east to west which extend across three districts in the Zambezia and Nampula provinces in northern Mozambique. From the islands of the Primeiras & Segundas archipelago to mangrove-rich estuaries, to coastal forests further inland, the viewer engages with diverse habitats and their relationships with each other and with more than 350,000 residents whose livelihoods depend on their resources. Viewers also find a map of the PSEPA with clearly marked boundaries.
Click on the image of the mural below for larger view.
The mural is the culmination of a collaborative partnership between the P&S Program and Angoche’s community youth artist group, JUNTOS (Youth United in Work for Opportunities and Success). JUNTOS, formerly JOMA, was founded by area Peace Corps volunteers in 2008 and joined the network of student groups throughout Mozambique that work to prevent HIV through arts and culture mediums. Since its founding, the Angoche chapter has promoted positive behavioral messaging through visual arts, including the painting of murals throughout the city.
When third-year Peace Corps volunteer Hayley Freedman joined the P&S Program as their M&E and Communications Officer in November 2012, she began to work with the established JUNTOS group. On weekends, she and two other volunteers, Anneke Claypool and Maria Fernanda Castro, facilitated group meetings and organized activities including arranging for group participation in the arts fair at the first annual Oceans Fair held on Mozambique Island in June.
In seeing the benefits of linking the group to the Program for both members and P&S, Freedman advocated for a partnership. JUNTOS members learned about the establishment of the PSEPA and Program conservation and resource management initiatives through organized lectures by P&S technical staff. Members volunteered for a beach clean-ups and participated in additional educational programming including a career day with P&S panelists.
With new knowledge and a peaked interest in the work of the P&S Program, members wanted to utilize their artistic talents to encourage the community to take a more active role in conserving and protecting their environment.
Despite the declaration of the PSEPA in November of 2012, many Angoche residents were not aware of the establishment of the Protected Area or that they were living within the reserve boundary a year later. JUNTOS proposed the painting of a mural as a means to educate the community about the PSEPA and promote core tenants of environmental stewardship. The task was to design a mural that would articulate the Program’s co-equal development and conservation approach, illustrating healthy ecosystems and healthy people who benefit from the services they provide.
“We wanted to illustrate the inter-connectivity of the various ecosystems and habitats found within the reserve as well as show how people make use of their resources in sustainable ways” Hayley Freedman
The ten members of the group took this vision and independently put to paper an interpretation. Sketches were brought to a meeting and joined to create a singular, integrated final design. “Each member can see his own creative idea reflected in the final mural,” explained JUNTOS Coordinator Mussa Mohamed.
Once finalized, members began the process of transferring the design to scale on the expansive wall in a multi-step process involving removal of layers of old paint, priming, sketching and painting. Working on weekends to accommodate school schedules, the group put in twelve-hour days, from sunrise to sunset, on Saturdays and Sundays over a period of six weeks. The P&S Program provided the funding for supplies and light meals while Freedman and the other Peace Corps Volunteers actively participated and supervised the group.
Once completed, a dedication ceremony was held to formally present and hand over the mural from the P&S Program and artists to the city of Angoche. Representatives of all major government departments and institutions including the Ministry of Education, Municipal Council, District Services for Economic Activities, District Youth Council, Artisnal Fishermen Association of Angoche, among others, were in attendance.
P&S Natural Resource Management (NRM) Marine and Protection Officer, Cremildo Armando, walked guests through an overview explanation of the mural, beginning with the reserve map. He explained the vision behind the images and provided technical explanations of the various habitats portrayed and important ecological roles played for the overall health of the PSEPA and its inhabitants.
JUNTOS members spoke about the process and how they came up with the final design, commenting on what they learned and what they hoped their work will contribute to Angoche.
Artist and JUNTOS member Nuro Alberto Abdala Juma
The Director of District Services for Economic Activities, Miguel Massunda applauded the initiative and group’s talent commenting, “There is no amount of money in the world that could pay for this mural and [its] important cross-cutting messages which educate us about the environment in a creative form of artistic expression.”
Members of JUNTOS are proud to see that they are taken seriously as professional artists. In admiration of the group’s work, a number of individuals have expressed interest in hiring their talent while a contract is already being drawn up with one admirer. “This was a completely unforeseen benefit, commented founding member Ahamada Salimo. “We are hopeful that our efforts will open doors to other possibilities; opportunities for us to express our art and showcase our talent.”
In times when many of Angoche’s youth face challenges in pursuing higher education and have few employment prospects, the future of these young artists is beginning to take shape.
As the Director of the Conselho Distrital de Juventude (District Youth Council) remarked during the ceremony, “I did not know that we had so many Malangatanas among us. Keep up the good work and who knows where your talents may lead.”
“Today, I am a very happy woman. My children , other women and children in the community, will not suffer anymore with the problem of water scarcity and poor hygiene. We [now] have a borehole here that is 100 meters from my house, where fetching water and the return home takes only 10 to 15 minutes. This borehole makes a big change in my life because I have more water available with good quality close to my house. This saves time that I can now use to work on my farm. My plot of land has increased and I’m producing a greater variety of foods to sell and buy other products such as clothing, soap, sugar, oil and more. Now I have more time to talk with neighbors, participate in other activities, and take better care of my children. If there is drought or heavy rains, we know we have safe water to drink. I also now have a [covered] latrine and place to wash [improved hand washing station] which has improved my family’s health.”
–Muanacha Ossufo Mucoroma, Mukuvula
Working in Angoche district in Nampula province and the district of Homoine in the southern province of Inhambane, the project aims to reduce disaster risk through identifying and enabling gender-sensitive and inclusive disaster risk reduction to better respond to the varying needs of men, women and children. The project has introduced Community Vulnerability Capacity Analysis (CVCA) toolkit to support future projects and the government of Mozambique in better identifying gender-sensitive interventions and influence policy, strategies and plans related to disaster risk reduction. The project will continue to work to promote opportunities with communities and policy-makers through April 2014.
Alima Chereira is a typical Mozambican woman of 27 years; a practicing Muslim, wife, and mother of six. She and her family live in a 3- room, mud brick home with a thatched roof of dried grasses, the type ubiquitous to the area. Her husband, a merchant, sells small wares on market day and during season, supplies cashews to corporate buyers in the provincial capital. Like most women in her small village, Alima spends her days tending to the family farm, collecting wood for cooking, fetching water and managing a busy household.
By taking a closer look; however, one discovers that Alima is anything but typical. She is exceptional.
Born into a rural farming household and wed to a modest working man, Alima does not have the influence of a chief’s wife or the standing of a formally-educated individual. However, she has an aptitude and enthusiasm for learning, a steadfast spirit and radiating confidence. These qualities have carried her and the people of her community to a higher standard of living and quality of life.
Alima and her family call Mukuvula home, a small coastal farming and fishing village of 450 households and approximately 1,500 residents, half of whom are children. Located on the outer edge of the Potone Sacred Forest in Angoche District in the northern province of Nampula, Mukuvula is situated in a diverse landscape of coastal forest, interspersed with coconut palms and cashew trees, just 5 kilometers from the mangrove-rich Angoche estuary.
Despite the region’s potential, it is in one of the poorest in Mozambique. Due to steady and continuous population growth, competition over scarce resources continues to intensify while families find it hard to stay afloat. As Alima alludes,“Life for many of us is suffering.”
Like most in her community, Alima and her family rely equally on the productivity of their farmland and fisheries. Yet residents are overfishing and over-working the land just to make ends meet. Already poor farming conditions are further exacerbated by increasingly erratic rainfalls and longer dry periods brought on by climate change.
“Before,” comments Alima, “we could depend on seasonal rains. We knew when they would come and how much would fall. But now, we can no longer count on [it]. When it rains, it comes in torrential downpours-if it even rains at all.”
As a result, food insecurity plagues one-third of households and malnutrition is one of the highest in the world. Nearly half of children are stunted and a quarter underweight. Statistics are not much better for community water and sanitation. 29% of Mozambique’s rural population have access to an improved water source (such as protected wells) while only 5% have access to improved sanitation facilities (covered latrines). Water scarcity and high rates of water-borne illnesses threaten community health and well-being.
In fact, the biggest concern for Mukuvula residents when asked in November of last year was not related to poor farming conditions or dwindling catches, but water.
“This is what we have to drink,” they had explained, holding up bottles of brown water. “For clean water, we have to walk really far and wait in lines, sometimes for hours.” Others explained how they chose to make the journey to the nearest well at night when there is less of a wait, despite the dangers. “We would leave around 11 pm and return at 4 am,” recounted community member Amisse Mandasse, “When it comes to water, there is no day or night.”
For Alima and her family, already dire circumstances had reached a critical point. Yet she had not accepted this as her fate. Rather, she confronted these immense challenges head-on and with support from the CARE-WWF Alliance, has seen conditions of her community and its residents transform. Read more…