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Community Land Titles Promise a Sustainable Future

November 27, 2012

Communities in Potone Forest draw out the agreed boundaries of their common areas using a participatory map

Speicial guest post written by Althea Skinner, a Program Officer in the Policy Department of WWF-US

Potone Sacred Forest is a rare landscape in Africa, combining a dry coastal forest, salt flats, mangroves and estuary waters. As a key component of the Angoche Management Block community-use zone, it is also linked by extensive sea grass beds to Puga Puga Island, one of the outer islands of the Primeiras e Segundas archipelago and home to one of the most important breeding sites in the Western Indian Ocean for 3 species of marine turtles. Just four months ago two traditional healers from the area, Cotane and Agostinho, were elected to a new local community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) committee in Nacala Luaze. In this role they bring a deep knowledge of the approximately 190 species of medicinal plants that grow in this 30,000-hectare forest.

Cotane and Agostinho learned their healing skills from Tumanya, Potone’s first spiritual leader. Known for his cures of diverse physical and social ills, Tumanya attracted visitors to the forest from all over Mozambique. Since his death, members of the 12 communities in and around Potone have begun to cultivate agricultural plots inside the forest to sustain their families’ needs- with negative impacts on the natural environment. In their role with the CBNRM committee, Cotane and Agostinho are working with communities to make decisions that promote rural development while preserving not only these important medicinal plants but also the culture that facilitates their preservation and use for human health and well-being. This work will benefit the communities by advancing land systems that provide medicinal plants and healthy ecosystems that will improve local food security and biodiversity conservation.

Agostinho, a traditional healer, explains the preparation and use of diverse medicinal plants outside of the ritual site where the Potone Sacred Forest’s first spiritual leader, Tomanha, is buried.

While the government acknowledges the informal tenure by Nacala Luaze and the 11 other communities over Potone, the CARE-WWF Alliance is working with CBNRM committees to help secure formal land tenure for the communities with clear rights under Mozambican law. Formal land titles are one of several steps in getting Potone Forest formally declared a cultural reserve. This legal designation will ensure that communities have access to the land and biodiversity important for their cultural and spiritual traditions. Through this titling process, the CARE-WWF Alliance is helping CBNRM committees delineate their communities’ boundaries and agree upon microzoning for multiple uses in the forest’s common areas. As a result of this cooperation, Cotane, Agostinho and other CBNRM committee members are mobilizing local communities to more sustainably manage the diverse natural resources upon which their livelihoods depend.

Secure land tenure also delivers other tangible benefits for communities such as Nacala Luaze, strengthening communities’ bargaining positions with domestic and foreign companies. Historically the large sisal plantations located next to Potone Forest have forced communities to expand food production inside the forest. The company that manages the plantation recently began construction on a road that bisects land claimed by communities but that is not yet titled. While the land titling process continues, the CARE-WWF Alliance is working in partnership with CBNRM committees and government officials to help the community negotiate with the company on an equitable resolution to the conflict.

CBNRM members and community leaders expressed their views, and agreed on revised boundaries, signing joint agreements that will formalize the changes into law.

CARE and its local partners have long worked with farmer associations and disaster risk reduction committees, while WWF worked with community fishery and forestry associations. The CARE-WWF Alliance is bringing together members from each of these committees with the broader community to create representative institutions, with a focus on including women, that can engage with government in the sustainable management of natural resources. By connecting these resource-user groups, people with different livelihood strategies but similar needs learn from one another’s experiences and about the interlinkages between forest, farm and sea. CARE and WWF are working to integrate the lessons from these groups into government planning across northern Mozambique to help increase the resilience of these diverse landscapes and seascapes to the impacts of climate change.

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