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Responding to the Commons Dilemma: Integrating Natural Resource Management and Disaster Risk Reduction in P&S Environmental Protection Area

August 16, 2013
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Area of devastated mangrove forest in Mucocoma, Catamoio

In the estuary community of Mucocoma, Catamoio, about 25 minutes by boat from Angoche, stretches a muddy, barren landscape, dotted with remnant stumps of a mangrove forest. According to local leaders, the area allegedly served as a hiding ground for bandits who were breaking into and stealing from residents’ homes. In response, a local picked up his axe in 1974, clearing the area to ‘bring security back to the community.’

Yet unbeknownst to him, this good Samaritan merely traded one insecurity for another. In succeeding in chasing off the thieves, the community lost the protection and defense that this area of mangroves provided against tropical storms, increasing its vulnerability to disasters. Located directly in the cyclone belt, Catamoio has suffered its share of damages, such as those caused by cyclone Jokwe which hit Catamoio in 2008.

Catamoio mosque

Damage to Catamoio’s historic mosque from Cyclone Jokwe, 2008

Mangrove Conservation

The leadership of Catamoio recognized this loss and following the Mozambican President’s call to environmental action earlier this year : ‘One leader, [plant] one forest,’ three neighborhoods came together to plant 4,000 mangrove seedlings in early January.

“Our goal was to plant 10,000, but we did not achieve it,” explained the leader of participating neighborhood, Malipone. “In fact, we had wanted to surpass it.”

Mobilizing the community to participate in the replanting effort was difficult, but not because members lack an understanding of the benefits brought to the community.   Members recognize the important role mangroves play, citing the protection against wind as well as the “defense against the erosion of our soils” which they provide, as one member commented in a community meeting in which the replanting initiative was discussed. Mangroves are also breeding grounds for fish, meaning their conservation also contributes to fishermen’s catches.

Though residents recognize the importance of mangrove conservation, they sometimes need to prioritize activities that yield immediate benefits. “We don’t want to destroy the mangroves but we’re not doing anything about it,” one resident explained in reference to unsustainable harvesting practices.

Devastation of mangroves continues; albeit not in one fell swoop as was the case in Mucocoma.

Residents depend on the durable wood mangroves provide for building homes and boats and for fueling fires. With a rise in people over the last few decades in an already densely-populated stretch of coastline, there is increasing pressure on the resources coastal inhabitants depend on to sustain themselves, including mangroves. Not long ago, mangrove wood was primarily harvested for household use; now it has become a livelihood option for residents and non-residents alike.

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Fisherman in dugout canoes in the estuary off of Catamoio

With more fisherman casting their nets, capturing even more fish from an ever-diminishing pool, fisherman who used to have a surplus from a day’s catch now find themselves taking trips to the mainland or other island communities to sell mangrove wood, providing supplemental income.

Sharing Resources from a Diminishing Pool

This is partly due to over-fishing practices, which have resulted from the increased numbers of fisherman and the role of fishing in the market economy.

There are very few spatial, temporal, catch and equipment restrictions for artisanal fishermen, who comprise the vast majority of Angoche’s fishing population.  In these times of food and economic insecurity, individuals are drawn to the prospect of earning money for their catch.

47-year-old fisherman and Catamoio resident Sr. Malakueta explains, “Now there are not a lot of fish. People used to fish just for what they wanted to eat. Today, people take as much fish as they can, leaving few fish for the rest of us.”

He went on to explain the logic of this, saying that one needs money in order to buy other foodstuffs such as maize meal.

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Mr. Mukueta, Catamoio resident and fisherman, repairing a net in front of his home

“Today, we don’t buy fishing nets only for caril (sauce); one does not eat without xima (local staple made from cassava or corn flour).”

Without sufficient regulations and enforcement, residents express feeling powerless and unable to confront others who are taking more than their fair share of common-pool resources. Familial ties and kinship obligations provide reason enough for keeping quiet.

Amina Ibrahimo, Catamoio resident and mother of three, explains: “When they are family, we just turn the other way. We do not say anything…how can we? Each one cries in his own form, alone.”

Yet they also hold their family to the same expectations, as they too engage in the same practices. It is difficult to take responsibility for your own role as a resource user, especially when no one else is making an effort to change.

Coconut palms of Catamoio

Coconut palms of Catamoio

Sr. Malaqueta comments: “We destroy our ocean, our coqueiros (coconut palms), until there is nothing left. But I am not able to plant coqueiros while I have to eat to live.”

This response resonates with those given by other community members in response to why they did not participate in mangrove replanting, according to community leaders. “They claim that time invested in replanting is time away from sea. A day without fishing is a day without fish. This is why they expected compensation,” explained Ussene.

For residents, the more immediate need of putting food on the tables takes precedence. “Não há maneira,” they say. There is no way…

The Way Forward

We don’t have fish today – what’s going to happen when our children grow up?”

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Community consultation with Catamoio residents

Residents recognize the problems associated with over-fishing and mangrove harvesting. To add to this problem, issues of population growth and decreasing resources are the lived and felt day-to-day experiences of P&S Reserve inhabitants. Contributing behaviors and attitudes are well recognized, as evidenced by commentaries cited throughout this article.

Luckily, community collective conscience is beginning to change as are practices. P&S is helping to enable this change through facilitating the formation and training of Natural Resource Management (NRM) Committees. In March, program staff began to hold community consultations, bearing witness to community members’ experiences and challenges in the face of decreased livelihoods options.

The creation of NRM Committees is an evidence-based strategy which empowers communities to become better stewards of their environment. Committees identify and implement resource management regimes to regulate resource use in a sustainable fashion. Where the lack of enforced regulations has made it difficult to control fishing practices for Catamoio residents, the newly-formed 15-member committee will help to enforce community-selected internal regulations. These include no-take zones and temporal bans, caps on the quantity, size and type of species allowed to be taken, and minimal-impact mangrove rotational harvesting methods. By involving the community at large, all legitimate resource users are engaged in the process of identifying and enforcing practices. Amina Ibraimo might just have the backing she needs to confront her neighbors and family, and hopefully will feel the same pressure to monitor her own actions.

This strategy is linked with a rights-based approach supported by government as each committee will be guided through legalization process, allowing them to seek land title in the name of the community. With land title, land will be demarcated and declared as belonging to the people. Residents will be in a better position to defend what is rightfully theirs and in cases negotiate terms of resource extraction with the private sector and government. Via the multi-community representing Management Councils, the Community NRM Committees will also hold seats on the District Co-Management Committees where they will represent their respective communities and work with other committees and stakeholders including government towards good natural resource stewardship. This participatory governance platform will also be involved in the design and implementation of P&S Reserve Management Plan, currently in development.

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Catamoio residents in front of their disaster shelter

Under Project FREDRIC-DipECHO III, the program recently oversaw the election and preliminary trainings of Catamoio’s NRM Committee, with plans to do the same in the estuary islands of Quelelene, Maziwane, and Mitepene by the end of August. Previous DipECHO projects assisted these islands in disaster preparedness through the construction of disaster shelters, formation of Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Committees, and the provision of clean water through well construction.

Given community vulnerability to tropical storms and the inextricable link between resource management and disaster risk reduction (DRR), P&S is training NRM Committees in DRR in partnership with the Instituto Nacional de Gestão de Calamidades  (INGC), Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management. The program promotes an integrated model for building community capacity rather than through the formation and training of multiple stand-alone DRR committees as has usually been done. Catamoio’s committee is the first of a total of 5 to be trained by the project to combine the responsibilities of resource management and disaster preparedness, while new NRM committees will be integrated with pre-existing DRM Committees in two other target communities.

Catamoio NRM Committee

Catamoio’s newly elected NRM Committee in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) training

Ussene, who is involved in committee formation and training, says he sees the merits of having one committee that integrates these two roles, “Having one committee is important because we’re looking to see the obligations the community needs [in resource management and disaster preparedness] met.”

He also sees how these committees can help to facilitate greater community involvement in mangrove replanting as committees will also be trained in mangrove management, which is essential for defense and disaster resilience as well as sustenance and income. “The committee can begin by organizing another replanting event in Mucocona.”

The formation and training of the NRM committee is an important milestone for the people of Catamoio as well as the program as we continue to facilitate building up community disaster resilience and capacity to regulate and manage vital resources sustainably in the Primeiras & Segundas Environmental Protected Area.

As Assane Rodrigues Mucusiba, president elect of the new committee stated, “The NRM Committee is going to turn around our future for a better tomorrow.”

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