In Mozambique, around 80% of livelihoods depend on natural resources. With nearly 20 million people living in coastal regions, many of these livelihoods rely on the marine resources provided by the Western Indian Ocean. Employment opportunities along the country’s coastline are limited; most communities rely on artisanal fishing and felling trees and mangroves to produce firewood and charcoal. However, the increasing frequency and intensity of floods, cyclones, and droughts caused by climate change is placing enormous pressure on the local marine environment, and in turn, Mozambique’s coastal populations.
Drawing on over 20 years of experience in community development work in Mozambique, and particularly in environmental conservation and climate resilience, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) is partnering with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) through the Locally Empowered Area Protection (LEAP) project. Together, we are supporting communities in coastal areas to learn and adopt diverse sustainable livelihoods and conservation strategies, ensuring the long-term preservation of biodiversity and natural marine resources along this stretch of coastline.
The initiative is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Internationale Climate Initiative (IKI). According to Hirondina Mondlane, Programme Coordinator of AKF in Mozambique, project LEAP “will promote the integration of displaced communities without endangering the environment, helping them to find alternative livelihoods in a sustainable way.”
“[The project] will promote the integration of displaced communities without endangering the environment, helping them to find alternative livelihoods in a sustainable way.”
Hirondina Mondlane, Programme Coordinato, AKF Mozambique
The LEAP project will draw lessons from a recent AKF project on Mozambique Island, Nampula province, that has seen the successful replanting and protection of mangroves by members of the local community. Rather than cutting down the trees for charcoal and firewood, local groups – mostly led by women – are now keeping honeybees in the mangroves, providing a sustainable source of income and supporting the local marine environment.
Taking a similar community-led approach to conservation and development, the LEAP project will work with four coastal communities in Metuge, Cabo Delgado province, to improve livelihoods while reducing pressure on natural resources. AKF will also support communities to build on their existing knowledge of conservation and livelihoods by sourcing technical knowledge from other AKF projects, technical consultants, and nearby communities.
Knowledge sharing between communities will be integral to the LEAP project. Communities in Metuge will have the opportunity to participate in exchanges with other communities that have been implementing similar activities for longer. For example, a local NGO called the Environmental Association (AMA) has been leading similar work in the nearby Mecufi District, providing a real-life example to the people of Metuge of how community-led conservation can be successful in the coastal context.
Representatives visited some of the communities in Metuge to speak with community members who already implement sustainable livelihood practices using local means, such as the production of organic pesticides, mulch and crop association. The project plans to utilise existing community structures, including Village Development Organisations and Community Fisheries Councils, to integrate effective conservation practices and innovations into local development plans. These organisations are the beating heart of communities, collecting and consolidating the needs and priorities of all community members and acting as community representatives in important dialogues with external partners such as government, NGOs, and the private sector.
The LEAP project will support both host community members and IDPs, with an overall aim to reach more than 2,000 people. The provincial government will be an important partner, working closely with communities to support their conservation actions. Ultimately, the project is aligned with the Aga Khan Development Network’s environment and climate change plan, which seeks to not only provide immediate humanitarian relief, but also help communities recover and rebuild with long-term resilience to disasters.
Words and photos by Safira Chirindza, Communications Assistant at AKF Mozambique.
Thank you to our partner, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. This programme is supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Internationale Climate Initiative (IKI).