Photo credit: Gorongosa archives
The Gorongosa National Park (GNP) in Mozambique once hosted 100’s to even 1,000’s lions, elephants, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck, impala, and hippos during the last century. However, this landscape has been subjected to stress over time and a great loss in biodiversity because of war, overexploitation, poaching, deforestation, burning, wildlife-human conflict, agricultural expansion, and increasing population. Through community involvement and hard work, GNP achieved a transformational shift in the implementation of restoration and conservation projects in recent years. This was the topic of discussion between Larissa Sousa (Associate Director for Communications Department, GNP) and Temitope Adelola (WILDHUB Conservation Catalyst), as we hear about lessons learned from GNP.
Temi: What challenges has GNP faced in the past that have hampered conservation project success?
Larissa Sousa: The park's main challenges have been poverty and a lack of education, which usually hampered conservation efforts. The Gorongosa National Park works in rural areas where issues such as a lack of technical tools, access to education, and a shortage of teachers, among others, exist and limit conservation goals from being met because it increases their reliance on natural resources, in unsustainable ways.
The Gorongosa National Park's 2022 Strategic Plan includes goals, objectives, and programs that bring it closer to creating a more sustainable future for flora, fauna, and surrounding communities. Examples include:
- Generate cutting-edge environmental knowledge by creating the best scientific infrastructure of any national park in the world.
- Protect an intact ecosystem that moderates climate change by absorbing water during a flood and retaining moisture in a dry season.
- Serve as a source of nature-based economic development, creating sustainable jobs for communities that share the Park's wider ecosystem.
Temi: How has GNP addressed these issues to improve conservation efforts?
Photo credit: Gorongosa archives
Larissa Sousa: The Gorongosa National Park understands the concept of human wellbeing and approaches rural community issues from this perspective in order to achieve conservation goals. The Park has several departments, including human development and sustainable development. The Human Development Department focuses on improving health services, nutrition, and community relations in order to raise conservation awareness. The sustainable development department focuses on livelihood projects such as honey, coffee, cashew, and fisheries. The Park provides technical assistance and assists the community in utilizing natural resources for sustainability on their own. The department works with local communities to build capacity, diversify income, and raise conservation awareness in a sustainable manner. The Park also works on education through extracurricular activities to help children and youth stay in school by creating various interesting clubs that ensure that the challenges are addressed for sustainability. Finally, the park learns from countries that have achieved conservation goals in the past. The Gorongosa National Park has learned a lot from Rwanda a country that recently hosted the African Protected Areas Congress -APAC, and Kenya where we learned about the bee hives fences approach, in which the community sets up honey hives to discourage elephants from entering the community and they can also collect the honey to sell as a livelihood.
Temi: Which lessons learned can you share regarding the Gorongosa restoration project that could benefit the wider conservation community/people working on this topic?
conservation is for everyone and it’s a long-term investment. It is important to understand people's needs in order to achieve conservation goals. Conservation is all about achieving harmony between humans and nature. As a result, if people's needs are considered, there is a high likelihood of achieving positive results for sustainability because they will always be available to help.
Secondly, adaptability. Sometimes assumptions are made that a plan will go in a certain direction, but it may not; however, things will always be better through adaptability, the use of local resources, and collaboration with local people.
Finally, investing in young people has aided in the achievement of a sustainable approach.
Temi: Thank you Larissa for taking the time to speak with me today and for sharing your lessons learned in your work at GNP.
Facebook link to Gorongosa activities: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Parque-Nacional-Gorongosa/425621834312205