Mozambique Helped to Conserve Wild Places, Develop Ecotourism

WASHINGTON, DC, December 5, 2005 (ENS) - The conservation of biodiversity and natural ecosystems in Mozambique on Africa's southeastern coast is about to receive supportive grants totalling $33.7 million from the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility and the government of Japan. At the same time, international conservation organizations and the United Nations have joined forces with WWF to conserve Mozambique's unique marine habitat and wildlife.

The World Bank Board of Directors last week approved an International Development Association credit of US$20 million for conservation that will also be used to promote economic growth and development based on the sustainable use of natural resources by local communities in Mozambique.

The project also will be financed by a US$10 million grant from the Global Environment Facility as approved by the GEF Council in October 2005, as well as a US$3.7 million grant from the Japanese Policy and Human Resources Development Fund.

The Trans-frontier Conservation Area and Tourism Development Project is aimed at conserving biodiversity in the southern Africa region by maintaining intact, large natural ecosystems and ecological linkages that span national borders. Management of the initiative will be entrusted to the National Directorate for Conservation Areas.

The grants will finance the establishment and management of multiple purpose conservation areas in three areas with trans-border biodiversity linkages on the Mozambican border with neighboring countries.

“The project will increase revenues for communities from the growth in environmentally sustainable tourism in the three trans-frontier conservation areas (TFCA) of Chimanimani, Lubombo and Greater Limpopo,” said Jean-Michel Pavy, who leads the World Bank Task Team for this project.

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The Chimanimani Mountains from Zimbabwe looking east to Mozambique. (Photo by Mort Poultney courtesy Gordon Poultney)
Mozambique's Chimanimani mountains, which share a border with Zimbabwe's national park of the same name, is designated by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area.

The site is situated at the intersection of three biomes - Afrotropical Highlands, East African Coast and Zambezian - and as a result is probably the area of greatest avian diversity within Mozambique, BirdLife explains.

Chimanimani is inhabited by rare birds such as the Swynnerton's robin, Swynnertonia swynnertoni, and the blue swallow, Hirundo atrocaerulea, both listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN-World Conservation Union.

The Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area, created in 2000, is shared by three countries - Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland. It includes the Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park on the Indian Ocean coast, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999. There are large numbers of nesting turtles on these beaches; the migration of whales, dolphins and whale-sharks off-shore; and huge numbers of waterfowl including large breeding colonies of pelicans, storks, herons and terns.

The conservation of at least 1,350 elephants will be supported by the newly funded project as the Lubombo also encompasses the Ndumo-Tembe-Futi TFCA, which links the Maputo Special Reserve in Mozambique with the Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa.

The Ndumo-Tembe-Futi TFCA also will provide support for the estimated 5,000 people living alongside the corridor. The boundaries of the TFCA have been defined through local consultation and through analysis of data on elephants tracked with satellite collars by the Conservation Ecology Research Unit of the University of Pretoria.

Community support for the TFCA is dependent on the authorities' abillity to reduce human-elephant conflict. The Peace Parks Foundation will provide training of rangers in elephant protection and training for local communities in human-elephant conflict mitigation techniques.

The Greater Limpopo Park is one of the world's largest conservancies, straddling parts of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The Mozambican side of the park covers about 40,000 square kilometers, inhabited by about 20,000 people when the park was created in 2002. Some of the former inhabitants have been relocated and nearly 6,000 wild animals such as giraffes, zebras, impalas, gazelles, antelopes, warthogs have been relocated into Mozambique from South Africa,

Limpopo

The Limpopo River empties into the Indian Ocean between the African mainland and southern tip of the island nation of Madagascar. (Photo courtesy Siyabona Africa)
The newly funded Trans-frontier Conservation Area and Tourism Development Project aims to help build the capacity of public sector institutions at all levels and the capacity of local communities to manage biodiversity and natural resources.

“It will also support the government’s efforts in improving the business environment with a view to stimulating private sector investments and private sector-led economic growth,” Pavy said.

The project will help create the policy, legal and institutional framework for the government of Mozambique to improve regional collaboration in the management of trans-frontier resources. It will promote interagency collaboration and vertical linkages between central and local governments.

In addition, it will help form and sustain productive partnerships with the private sector in the management of the environment and in the promotion of ecotourism in Mozambique.

The Trans-frontier Conservation Area and Tourism Development Project will support the identification, monitoring and protection of the most significant and vulnerable biodiversity assets within the three conservation areas through the establishment, rehabilitation and management of a network of national parks and reserves.

Other project activities will define and implement a series of practical steps to ensure that biodiversity and natural resource assets are mainstreamed in district development plans. Project leaders intend to develop the capacity of the tourism sector to participate in the preparation and implementation of tourism master plans for key tourism districts.

Also last week WWF announced a new partnership with other conservation organizations and with the United Nations to conserve Mozambique's unique marine habitat and wildlife.

The UN Environment Programme, the UN Foundation, the International Coral Reef Action Network, and Conservation International will provide financial support to activities being implemented by WWF in and around Mozambique's Primeiras and Segundas Islands.

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Green turtle in Mozambique (Photo courtesy WWF-Canon/Jürgen Freund)
"The main goal of this project is to create a functioning protected area in the Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago area so that we can protect the unique habitat, as well as threatened and endangered species," said Helena Motta, WWF-Mozambique's country coordinator.

An education programme targeting fishermen is already underway to further enhance and raise awareness of the need for protecting birds, marine turtles, coral reefs, sharks, whales and dolphins.

Green turtles, Chelonia mydas, live in the archipelago, where more than 25 nesting sites have already been protected. Other turtle species include the hawksbill, Eretmochelys imbricata, and the loggerhead, Caretta caretta. All species of marine turtles are listed as endangered. WWF has been tagging these turtles for scientific research and to allow local fishermen to identify them if they accidentally catch the turtles in their nets.

The islands are inhabited by thousands of birds, including a colony of more than 30,000 nests of sooty terns, Sterna fuscata, and greater crested terns, Sterna bergii, which nest there between May and November. The bird sites are currently being protected by a local fishermen's association. Groups of humpback whales are seen frequently at this time of year around the islands.

Motta explains that conservation of the wild animals and birds depends upon the support of the local community, saying, "We are not only working to improve the status of the local wildlife, but also to improve the living standards of the people who depend on these waters for their livelihoods."