FROM IMPROVED GOVERNANCE TO COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT IN SAVING MOZAMBIQUE’S DUGONGS

A lot can change in a short time in this information age – so too for conservation. Following successes strengthening governance in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago National Park which was supported by an SOS grant 2011-2013, the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) strategy has developed further.

Dugongo Patrol Boat purchased using SOS funding Photo: Endangered Wildlife Trust

Currently EWT is focused on community-based fisheries management in Bazaruto. Bridget Jonker, Sea to Source Manager with EWT explains how and why.

“The initiation of discussions with African Parks Network to take over the management of the park was an important milestone some years ago. While that process continues developing we are also handing over responsibility and resources related to park governance to Mozambican authorities including two patrol boats funded by the SOS grant” explains Bridget.  

Meanwhile supported by some 21st century solutions including a fisheries app and a BRUV – Baited Underwater Remote Video system - the conservation effort is becoming increasingly embedded in local culture.

For example, the piloting of a smartphone app among three fisher villages on Bazaruto Island is helping empower communities in the practical conservation of their main source of food. There are challenges, such as limited access to smartphones or to power supplies for recharging devices however. Yet the project team remains optimistic the solution will work because of the sense of ownership reported among the fishers who collect the data to inform their own fishing decisions.

A related activity is the evaluation of fisheries’ health in different seagrass meadows around the park.  Graduate students based in Maputo Eduardo Mondlane University are helping deploying the BRUV system to collect visual data which can also be used for short presentations revealing the underwater world to communities in the evening. This first in a cycle of seasonal surveys indicated the no-take zones were far healthier than other parts of the archipelago.

These BRUV surveys and the app pilot combined with a series of in-depth interviews with fishers who own nets allowed the project team to gain insights into potential fisheries management issues. Performed with the assistance of a local guide and translator, these interview s revealed the complexity of the situation with often competing priorities. Fundamentally, there seemed to be general agreement there were already too many nets on the island yet nobody wished to deprive another of realising their dream of owning their own net!

Bridget sums it up, “Fishing is integral to cultural identity.  We want to co-create solutions, which enable the fishers to continue fishing but also to manage the resource efficiently, to protect seagrass habitats and dugongs and to adapt to the changing climate”.

By focusing on fisheries issues, EWT streamlines its own activities while coordinating more closely with its partners in the GEF Global Dugongs and Seagrass Conservation Project Mozambique - Blue Ventures, Dugongos (a conservation organisation based in nearby Vilankulo) and the Ministry for Land, Environment and Rural Development (MITADER).

Through planning, communication and cooperation all are aligned to ensure a collective conservation and social impact according to a four point strategy aimed at ensuring the Mozambique dugong population is reproductively viable by 2030; the seagrass ecosystems are maintained and coastal communities are managing their own marine resources.  And while technological solutions for the field may change rapidly, achieving these conservation goals is an iterative and slower process.

The next challenge ?  To have a permanent locally managed field presence to coordinate activities and partners on the ground supported by other foreign-based organisations. This will be more cost-efficient but also more sustainable over the longer-term from a cultural perspective – enhancing the chances that practical conservation behaviours can be integrated into the way of life around Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. With the foundations of strengthened governance in place, and partners aligned to that 2030 vision, the first steps have been accomplished already.

This story concerns just one of more than 250 threatened species supported by more than 100 projects in the SOS portfolio. Each one completed offers a wealth of practical lessons and insights into conservation action across numerous taxonomic groups and challenges. Explore the SOS project pages and sign up for the SOS newsletter to keep up to date on further news from our grantees and visit the Dugong project page here to learn more.

 

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