The Gorongosa Restoration Project is actively developing a diverse and resilient mix of livelihoods’ initiatives and job opportunities for the most vulnerable families living in the Greater Gorongosa Landscape. The Gorongosa Priority Families Initiative addresses fundamental challenges facing the communities in central Sofala Province, including high poverty levels, few economic opportunities, poor education and health services, lack of infrastructure, a post-conflict reintegration, cyclone destruction and child marriage.
We support peace and stabilization in central Sofala (across five key districts); with the long-term wellbeing of people and the planet kept always at the forefront of our thinking. GRP is actively expanding its reach to new areas in Marromeu National Reserve, with key human development programming and reinvigorating access for employment and conservation activities in the remaining rainforests of Mount Gorongosa. With a mix of strategic interventions, GRP is accelerating a virtuous cycle of inclusive enterprises and community service-delivery initiatives that promote prosperity, well- being, and environmental stewardship across the Gorongosa landscape.
Provincial level blessing – Peace Clubs
It is important to remind ourselves that our teams are part of the government’s planning process, and as such require the blessing of the provincial authority to move forward. Thanks to the Peace Secretariat team, and our own HDD team, the Provincial Governor signed the Peace Clubs initiative two weeks ago which gave GRP the directive to begin formally to engage with ex-combatants (which we refer to as Priority Families). True stability will require a herculean effort to enable tens of thousands of families to have success some of who are Priority due to their vulnerable status.
Starting with Extension Services
Getting the green light has now allowed us to start reaching out to focal points, and identifying entry- points for support. The first entry-point is with extension services, and we will bootstrap our efforts to expand to our current group of participating families in order to reach out to these additional 600 (and growing) ex-combatants. What is important to note is that these folks are spread out across all of our active districts, so support may look very different depending on where they are, and also on the specific interests, motivations and capacities of the individuals. We’ve already jumped ahead and have reached out to some individuals and families, but now we can expand that support at a broader scale. It is also important to remember where we are in the agricultural season, and acknowledge that any planting will happen with the onsets of the first rains, in November and December.
Once we engage with extension services it will act as the gateway for deeper levels of support, such as village-based agent training, emerging farmer skills trainings, access to micro-irrigation or market linkages (dependent on skills, agronomy of soils, etc.). These opportunities have been summarized in the first version of our opportunity’s portal (which is a simple spreadsheet that we will use to engage with focal points, and priority families on a rolling basis). What we need to remember is to be cautious of creating awkward frictions, like for example, hiring thirty people from Nhamatanda for a job in Inhaminga, upsetting local people and creating potential issues. So, we want to meet people where they are, both geographically, and also in terms of their interests and capacities. We have the experience of already doing this with about 10k farmers, so we can use that experience to engage these priority families.
Current Employment by GRP
Currently, we are employing over 350 people on the mountain as seasonal workers and another 30 (of 120 across the BZ) in permanent technical jobs. Many of whom are also growing coffee and native trees. Helping stabilize the mountain will undoubtedly support in our efforts to stabilize the region. We have a new initiative using carbon and assisted rainforest regeneration with forest guardians, that we expect to raise additional capital and employ additional people. Furthermore, we are exploring the extraction of the invasive species hyacinth from the core park area, for use in organic fertilizer production; creating many opportunities for employment. We have even managed to set up starter nurseries in Sadujira, the area where the DDR camp was and was the focus of much of the Peace Secretariats hard work in the beginning of this process. These are the first non-combatant jobs ever to exist on the mountain in the history of Mozambique. It is a real honor to be introducing this program and getting it to scale.
In the rest of the buffer zone, as we mentioned above, we are working with thousands of families. We’ve planted over 500,000 cashew seedlings for families. Cashew, like coffee, takes some time but we don’t stop there, utilizing interrow cropping methods to promote food security. Also, other teams in operations, conservation and human development employ collectively around 1,200 individuals from the local area; these folks come from the most vulnerable and remote communities that were hit the hardest by years of conflict and cyclone Idai. I believe these statistics paint a very compelling story and a very accurate story about how we are utilizing resources to stabilize the big picture.
Looking ahead, we will engage in three big initiatives – building a cashew nucleus farm (near Vanduzi), building a farmer service center (in Bebedo) and a developing a cashew processing facility (in Vila Gorongosa Sede). Being sensitive to people’s movements, there will be myriad opportunities for our target group. We have been working hard to mobilize funding to build these three projects, pitching multiple sources, and we may have gotten close now with an effort to work with the Mozambican Government’s Sustenta project. We are hopeful that they can help us finance these three projects, and then we can put a lot of people to work, with real jobs. Meanwhile, we will continue to bootstrap existing funding to reach to even more stakeholders on the ground.
We will reach every single ex-combatant, we will meet them where they are (interests, capacities, aspirations and geography) and we will have provable impact. GRP is here for a long time, and we expect that we can have some strong results in the short term, and some transformative results in the long term.
Intervention Region and Target beneficiaries:
The Gorongosa Priority Family Initiative focuses on the communities surrounding the Gorongosa National Park — buffer zone – including: Cheringoma, Muanza, Gorongosa, Nhamatanda, Maringue (limited), Marromeu (new) and Dondo (limited).
There are over 250,000 people living in these seven districts. The GPFI aims to reach the most vulnerable and the greatest change agents across the landscape with employment opportunities, direct engagement and support, and indirect benefits. These target beneficiaries are:
– Small-holder farm families;
– Eco-tourism employees;
– Sustainable forestry employees
– Agricultural extension workers;
– Teachers and school directors;
– Primary and secondary students, with focus on girls;
– Community members, in particular women,
– Pregnant women and elders;
– Traditional leaders;
– School council members;
– Local artisans;
– Community workers, such as education promoters, Agentes Polivalentes Elementares (APEs), Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA), model moms (MM)
– Ex-combatants for reintegration;
– Idai impacted families;
– Local government.