Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Another day

It’s supposed to be winter!!   But no rest for the wicked!  

Now that I feel summer coming  (even though I know there are still going to be a few cold spells),  my heart turns to the cool Scottish highlands which should be covered in purple heather now.  Sigh…   the smell of peat fires on an autumn afternoon, a pint in a cosy pub…

Even though people think I live in Paradise, Scotland is like a drug for me.  I can’t explain it.  I have almost 90% of the year sunshine here.  But I am yearning for the soft grey rains, wandering alone up on the hills.

I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.  During my wild youth in London  (all I cared about was parties – to the point where there was no distinction between weekends and weekdays – I lived in a flat of crazy Kiwis)   I used to dream away the tube ride thinking of the big black clouds racing up over the veldt to pour down a sudden shower, and the thorn trees enjoying the rain.  I didn’t return to Africa for 5 years, until my visa ran out, and I had no choice.  It was strange flying over the dry red soil.  I wasn't exactly happy about it.

Now I’ve been sitting this side for 10 years to the month, and every day my feet are just itching to go walking in Assynt, Sutherland.  C’est la vie!  I must make a plan.

In the meantime…  I am pleased to say that the numbers of buck (antelope) in the Elephant Reserve are visibly increasing.  The Reserve has stepped up security, (and entrance fees).  It is wonderful to actually see the animals now.   When I first started driving here 9 years ago, there were lots of animals. Then it seemed to shrink to almost nothing, and I was finding bullet shells lying in the road.  Now the numbers seem to be rising again – WONDERFUL!   There is nothing sadder than an empty landscape – seeing shadows of how it was and should be.

I’ve spent many hours thinking how to give the Reserve a voice.  Most people just drive through it on the way to Santa Maria (there is no choice, we have to drive through the Reserve to get home).  But a big project in the area (almost bordering the Reserve) has risen the Reserve’s profile with many wealthy Europeans involved in the project.   Still, the human-elephant conflict continues, and as far as I am aware – the people still have permission to shoot an elephant in their grounds (if they wander off the Reserve).
Its essential that the local community see the financial benefit of conservation otherwise they will not bother to conserve.  And by the time, a new generation grows up, it will be too late to redeem what has been lost.

There is a new 5-star lodge being built in the Reserve (job please!!)  and the community will own, I think, 25% shares in this development.  This is a great model which can be emulated elsewhere.  The community will now have incentive to conserve what the tourists are paying big  $ to come see.

I guess growing up in undeveloped bush, the people want the bling of the western world - that they see whizzing past them (people - its 30KM per hour in the Ellie Reserve - the city slickers keep having head-on collisions because they are not respecting the speed limit, and what about hitting the poor animals?)
Some of our ellies are angry - still from the war - they have chased my bum many times.  My previous vehicle was a little black Pajero that I bought off the ships from Japan - ellies are short-sighted - I am convinced they thought it was another elephant.  If people enter the animals' environment, they need to respect the rules of engagement.  I wonder why some people are drawn to these pristine environments, and then do everything in their power to mess them up.

Best I be off to carry on with my paw paw (papaya) hedge that I am planting for the bushbabies so they will always have food.  Bananas are their favorites, but alas I don't seem to have green fingers, and mine keep dying.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Will Somebody please wake up!!

This business of Isaac’s murder is weighing heaving on my heart.

Isaac was our induna (chief), a position passed down through his family.

On 15 July 2012 he was gunned down in his house, which is down our dune, along the sand road, up the next dune.  His dogs had all been poisoned that morning, and he remarked to a family member that when he was finished burying the dogs, he would be killed.
So he knew what was coming.

The rumour on the wind is that the cold-blooded killing, which was apparently carried out by a hitman from South Africa, was motivated by jealousy.

I wonder how much social fragmentation has been caused by the development occurring in the area.   And if there is anything we can do to help.  Is it too late?

The land in Mozambique belongs to the government – it was nationalised after the war.
To develop here, you need to submit a plan to the government, and also obtain community approval.

Despite the land belonging to the government, the community tradition still has it divided amongst families.  For example, where the lodge that I worked at was built, that land belonged to Lucia – this really sweet lady who must be in her seventies.  So it is the Lodge’s “obligation” to look after Lucia and her family – if they need medicine or help with education fees, they come to the Lodge.  It’s a patriarchal system, but it’s the only system at the moment whereby Lucia can get help.  It is not set in stone, and any developer can just say no once they’ve got what they want – the land.

Isaac, being induna, had the unique power of being able to sign off or refuse to provide community approval for applications made by developers.  i.e. I could submit an application to build a lodge, and Isaac could veto or approve it on behalf of the community.  The community has a development committee and they are all supposed to approve or veto the projects, but in reality it was difficult to get past Isaac.

So this placed him in a position of power which was resented by certain would-be developers, and some community members alike.
He held shares in quite a few of the projects here, and his dhow got a lot more business than the other dhows, ferrying building material from Maputo.  He was also a sharp businessman who made using his dhow a lot more simple and this also contributed to him getting more business for it.

For my part I liked Isaac a lot.  I enjoyed his dry sense of humour and given that I don’t speak a word of Portuguese (beside “12 beers please” and “thankyou” – yes I know this is shocking after 9 years here, but French, German came so easily.  Portuguese, Italian, Spanish – somehow I just don’t get them); the fact that he spoke perfect English, helped me a lot.   I miss being able to go to him and explain my problem to him.  Nobody has replaced him yet, but it won’t be the same.

“Development ought to be what human communities do to themselves.”

(Adams, W.M.  Green Development:  Environment and Sustainability in the Third World,
London: Routledge, 1990:199)

But the people here have not had much choice on how it has been done to them.  Yes, they can approve or veto a project, but a large enough investor can simply go the government and kind of push it through.  And if the community anyway approve the project, they have no say on how it is implemented.
They lack the foresight of possible implications, the vocabulary to express their concerns, and the knowledge to offer any viable alternative.  Years of war and deprivation have made them eager for any kind of development.

Thus there rests with the developer a moral responsibility to the community.  To not take advantage of this eagerness.  To put back in, instead of just taking out.  Some build schools and clinics, depending on the size of the project.

Of course, the government and their policy makers have it in their power to protect the people.  I make no comment here – I am not familiar with Mozambique laws or the context against which they are played out.  I am simply sitting at my desk looking out over the forest and the ocean, and thinking about Isaac.  This is not intended to be a hot-shot academic article, merely my own observations on a rather breezy August morning.

Living here for 9 years – I can see the impact of development as clearly as the first sun ray striking the forest under my window.   Families are sometimes divided such as Isaac's was, and jealous of each other.  One brother wants to approve a project as he will gain, the other wants somebody else to have the family land.

The children are bemused by the mostly white people roaring around on their expensive toys – jetskis, quad bikes.  Kids in ragged clothing play next to a luxury 4x4 standing outside the village shop – a vehicle which could keep half the community in food and clothing for a couple of years.

The contrast pulls at my heart strings.  And I turn a blind eye to the stones sometimes thrown by the children at the tourists driving past in their airconditioned bubbles.   I get damn angry when the drunk fishing men roar around on their quad bikes through the local’s crops and chickens.  But luckily these incidents which showcase the worst ethnocentric traits of European culture are few, and quad bikes and noisy toys are not encouraged here, unlike further south.

The effect on the landscape is also profound.  There is one remaining valley to the north of my house left for the animals, and now it has been approved for a project.  Where will the rare honey badger go?  The only one I ever saw was dead, having been caught in a snare.  The baby duikers and the striped mongoose, the nests of the fish eagle – all of these are in jeopardy.
They are being sacrificed to development – but who is the true beneficiary of this development?  The local community – I fear not.  It’s the foreign developers who don’t even live here.
The local community and the animals and environment pay the price.

So ultimately a large portion of responsibility rests with the tourists.  If there is no demand, the trees will not get chopped down to build accommodation.
And herein lies a question of my life – if the trees are not chopped down to make room for chalets or tents, will they not be chopped down for firewood?   The communities are growing fast.  People that went away to South Africa to the war are returning to their ancestral lands.  There is a strange gap in the generations here – I think it’s the men that went to the war and did not return.  A lot of the men don’t know their real age as the mothers used to lie to the soldiers that came to call them up.

I started an MBA in tourism development in 2010.  I fell foul of stats and quit.  I HATE numbers!  But I don’t need numbers in fancy patterns to see this big gaping hole where the forest used to be and which some lazy fool of a developer has simply burnt to the ground.

If nature-based tourism is one of the fastest growing industry (another stat) greed needs to be replaced with consideration for the balance of life otherwise the development which is supposed to save the environment is going to destroy it.

Life is all about balance.  Balance between the fish taken out of the nets each day, and the growth of the community they are to feed.  Balance between return on investment and the number of tourists that the area can SUSTAINABLY support.   Unfortunately this is simply not part of so many people’s emotional intelligence.  Greed, greed, greed.

Trees burning, forests dying, animals crying…

but nobody is listening!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Maputo Special Reserve

Lake Maunde Maputo Special Reserve

Watching Rewilding at Maputo Special Reserve

The road home

Santa Maria Point, Machangulo, Mozambique

Mangroves, Machangulo, Mozmabique


I love the view of Maputo from Catembe

But not the litter

Ice cold Savannahs here, yum yum

Catembe Car Ferry to Maputo

Home Sweet Home

Home on the Dune
The water in the background is the Bay, and in the front of the photo is the Indian Ocean

My beloved Boerboel, Leo


Bambi - as sale for bushmeat.  I raised her with a bottle for a few weeks.
Eventually I released her into the Elephant Reserve
I like to think of her walking around in the forest

She loved honey!!

Harry used to fly in for minceballs and clack until he got them

After the rains, on the road to Maputo

Shebeen on Inhaca island

Looking for mud crabs

Our old watering hole, but then unfortunately it burnt down

The President visiting the area

Thinking of another project

Bart, I picked him up in the Reserve.  I think an eagle dropped him on his head.
Eventually I had to euthanase him.

A new dhow being built

The community launching a new dhow

In the Elephant Reserve

Vasco and Cleo just want to swim, swim, swim

Santa Maria village - Zac's pub

Building material arriving

Mongoose on the dune



Cleo and I surveying our forest

I love the flamingos 

This monkey likes the view too

Every day he visits

Not a good idea to fly 3 months pregnant - nice to have friends like these 

This school was built by a developer in the area - this is the opening