The second leg of the Manda Wilderness Project is Conservation. Nkwichi successfully protects its pristine concession of 650 hectares, with 4km of coastline, from poaching, over-fishing and uncontrolled fires. As a result zebra, warthog, kudu and otter are starting to return.
In partnership with the communities, a huge conservation area of 120,000 hectares (roughly the size of greater London) has also been established. The Manda Wilderness Community Conservation Area (MWCCA) covers an area between the lakeshore and the Messinge River, 40km to the east. The lakeshore and escarpment have dry land forests, while thinly wooded savannah and marsh land exists on the plateau. It is a pristine wilderness area, with great potential for both wildlife and tourism – recent wildlife sightings include wild dog, elephant, bushbuck, reedbuck, duiker, sable, hippo and leopard.
The aim of the MWCCA is to encourage villagers to work together to make the most of their natural resources – and to avoid over-using them. With the help of local NGOs, Nyanja communities have agreed to stop hunting wild animals and cutting wood for export. Instead they focus on agriculture and tourism – activities which should produce better long-term results.
Community participation has been constant throughout the 12-year project. A local community association, known as UMOJI (meaning ‘As One’), has been formed to represent all 16 villages within the area. UMOJI, of which Nkwichi Lodge is a founding member and sits on the current Council of Direction, legally owns and manages the conservation area. A first in Mozambique, each of the communities also hold the titles to their own community land.
The next stage in this project is to arrange training for the UMOJI Association to help it manage the conservation area, while implementing a professional management plan for the MWCCA, written in 2009 and approved by the Mozambique Government in 2011. The area will then be opened to tourists who will pay fees for visiting the reserve. This revenue will be used to help cover the running costs for MWCCA, with any surplus going to UMOJI.
The success of the Manda Wilderness Community Conservation Area will put the communities’ destiny in their own hands, giving them a sustainable resource for future generations.