By Bridget Conneely - Mount Gorongosa is a sacred place and is considered a provider for the local people who live there. The local communities that have been living on Mount Gorongosa for generations recognize the importance of the mountain in providing them with fresh, clean water year-round. This song sung by the women of a local mountain community shows their reverence for the mountain, and the importance of the rivers it creates:
“The rivers are born in the Mountain.
They are born small and grow larger downstream.
I have never been to where rivers like Mucoza, Zingazinga, Nhauenje are born, or even the Nhandar.
We see them here, but never go where they are born.
The Mountain was made by Mulungu, by God.
All of us, even those who can walk only with the help of a stick, or have to be carried, found the Mountain here.
It was made before our ancestors were born when all the land here was created.”
- said by the women of Nhauenje
Photo: Community women doing a traditional dance (by Jeff Barbee)
The communities on Mount Gorongosa are very remote and it is difficult for many people to travel to the nearest hospital. The Ecohealth program, funded in part by the U.S. Government (USAID and PEPFAR), is an initiative that Gorongosa National Park has implemented to provide health services and health education to people living around the park. About 60% of all Ecohealth activities take place on the mountain because this area is so remote and access to health services is a major challenge that we are working hard to solve.
Two thirds of the weekly mobile clinics organized by the Ecohealth program in collaboration with local government health providers take place on the mountain. These clinics bring doctors and nurses to very remote communities for a day to treat patients, administer vaccines, provide pre and post natal care, family planning and HIV counseling and testing. Ecohealth’s community health workers are members of communities who are given special training in health education to teach their community members about disease prevention, health promotion, and even treat the most common illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections. About half of these community health workers live on Mount Gorongosa and support their communities every day. About two thirds of Ecohealth’s traditional birth attendants also live and work in communities on Mount Gorongosa. Their job is to provide health education to expectant mothers and to accompany the mothers to the nearest clinic to increase chances of a safe birth for both mother and child and to prevent vertical transmission of HIV/AIDS. These health programs on Mount Gorongosa have helped thousands of local community members get the health care and preventative education that they need.
Photo: Laurinha Paulino is a traditional birth attendant on Mount Gorongosa
One of the keys to protecting Mount Gorongosa’s rainforest is to understand and educate people about the connection between a healthy forest and the water that supplies life to both the people and wildlife of Gorongosa. Our community education team works with local people, especially children, to teach them about the importance of forests to their land and their future. They bring local children to the Community Education Center (CEC) in the park to show them first-hand the wilderness they are living next door to. They also teach children and adults sustainable agriculture techniques and engage them in tree planting workshops in their communities. Educating these children about the importance of protecting Mount Gorongosa’s rainforest is vital for their future as well as the future of Gorongosa National Park.
Photo: Local children at a tree planting workshop (by Anton Crone)