Education is how we hope to shape the future. At Gorongosa National Park, we teach local people (especially children) the principles and values of environmental conservation so they will be willing and able to help us protect the Park in the future.
Teaching conservation to kids
At our Conservation Education Center (CEC), funded by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and IPAD (Instituto Português de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento) we bring in busloads of children from surrounding communities to learn. We help them form "Enviro-clubs" and learn about basic environmental principles and the best practices of sustainable agriculture. School by school, we are creating thousands of little ambassadors for Gorongosa National Park!
The kids are invited to participate in 3-4 day seminars while staying at the CEC. The children sing and dance, they go on safari and participate in an educational/cultural exchange with another enviro-club from a different community. They have a lot of practical lessons at the CEC, which is important for their understanding. The students learn about the local plant and animal-life. They work in the tree nursery, learning how to make biodegradable tree planters made from banana leaves (a locally abundant natural resource). And, they collect seeds to grow in other tree planters that they fill and water throughout their time at the CEC. The children also have time to use the CEC library and play games that they may not have access to in their communities.
By understanding and appreciating their ecosystem, they will be more likely to stand up for its protection in the future. Kids leave with a profoundly changed understanding of the world they live in and the animals they live amongst.
We understand that it is an impossible goal to reach all of the children in the buffer zone, so the next best thing is to work with the teachers that are educating them. The teachers are forming Gorongosa’s future conservationists. If the teachers are well informed about conservation, the Park and its importance, then they will pass that information onto their classes. The teachers participate in 3-4 day workshops at the CEC where they learn how to create enviro-clubs at their schools, how to produce ecological tree-planters from banana leaves (an abundant local resource), how to complete community projects, and much more. Many of these teachers have formed enviro-clubs after participating in these seminars, and also promote the creation of these ecological tree-planters at their schools.
Teaching Gorongosa Employees
Many Gorongosa employees have been working for the Park for many years, but in many cases, they have never had the opportunity to go for a game drive in the Park and may not even understand the importance of the Park ecologically and economically. The Community Education Center staff developed a one-day program to expose them to the various projects and departments of the Park. It was designed to teach them the history and importance of Gorongosa National Park. It enabled them to go on a game drive as well as have an important session with Human Resources going into depth about their rights and duties as employees.
Engaging Local Leaders
Local leaders from surrounding communities are integral to effective conservation. They have a huge amount of influence in their communities, and we try to show them the importance of using that influence to promote conservation initiatives in their communities.
Mobile Movie Sessions
One great way to promote the Park and conservation in communities is by entertaining them! Our mobile movie sessions are afternoon or evening affairs involving football games, comedy, an educational theater skit, and pictures taken during the event highlighting members of the community. The culminating event is the screening of National Geographic’s documentary, “Gorongosa: Africa’s Lost Eden” in Sena, the local dialect. These are very popular events, sometimes drawing 400+ community members to participate.
In the Gorongosa area, schools often lack the basics like pens and paper, and classes are often held under the shade of a tree. The quality of learning inevitably suffers. We work to improve the infrastructure and resources of local schools. In Vinho, for example, a village adjacent to the Park, we have built a new school, which is packed every day with the happy faces of children with a bright future. Visit the school in Vinho