Message from Pedro Muagura – Park Warden Gorongosa National Park
2019 has been a very turbulent year for central Sofala Province, with far-reaching events such as the devastating Cyclone Idai strike, but on the other hand also the monumental achievement of the peace agreement signed between the Government of Mozambique and the opposition Renamo Party. By virtue of its location, Gorongosa National Park has been at the heart of these happenings and has engaged in its all-encompassing conservationand development mission.
On 15 March, Cyclone Idai made landfall in Beira. Overnight the storm swept across Sofala and Manica provinces and left more the 600 people dead and affected over 1.3 million. The storm destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and thousands of hectares of crops, and ripped off the roofs of schools and clinics. Trees were uprooted across entire landscapes. But the worst was to come for those living in areas prone to flooding – many of them in the Buffer Zone of the Gorongosa National Park. With the Pungue and Urema rivers overflowing, their modest homes were flooded, fields and harvests destroyed and families cut off from any land access and help for weeks. I am immensely proud to say that the Gorongosa team stepped in wholeheartedly and immediately – before the international response could even get into motion – and started a decisive emergency relief effort. For months we not only rehabilitated the Park itself – fixed roads, bridges, cleaned up fallen trees and set up our projects anew, but more importantly, we transformed into a food distribution and medical support team that assisted our Park neighbours in this time of need.
Overall, we delivered 500 tonnes of food to more than 80,000 people in some of the worst affected areas, mostly south of the Park. We hired two helicopters and were able to reach those no one else was able to reach. We set up an emergency response unit and orchestrated a wellcoordinated relief effort. Thankfully, we received support from many concerned individuals, businesses and organisations and raised an astonishing US$400,000 from our web-based fundraising effort alone. The team of African Parks also provided much welcome relief to our Buffer Zone with their helicopter and technical team.
I am amazed at how much we could all achieve together during this trying time. Thank you all for your hard work and your support!
The post-cyclone rehabilitation is an ongoing responsibility, and Idai’s aftermath will be felt for years to come. Some of our Buffer Zone development programs have suffered significant setbacks and we are now focusing on helping the local farmers to access seeds for the new growing season, while other programs are only slowly picking up impetus after the catastrophe.
We gained fresh momentum and hope however, by the signing of the epic Peace Accord between the Government of Mozambique and the opposition Renamo Party. While they had already agreed to a ceasefire in December 2016, it took almost three years before the peace deal was accomplished. Gorongosa National Park had been central in the negotiation process throughout, and this historical moment remains closely connected to the Park.
All these natural and political circumstances have had a strong bearing on our conservation mandate and on the Buffer Zone communities we work with so closely. I do not know of any other park in the world that would have been as strongly affected and linked to the destiny of the people living around it as we were in 2019. More than ever we deserve to call it ‘Our Gorongosa – A Park for the People’.
Join me by reading our Highlights 2019 report, which gives you a glimpse of each of our programs during this past year. We are immensely grateful to all our supporters, our donors and our friends who continue to help us deliver our work. Your motivation and reinforcement are what keep us going!
Having the signing of the cessation of hostilities accord in Gorongosa is an opportunity to show the world the intrinsic bond that exists between conservation, peace and development. Pedro Muagura, Park Warden, Gorongosa National Park