The project is entitled Implementation of Adaptive Strategies for the Conservation of Monte Chiperone and is part of the financing program of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. It is being developed in the province of Zambézia, Milange district in a very rich area in the fauna as a floristic area, evidence that adds to the fact that it is part of an important area called Biodiversity Hotspot of the Eastern Afro-mountainous Region, where it plays a relevant role structural and functional connectivity, a fact that makes it a unique ecosystem that deserves attention in the context of conservation.
This project emerges as a response to a socio-ecological baseline made by Verde Azul Consult in the communities surrounding Monte Chiperone whose main objective was to support the local community to get involved in conservation activities promoting sustainable livelihoods. With the implementation of the socio-ecological baseline, the natural resources present on the hill were identified as representing an important natural capital for communities, as they depend heavily on these resources and are the source for obtaining their subsistence. However, it was identified that communities are strictly dependent on natural resources, putting great pressure on them.
In contrast, it was also identified that the lack of conservation strategies and sustainable use of natural resources is putting the forest and its biodiversity at risk. The main vector for forest degradation is the practice of agriculture and the exploitation of timber and non-timber forest resources, which in turn is where the communities’ greatest source of subsistence is obtained. Subsistence agriculture is practiced, the main feature of which is the use of fire to clean the land, a factor that has led to uncontrolled burning, eliminating extensive areas degrading biodiversity on Mount Chiperone.
However, the project aims to develop strategies for the conservation of natural resources led by local communities, focused on active participation and empowerment, thus promoting the conservation of biodiversity and the socioeconomic development of local communities. To this end, two strategies are being developed, namely:
- Introduction of conservation farming techniques in the lowlands, to make farmers who set up their farms on the mountain moving to the lowlands, reducing the pressure on the biodiversity of Mount Chiperone;
- Implementation of an agroforestry system on the mountain to add the tree component (which was eliminated for the opening of farms) allowing the interaction between the agricultural and perennial components, which will contribute to the increase in ecological connectivity, as well as to improve or increase ecological services simultaneously in the same area.
These strategies have the same purpose, which is to allow a balanced integration both in terms of social class and gender, reducing poverty through the implementation of practices that will contribute to improving the well-being of communities, reducing negative environmental impacts, reinforcing the ecological integrity of the ecosystem in the long term.
Implementation of strategies
According to the socio-ecological baseline, the communities abandon the plains on the plains after the reduction of production associated with rudimentary agricultural techniques, supposedly for their recovery (fallow), but they never return to the same field, a factor that makes new fields are constantly opening up, both on the plain and on the mountain.
However, the project introduced Moringa oleifera in some of these fields, which through its properties (nitrogen fixer) have improved soil fertility and due to its rapid growth they can be used as soil cover in the coming agricultural seasons.
Communities depend on rainfed agriculture, however coverage will contribute to improving the efficiency of rain use, maintaining humidity and improving crop yields. The project aims in the long term to motivate farmers to use agricultural conservation techniques by cultivating on flat land and using their abandoned fields (fallow land).
Conservation agriculture (CA) is a set of practices based on minimal soil disturbance, maintenance of a cover (living or dead plant material) on the soil surface and crop rotation, especially with the aim of maintaining or improving yields, stimulate the biological functioning of the soil. In addition, this practice can reduce labor, as well as soil movement by about 50%. This helps farmers to save time for other activities.
The project did not provide agricultural inputs, as our aim was to introduce sustainable techniques and principles in the short and long term, allowing the community to sustain activities after the project ends. Thus, we produce an organic compost with the community that can be used as fertilizer. The costs are insignificant because it is prepared according to the local resources available, such as manure, sand soil, green plants, food scraps and water.
For the recovery of degraded areas identified during the implementation of the socio-ecological baseline, we have established an agroforestry system consisting of land use where perennial plants (trees, shrubs, palms, bamboo, etc.) are used deliberately in the same land management units than agricultural crops, obeying a spatial or sequential arrangement.
However, we reforested about 10,000 m2 of devastated mountain areas for agricultural practices. In order to preserve local biodiversity, we plant only native species with relatively rapid growth, allowing for better acceptance by farmers who will use planted trees such as wood, fruits and medicines. We have established a mixed system with woody species (which fix nitrogen in the soil to prevent erosion), such as Glicirida sepium, Sesbannia sesban, Acacia angustissima, Tephrosia vogelii and some fruit species such as Citrus sp., Strichnos spinosa and Vangueria infausta.
The spacing used was 4x4m between the trees so that the effect of the same shade does not impair the development of the crops immediately. However, in the long run, we plan this effect, which will cause farmers to abandon these areas to carry out agriculture only in their lowland fields, and over time this agroforestry system will become a forest plantation.