Underlying the major threats to carnivores in Niassa National Reserve (NNR) (snaring and trade) are the issues of extreme poverty for the majority of people living inside the protected area. The lack of legal livelihoods, opportunities (roads, markets, skills, cash crops, banks), food security and education means that people are unable to plan for their future.

Our alternative livelihoods programs are designed to generate a small income, increase food security and encourage entrepreneurs.

Conservation Agriculture Project – Improving Food Security

Lead by Hugo Perreira, Benvindo Napuanha and Tomas Buruwate

Improving food security is essential if conservation is to be successful in NNR. It is impossible to have a conversation about conservation when people are worrying about where their next meal is coming from.

The majority of people in NNR use slash and burn agriculture to provide their basic food needs for the year. Most soils in NNR have low fertility and after 5 – 7 years people move onto new areas. We work with farmers to improve productivity through the farmer field school (FFS) approach which encourages conservation agriculture – low tillage, mixed cropping and mulching – based on the model of C.A.R.E International. The responsibility to implement new methods, manage the land, and maintain the targeted agricultural plots is given over to the farmers in the program. They have the primary responsibility to keep records and assess results.

We have had a soil analysis done in the wet and dry season of fields and unconverted land to assess challenges; better understand low soil fertility and develop a focused plan to increase soil fertility or increase production by using alternative crops. The soil analysis report guides our activities. We test new crops in our extensive vegetable garden at Mariri Environmental Centre and have started an agroforestry program to recover fallow fields with local women growing trees from seeds that are “sold” to NCP and replanted.

Mariri Experimental Vegetable Garden at Mariri Environmental Centre

Lead by Tomas Buruwate, Operations Manager

The aim of the Mariri Environmental Centre vegetable garden is not only to produce vegetables for our staff, school lunch program, ecotourism camps and visiting children and adults to improve diet but also to test different varieties of fruits and vegetables and ways to increase soil fertility and production. All that is learned is passed onto the visiting groups that come to the Environmental Centre. This information is critically needed to be able to assess potential livelihoods programs in future and advise the Conservation Agriculture project.

The vegetable garden is protected from large ungulates and elephants by a simple polywire fence with solar panels. Water is pumped from the Lugenda River for irrigation. While both of these items would need to be provided to a community group, the results show clearly that it is possible to grow alternative cash crops in villages in NNR and that it can alleviate food insecurity, improve nutrition and could provide an alternative livelihood, with a minimum input of a solar panel, well and pump. The garden is maintained by two gardeners from Mbamba Village that have been taught by Tomas Buruwate.

Small Livestock Breeding Program (LBG) – Providing alternative protein sources

Lead by Hugo Pereira, Agostinho Jorge and Benvindo Napuanha

The small livestock breeding program provides an alternative protein source in the villages. This increases the quantity and diversity of meat protein available ensuring food security and decreases the reliance on bushmeat snaring. The program also provides a small income for households for basic necessities through sale of animals (rabbits, ducks, turkeys). The program is now active across 7 villages.

The focus is on small livestock that are already present in NNR. Each person wishing to receive domestic livestock has to first show commitment by building a rabbit hutch and chicken coop before receiving animals. Guidance is provided on the elements needed in each coop (air, sunlight, safety from predators, slated floor to keep clean, ease of access). Each member receives two animals in the form of a micro loan, ideally two females. There are some males of the species that are rotated among households and the leaders of the group control how this happens. Once the animals produce offspring, two animals are given back to NCP to return the initial loan. These two animals may be used to seed another household. Once the group’s dynamic is going independently, NCP stops providing seeding animals, but continues assisting with the improvement of coops and hutches, and disease management.

Beekeeping and Beehive Fences – Reducing Human-Elephant Conflict and Generating an Alternative Income

Lead by Hugo Pereira, Benvindo Napuanha and Bosco Majan

Human-elephant conflict destroys support for conservation in NNR and negatively affects people’s lives and livelihoods. Local subsistence farmers are the most affected by crop raiding. As a result, there is little political or community will to conserve elephants in the area and this makes it extremely difficult to reduce escalating elephant poaching for ivory. In addition, elephants affect food security. That is why reducing human-elephant conflict is a priority.

In 2012 we implemented the elephant-beehive fence project as a way to humanely exclude elephants from crop fields. Elephants are fearful of bees, so they naturally avoid beehives! The use of beehive-fences has been put to good use in Kenya by Save the Elephants’ Dr. Lucy King, who developed beehive fences to stop elephants from raiding crops. The honey is bottled under a specially developed Elephant friendly label with all the income going the beekeeper. In addition to the beehive fences, beehives are also placed in natural habitats to provide an incentive to protect untransformed habitats which is important for wildlife.

Grupo Kushirika – Alternative Income and Skills through the sale of crafts

This is our newest livelihoods program initiated in 2016. The program focuses on the development of handmade crafts to sell to visitors to L5-South and in other outlets. It centres on both the development of new skills as well as making sure that traditional skills such as basket weaving are continued and passed down to younger generations.

During the first phase of the program, we collaborated with Monique Fagan, from South Africa, who has extensive experience in craft and design and working with community groups. Monique came to Mariri and ran courses on design and craft with young men, young girls and mixed groups of older men and women. People were invited to come and bring any items that they were making (baskets, pottery, mats, pestle and mortar, embroidery) so that skills could be assessed and new products developed.

The group has now designed their own label and agreed on a name, Kushirika which means “to come together”. They collectively decide on pricing and have rules for joining the group including no snaring or illegal activities, no use of group materials for other projects and joint pricing. Kushirika have started to sell their items which include embroidered cushion covers, bags and throws, baskets, flip-flop animals and birds and jewellery. All income generated from the sale of an item goes back directly to the creator. There are more than 25 members in the group, men and women, young and old. They have a craft workshop at the Environmental Centre where they meet every two weeks and are ready to teach others.

Kushirika Enquiry Form

If you are interested in learning more about any of our progams please see further information in our Annual Report