Field Environmental Centre
We are very excited to be building a Field Environmental and Skills training Centre (due for completion in 2014) in the intensive study area (L5-South Concession) where we work. We have been awarded a 25 year lease contract. This will be the heart of our conservation education and community outreach programs and will benefit all Niassa residents. This will build on the small groups of children and their teachers we have already hosted in our camp. The beauty of Niassa should be accessible not only to ecotourists and sport hunters but also to its residents.
Our vision is to foster a positive relationship between Niassa’s people and wildlife conservation through bush visits, conservation education, and practical training in alternative and sustainable livelihoods.
The red dot shows the site of the Environmental Centre inside Niassa National Reserve
The Centre will be run by Mozambicans for Mozambicans. It will be built in the western section of the L5-South Concession on the banks of the Lugenda River in the shadow of the Mariri Mountain. The aim is to build a place where local children and adults feel comfortable and safe and can enjoy a unique experience imbued with the spirit of the Niassa wilderness.
The building of the Environmental Centre will form part of the first skills training course for 20 Niassa men. We plan for the centre to have a minimal impact on the surrounding wilderness during both the construction and operational stages. The heart of the Environmental Centre will be an open area theatre and refectory/eating area reached by a series of winding, interpretive paths that reveal secrets of the bush at every corner. All buildings will be simply designed and made from local, natural materials – stone, bamboo, timber, and eco-blocks.
Three important activities will be run from the Centre:
Despite living in Niassa all their lives, most children, adults, and teachers will be visiting the bush for the very first time! During their one- to three-day trips, children and teachers may see hippo, impala, waterbuck, lion, buffalo and other wildlife. They will climb an inselberg and listen to the quiet of the bush, learn about fishing activities, and contribute to a conservation project. Field visits will primarily target children nine years and older from schools throughout Niassa Reserve. Field visits by adult teachers, village elders, and government and district officials will also be encouraged. The bush visits activities will be coordinated with local teachers, Reserve and district management, and independent conservationists.
Skills development workshops for adults.
There are 8,000 adult men living within Niassa Reserve, but only approximately 350 are officially employed. Almost no women have employment. Community members will identify skills that they are interested in learning and will receive training from experts. They will also learn simple business skills such as price setting and record keeping. Training will focus on practical skills that can contribute to a family’s livelihood without requiring a Grade 12 education. Skills training might include guest services, driving, river and field guiding, tracking, bicycle repair, cooking, thatching, brick construction, gardening, local crafts, chicken and egg production, and more.
Conservation trainings and local and regional meetings.
We plan to hold courses in conservation agriculture, methods to reduce human-wildlife conflict, construction of shelters and fences, animal husbandry, and other skills. The Environmental Centre will provide a place for community meetings.
The Environmental Centre is a collaborative venture. We could not possibly do this alone. Our Mozambican partners include the Niassa management team, the District Director of Education, and Mbamba teachers. The Houston Zoo Conservation Program and Wildlife Conservation Network are partnering with us to fundraise to make this a reality. Predator Conservation Trust has donated a hand brick press so we can start construction. The Houston Zoo Conservation Program is also assisting in the development of a 3-day field activity plan, including the alignment of the activities with the Mozambican standard of education for participating age groups, the development of staff training for program delivery, and creation of message points at the Environmental Centre.
Help with funding is critical to get this Center built. Donate here.