By Pentecostes Mumba
Regardless of the urbanization process that took place over the past decades, most of the Mozambican population continues to live in and depend on rural areas. In these regions, which are home to more than 70% of poor Mozambican householders, farming is the main source of food and income. Agricultural productivity is, however, low, due to the lack of appropriate technologies and supports while smallholder farmers depend essentially on traditional methods and manual techniques, in many cases at the expense of the environment.
During my work as Environomica’s local coordinator in the Caia Disctrict, I noticed several problems related to environmental conservation, and I ultimately realized that these issues represent a key aspect for the success of any rural development projects.
I noticed that many farmers do not use mechanization systems in their plantations. Instead, they use a method called “queimada”, consisting in incinerating their land intentionally to clean and fertilize the soil. This process causes vegetation loss, soil degradation and air pollution, aside from creating serious risks for human health.
In the coastal area of the Nampula Province, there is an important World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO (“Ilha de Moçambique”, the first capital of Mozambique). There, the practice of open-air defecation continues to affect the island, causing concern and undermining local tourism, even though municipal authorities are trying to raise awareness among residents over the need to meet basic standards of hygiene and environmental sanitation.
From my perspective, as a development professional and social educator, I have observed that many of those bad practices are associated with the traditional culture of the place.
During my experiences in rural areas, I deeply understood that if we really want to introduce and promote good practices that preserve the environment, we must work with and within the cultural reality of the local population, in order for them to create new values and behavior patterns.
This goes beyond improving competences and skills: it means investing in human capital, with a view to fostering individual responsibility and communities’ participation in the preservation of the environment.
Sustainable rural development is closely linked to a healthy environment and, to make this happen in it entirety, it is essential to create a new shared value based on the conservation of natural resources.
Pentecostes Manuel Mumba is graduated in educational psychology and he is the local coordinator of Environomica Mozambique. Pentecostes has many years of experience in the fields of education and human resources and has worked on various project fields to support rural communities in the north of Mozambique. He also led scientific research in different rural areas of the country.