Meeting the team in Pemba
Following a busy couple of months getting acquainted with the fundamentals of Our Sea Our Life (OSOL), at the end of 2017, Marine and Freshwater’s Ana Pinto was able to fly out to Mozambique for her first mission as part of the team and meet OSOL’s in-country partners, the dedicated team at Associacao do Meio Ambiente (AMA). Starting in 2013, OSOL is working with communities in Northern Mozambique to improve resilience of marine ecosystems, diversify livelihoods and reduce dependence on marine resources.
The week started with introductions to the AMA team members, a tour of the Pemba office followed by project updates, meetings and planning project activities going forward.
The goal was to learn as much as possible from what happens in the field, especially community engagement in project activities, in order to be able to support the AMA team and the project on the outreach elements.
It is a key time for OSOL and for the AMA team working directly with the communities, as we focus on establishing ‘community champions’ at each community site. Community champions are self-selected community members who help to engage and motivate communities in sustainable fisheries, co-management plans and related financial opportunities such as Village Savings Loans Associations (VSLAs) as part of the OSOL project.
VSLAs are now entirely run by the communities and help members to save money and take out small loans, crucial for the economic stability of these communities who often do not have access to local banks. OSOL is hoping that these can also be used for communities to collectively invest in environmental protection (Environment Fund), as it has proven to work in other ZSL projects such as Net-Works. A successful start, with final plans with outreach plans in place and optimist team knowing that this is an opportunity to make even more positive changes for these communities!
The week ended with the annual meeting ‘Towards sustainable and responsible fishing and aquaculture activities in the Province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’ organised by Spanish organisation CETMAR. We had the chance to present OSOL in this and also hear about other projects in the area - a great opportunity to share experiences!
The venue also had a direct view of the turquoise waters of the Cabo Delgado coast! A reminder of why all these incredible individuals and organisations are working to protect these waters. Our return involved a quick stop at the beach for a sunset team photo. Unmistakeable beauty exacerbated by a sunset that made the sky look like it was on fire! What a way to end the first week of our mission!
Over the weekend we travel out to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for the WIOMSA symposium. With around 500 participants, WIOMSA held huge potential in terms of audience and platform for OSOL networking and increase visibility. And so it was, as we practiced talks and looked over our posters, what was noticeable was the enthusiasm in the work the team were presenting! The community based work and inspiring implementing team was definitely something to be proud of!
WIOMSA also became an opportunity for the OSOL consortium to gather (as so many OSOL partner organisations were also attending the symposium) - a perfect opportunity for an OSOL partners meeting. A much needed one too, given the diverse range of base locations for the OSOL consortium, it was a rare opportunity for so many of us to be in the same time-zone, let alone under one roof! Great timing too as the project is now in its final year (of its current phase) and we aim to finalise a toolkit that can be used to replicate the implementation of LMMAs along the Mozambican coast. A very productive meeting indeed- it was impressive to hear all the thoughts and ideas of so many talented and experienced individuals.
Zanzibar (aquaculture visit)
The WIOMSA leg of the mission ended with a quick hop over to Zanzibar to meet Prof. Aviti Mmochi from the Institute of Marine Sciences and find out about how aquaculture works here as a way to scope out any ideas for the OSOL project. OSOL aims to diversify the livelihoods of communities by supporting activities that will ensure sustainable financing, and aquaculture has been a part of this. OSOL has already started community-led oyster farming and horticulture at some of the project sites. With partner’s contacts in aquaculture projects in Zanzibar, this became an opportunity to explore these options. We visited a hatchery for multi-species of fish and invertebrates; a community project for aquaculture of Mullet and milkfish; and a seaweed farming site. After a couple of days enjoying the opportunity to learn from these projects, the team returns to Pemba.
Workshop in Maputo
Our stay in Pemba after the symposium wasn’t long as the next set of activities for this mission involved yet more travel! This time we were headed for Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique. After a few very productive days of meeting funders, partners and potential future collaborators, the mission ended with OSOL organising a fantastic workshop to focus on the importance of legalisation of LMMAs. The workshop was attended by a range of organisations, including the EU, UniLurio, WWF, Ocean Revolution, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane and Marine Megafauna Foundation! After presentations and debates on this topic, the participants were approached by the press! This was a great opportunity to highlight some of the challenges in projects such as OSOL, what better way than to feature on national TV?
And so, another epic mission comes to an end. The sense of relief that everything had been accomplished, and as we say our goodbyes before all flying out of Maputo in different directions, it was clear that we all felt optimism about the future not just of the project, but of marine biodiversity too!
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