“Plant the Future” – Teaching children why forests are important to everyone.

Thursday, March 25, 2021 – The Scientific Services Department in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park is implementing an experiment to improve reforestation on Mount Gorongosa. They began planting 2880 seedlings over 5 hectares with the help of the master’s students in Conservation Biology and 106 school children from communities on the mountain. The children planted trees, learned about the importance of forests, and, most importantly, they went home ready to teach their families about forest conservation.

The aim of this experiment is to help improve reforestation by finding natural ways to limit insect damage on seedlings and promote plant growth accordingly. A second important goal is to provide residents on Mount Gorongosa with a source of food while restoring the forest through an agroforestry design incorporating the planting of beans between seedlings. The application of chemical ecology and agroforestry to reforestation included planting a mixture of nine native species that are chemically similar (in terms of the defenses they produce – things like alkaloids and tannins) or chemically distinct. The plots with chemically distinct species may be less attacked by insect herbivores, enabling the trees to grow better over time.

Muaule Tadeu, one of the Masters students, teaching children about forests and their importance.

Planting beans in half of the plots will test how beans’ ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and enrich the soil will aid in seedling growth while providing a source of nutrition for the people on the mountain. If people gain a food source from the reforestation plots, they will hopefully protect the reforestation project from escaped fires, which are a serious conservation threat on the mountain.

Children from Mount Gorongosa planting the native trees in the reforestation plots.

About Masters in Conservation Biology

The Masters in Conservation Biology Program was created in 2017 by the Gorongosa Project with a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and it was developed by a consortium of three Mozambican institutions of higher learning (Universidade Zambeze, Universidade Lúrio, and Instituto Superior Politécnico de Manica) in partnership with the University of Lisbon of Portugal and the Gorongosa National Park as part of the latter’s BioEducation activities, with the aim to prepare Mozambicans to advance conservation in their biodiverse nation.

The program is the first and only MSc in conservation biology in Mozambique, and it is the only masters program in the world to be conducted entirely in a national park. It offers a truly unique educational experience in which students are fully immersed in conservation— interacting with biologists, rangers, and community outreach and ecotourism professionals. By studying, conducting research, and living in Mozambique’s flagship national park, students gain much more than an academic education – their entire lifestyle revolves around the practice of conservation in protected areas.

In this two-year program, students complete academic credit hours through intensive short- term courses taught by an invited faculty of professors from around the world. The scope of our courses is comparable to conservation biology MSc programs at traditional universities, but the Gorongosa program emphasizes field work and practical knowledge, preparing students for future careers as scientists, natural resource managers, and community outreach specialists.

About the Gorongosa Project

Gorongosa National Park (GNP) in Mozambique is perhaps Africa’s greatest wildlife restoration story. In 2008, a 20-year Public-Private Partnership was established for the joint management of GNP between the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation (Gorongosa Restoration Project), a US nonprofit organization. In 2018, the Government of Mozambique signed an extension of the joint management agreement for another 25 years. By adopting a 21st Century conservation model of balancing the needs of wildlife and people, Gorongosa is protecting and saving this beautiful wilderness, returning it to its rightful place as one of Africa’s greatest national parks.

GNP has been described as one of the most diverse parks on Earth, covering a vast expanse of 400,000 hectares. In recent years, the Gorongosa Project, with the support of Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), has ensured the protection of a recovering population of lions in this system, successfully reduced key threats, and has been recognized as one of National Geographic’s “Last Wild Places” and by TIME Magazine as one of the “World’s Greatest Places – 2019”.

If you would like more information about this topic or would like to schedule an interview with those involved in the project, please call Vasco Galante at +258 822970010 (WhatsApp) or email vasco@gorongosa.net.

For more general information, visit http://www.gorongosa.org

You may follow the daily activities of Gorongosa National Park here: https://www.facebook.com/gorongosa/.

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