Enhancing human livelihoods and the conservation and restoration of Mozambique’s biodiversity
Seed banks provide an insurance policy against the loss of plants in the wild and provide options for their future use. Seed banking is a vital part of Kew’s Mozambique programme.
Inselberg rising above the Luwire River, Niassa National Reserve, Mozambique
Lying alongside the Indian Ocean in south-eastern Africa, Mozambique encompases a wide range of habitats from dunes and mangroves at the coast to the miombo woodlands and montane massifs of the African plateau. It is one of the most botanically rich countries in the region with nearly 6,000 species currently recorded, and this diversity is well represented in Kew's Herbarium. But there are many unexplored areas, and no definitive list of endemic or threatened species. Recent expeditions have turned up significant numbers of new species from montane forests and grasslands to coastal forests.
Kew's Mozambique programme is aimed at documenting and building on existing botanical knowledge so that national conservation priorities can be identified, local communities can benefit from the sustainable use of native species, and seeds of priority species can be conserved ex situ.
Threats to Mozambique’s plants
Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest countries – 75% of the population live on less than $1.25 per day and 80 percent of the population live in rural areas and make a living from small-holder agriculture. Low agricultural productivity and few alternative sources of income mean that agricultural land use is expanding, threatening natural habitats. Artisanal mining, wildfires, illegal logging, and over-harvesting of important medicinal and wood-carving plants also threaten habitats and species.
Documenting Mozambique's botanical diversity
Working with local botanists, Kew is compiling lists of Mozambique's endemic, near-endemic and threatened species and preparing preliminary conservation assessments on them. This helps the national authorities establish conservation priorities by identifying Important Plant Areas and areas where protection will be required. Recent expeditions in which Kew has been involved have explored coastal dry forests in north-east Mozambique and the montane ecosystems of Mounts Namuli, Mabu, Chiperone and Inago. A number of new species have been described from these trips, including the mistletoe (Helixanthera schizocalyx), found during an expedition to Mount Mabu.
We are now developing activities in two important centres of plant endemism: the Maputaland centre in southern Mozambique and the Chimanimani centre in central Mozambique.
Working in partnership
Kew works with the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (the Mozambique National Institute of Agricultural Research or IIAM). IIAM is a government body which carries out research on agriculture, biodiversity and management of natural resources. It is home to the national herbarium of Mozambique, and also manages the national gene bank and tree seed centre. Kew has carried out joint fieldwork with IIAM and trained IIAM staff in vegetation survey,plant identification, seed conservation, herbarium collections management, and use of herbarium data for conservation planning. We are also helping IIAM improve their seed handling facilities. We are also working with MICAIA and IIAM on a Darwin Initiative project to help achieve a better balance between biodiversity conservation and local livelihoods in the buffer zone of the Chimanimani National Reserve.
Kew also works with Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), Maputo, which houses the other major herbarium in Mozambique. UEM is the only further education institution in the country providing training in biology, and is developing a Biology Masters programme. The current head of the herbarium, Alice Massingue, trained at Kew under the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship Programme, developing a range of skills in the role of botanical gardens in conservation and plant sciences.
More recently, Kew has started working with MICAIA Foundation in the Chimanimani Forest belt of central Mozambique. MICAIA Foundation is a non-profit organization working to create community-based enterprises and conserve, manage and invest in the environment. Together with IIAM, Kew is assisting MICAIA set up a Forest Learning Centre, including a community seed store, and training local community workers how to collect, store and propagate seeds of important wild plants. Kew and MICAIA have recently received funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund to conduct a baseline botanical survey for the Mozambican highland areas of the Chimanimani Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) and facilitate improved communication and collaboration between civil society organizations and formal governmental bodies. We are also working with MICAIA and IIAM on a Darwin Initiative project to help achieve a better balance between biodiversity conservation and local livelihoods in the buffer zone of the Chimanimani National Reserve.
Saving seeds for future use
IIAM works with Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank to collect and conserve seeds of priority plant species. Seed collecting is currently focused on the coastal sand forests of southern Mozambique where high population density is threatening the fragile ecosystem. Medicinal and wood carving species are at particular risk of overharvesting for sale in nearby markets and there is a high level of extraction for firewood and charcoal production.
Watch the video: 'Forgotten forests - the magnificent Mount Mabu'
Project partners and collaborators
- National Institute of Agricultural Research (IIAM)
- MICAIA Foundation
- Eduardo Mondlane University
- The Allan & Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust
- Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund
- Darwin Initiative