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Biofund commits to train future Biodiversity Conservation leaders

In recent years, Mozambique has benefitted from investments by various donors with the aim of promoting the conservation of biodiversity. These supported the strengthening of the legal framework of natural resources, the creation and establishment of Conservation Areas and their management and ranger activities, seeking to combat the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and ensure the sustainable use of resources by communities, community development and conservation agriculture, as well as the development of the blue economy and adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.

However, these investments, which seek to guarantee attainment of the objectives of conservation and of sustainable development, can only achieve the desired results and impacts, if they are accompanied by the creation of opportunities to develop the human capacity to accept and face these challenges.

This is the context in which the Mozambique Conservation Leadership Programme (PLCM) was born. It is essentially a programme to build leadership capacity, focused on boosting the skills of the professionals of the National System of Conservation Areas (SNAC), on attracting and training young talents and motivate the public in general to play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity in Mozambique.

This programme, implemented by the Foundation for the Conservation of Biodiversity (BIOFUND) since 2019, in collaboration with the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), with initial funds from the World Bank (Project MozBio2 /IDA), promotes training, interchange and exchanges of experiences between the existing professionals in the National System of Conservation Areas and to attract and train new leaders for conservation by offering scholarships, research grants and pre-professional internships.

Regarding the training of new talents, 137 young professionals, 51 of them women, have now benefitted from the various opportunities offered by the programme, notably master’s degree scholarships in 3 public universities, research subventions in 32 Conservation Areas, and pre-professional internships in 23 internship centres (3 governmental institutions, 4 NGOs and 16 public and private Conservation Areas) which have contributed to awakening their interest in conservation and also reflecting on their role in the transformation of this sector.

In terms of building the capacity of the SNAC professionals, 50 professionals from 4 institutions linked to conservation and 18 Conservation Areas, 14 of whom are women, have benefitted from various courses, notably 6 trained as Tourist Guides by the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) of whom 5 have obtained international certification.

Success stories in the programme of pre-professional internships

The programme of pre-professional internships, undertaken in conservation areas and other institutions that manage or finance conservation, is the most outstanding, and to date it has benefitted 104 recently graduated young people, providing them with experiences of conservation, both in central level management, and in remote parts of the country. These opportunities have allowed them to feel their first experiences on the labour market, alongside more experienced professionals and at the same time to lead and to introduce into the internship centres innovative ideas and practices, demonstrating their potential (to themselves and to the others), and beginning their professional career, while ensuing the growth of the conservation community in the country.

For the former intern, Hagnésio Chiponde, trained in Veterinary Science, undertaking the pre-professional internship has increased his desire to work on the conservation of biodiversity and has opened very interesting professional opportunities for him. “With the PLCM I had the opportunity to begin my career in Conservation. Currently I am a member of the team of veterinary scientists which is helping the National Administration of Conservation Areas in field operations for the conservation of wildlife, and it has been a captivating experience”, declared Hagnésio.

The engagement of Hagnésio in the conservation system was very opportune, since the country has few veterinarians working in the conservation sector.  

Another success story is that of Sérgio Licumba, trained in Forestry Engineering, who has innovated and led activities to promote biodiversity in the Banhine National Park, through the identification of native flora and the installation of the first forestry nursery in that Conservation Area.

Promotion and rapid training through professional internships is now beginning to benefit national organisations who have undergone speedy growth due to the demand for and increase in projects to support conservation, such as BIOFUND itself (the preferred mechanism in Mozambique for channelling funds conservation), which now includes among its current staff 6 former interns out of a total of 10 interns whom it has hosted and supervised from the beginning. These includes four women who are making a very valuable contribution to the institution!  

Diversity and inclusion in leadership for conservation

The PLCM offers opportunities to young graduates from the entire country, using a holistic conservation approach involving different areas of knowledge.

Inclusion is an important aspect for the programme, particularly the question of Gender, which is essential, as well as opening opportunities for people who are physically disabled, a factor which very often limits their participation. Aware that the number of women in conservation is very small, the programme has committed to guaranteeing that 40% of the beneficiaries are women and that they can lead the development of conservation. Hence the young woman Xangamira Sitoe, trained in agro-business, has made a dual mark on her trajectory in the PLCM (for being a woman and for having some physical limitations).

This young woman who has special needs (she has cerebral palsy, causing difficulties in speech and movement) has helped the Marromeu Reserve in developing its business plans. During her internship, she was responsible for stimulating community development activities in Marromeu, such as monitoring the Emerging Small Traders and small and medium companies in the programme Gender Action Learning System (GALS), among other activities of relevance for the landscape.

Xangamira is not only an example of overcoming physical challenges and constraints. She is also proof that women have an important role in the transformation of conservation in Mozambique. “The PLCM has given me the opportunity to challenge my limitations and to use my knowledge for the development of the conservation of biodiversity associated with community development in the Marromeu Reserve. Today, I feel I am prepared to lead activities linked to conservation”, declared Xangamira, who currently manages her own small company, which produces organic fertilisers.

This programme it is expected to train more young leaders with a spirit of innovation and positive change for the conservation sector in Mozambique, influencing other youths to cultivate resilience and adopt environment-friendly stances.

Fundamental for the success of this programme has been not only the careful choice of candidates, but also the commitment and regular support of the supervisors in the internship centres, and the establishment of procedures that include work plans, activity reports and regular BIOFUND supervision of the PLCM team.

Positive initiatives such as this are important for guaranteeing, in the medium and long term, a regular flow of capacity building and professional motivation. There are initiatives under way to involve more partners to contribute and to join the programme. For more information visit our pages on the website  and facebook.

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