In 2008, the Carr Foundation, a US non-profit organisation, signed a 20 year contract with the Mozambican government to rebuild Gorongosa, one of the country’s largest national parks. Now, 10 years later, the park is thriving as are many of the animal species that live there.
The flourishing national park has undergone sweeping changes since the beginning of the project in 2008. This regeneration follows a history of violence, destruction, and poaching that has plagued the park and the animals that live there for many years.
The agreement reached between the Carr Foundation and government officials has Mozambicans and international scientists working together to develop conservation methods, restore the ecosystems in the park, and attract tourists through tours led by local guides.
The efforts to restore Gorongosa have not only benefitted the environment within the park, but the neighbouring buffer-zone communities as well. These buffer-zone communities are home to about 177,000 people and act as bridges between the park and the surrounding towns. Many of these communities do not have electricity or water and access to schools and hospitals is often limited.
The park has also become a tool for learning amongst local schools and clubs, especially for programs that help educate young girls. Larissa Sousa manages a girls’ education programme set up by the park that aims to warn girls against early marriage and “give them tools for life” said Sousa.
The park is seen a safe place, says Sousa. “People here are not preoccupied with which party you belong to. It’s about how together we can solve the communities’ problems. It’s about being able to live with your neighbour.”
The park offers internships through their science department that works to continue the park’s restoration and support similar studies around the world. Learning science at the local schools often proves difficult due to lack of resources, so the park provides an excellent place to gain hands on learning experiences for young scientists.
The director of scientific services, Marc Stalmans, says that there are already more women involved in Gorongosa’s science programme than men. According to Sousa, girls don’t have as many educational opportunities as their male counter parts, which is what makes the park’s program so valuable. When asked what she hopes the girls she takes to Gorongosa remember about their time there is that, “It’s their park. They need to know that a woman can study and become anything in the world.”
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Photo Credit: Irene Baqué