LEGADO: Namuli Conservation and Development

Mount Namuli, a 7,936-foot inselberg, is the second highest mountain in Mozambique and a critical target for conservation in the Eastern Afromontane ecoregion. The Namuli massif is relatively small in extent but incredibly diverse and a part of the unique mountain island chain of inselbergs in northern Mozambique. It is designated as a Level 1 Priority Key Biodiversity Area by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, an Important Bird Area, an Important Plant Area, and an Alliance for Zero Extinction site. (Read the Mount Namuli Biodiversity Brief Here). Mount Namuli is listed as a priority for protection in Mozambique’s 2015-2035 Biodiversity Strategy. To date, Namuli lacks formal conservation protection.

Encircling the Namuli massif are more than 10,000 people who rely on the mountain for its rich, arable soils, fresh water, and remaining forests. Namuli also has tremendous cultural significance. Millions of Lomwe people in Mozambique and Malawi also identify it as their ancestral home. Unfortunately, the mountain’s biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides to local people are rapidly being degraded by unsustainable natural resource use and agricultural practices. Biodiversity is threatened primarily by conversion of forests and grasslands by surrounding communities for subsistence and local market agriculture, and rates of habitat loss, particularly across the high conservation value areas above 1,500 meters, appear to be increasing. Much of this loss is driven by the introduction of crops such as the Irish potato, which exhaust the soils and also are believed to grow better at higher altitudes. On the Namuli massif, we have found that rates of change are so high that forest conversion must be halted immediately to ensure that remaining biodiversity is retained until such time that long-term plans for conservation and natural resource management can be developed and implemented.

Driven by population growth and poverty, these trends are accelerating a vicious cycle that further compromises human well-being in an area that already lacks medical, agricultural, educational support, or access to the region’s center, Gurue, approximately 30 km away.

Legado: Namuli seeks to disrupt this cycle and has the following Conservation and Development Goals:

  • By 2019, a diverse and appropriate set of stakeholders has adopted a legacy-driven plan that is advancing a thriving future for Namuli’s people and environment.
  • By 2025, a sitescale legacy-driven model for conservation and sustainable development has been piloted and refined such that it is realizing positive and significant outcomes and has generated learning that can inform similar efforts in other places.

The process to achieve the Conservation and Development goals includes: assessment and feasibility, zoning, conservation agreements, alternative livelihoods to unsustainable practices, and protected area establishment at an appropriate scale and level, with accompanying management planning and governance. Legado: Namuli is currently working in tandem with our local Mozambican partner, LUPA, to implement key activities to reach our goals.

Our current activities include:

  • Continue to develop biodiversity, socioeconomic, and natural resource use baselines for greater group of communities encircling Namuli.
  • Form a “Namuli Coalition” of stakeholders who are collaborating under a shared vision for the area’s future so that they can:
    • Leverage substantial biodiversity and socioeconomic data to inform the their management planning.
    • Create a community based land management system, possibly via a Community Conservation Area, a new protected area designation in Mozambique.
  • Pilot new agricultural trainings and community outreach campaigns in flagship communities in the Namuli district.

Our objectives build on current activities and include:

  • Document and develop a community conservation area
  • Develop and formalize the community-based natural resource management plan for the Namuli region.
  • Develop national and international support for the new protected area
  • Develop project plan for supporting communities with agriculture and alternative livelihoods
    • Implement selected agriculture and alternative livelihood interventions
  • Land demarcation and tenure clarification for Namuli communities
  • Establishment and declaration of the new community-based protected area

Namuli Coalition 

Local Stakeholders

  • Namuli Communities: Mecunha- Sede, Murabwe, Nautela, Muruí, Nicão, Mujaua. – The Namuli communities are the source of the threat to the ecosystem due to unsustainable nature resource use, they are at the greatest and most immediate risk if the ecosystem is depleted, and are the rightful users of the land. The communities will be the core of the community based natural resource management approach and responsible, in the long-term for the management and sustainability of the protected area. Thus, they are the most important stakeholders.
  • Chief of the Locality of Mecunha and Secretary of the Locality of Mecunha: The representatives of the government in the Mecunha Locality and have been engaged from the beginning of the field work in 2016 in all meetings with local community leaders. They have spent time with the field team within communities, participated in expeditions to the Ukelene Forest, and have expressed their support of the project.
  • District Permanent Secretary of Gurue – Gurue is the district that encompasses the Namuli Massif. The District Permanent Secretary of Gurue has expressed her interest in supporting the initiative and assisting to overcome any challenges in working with the local government.
  • AMG (Associated Musicians of Gurue): AMG is a community awareness group consisting of teachers based in Gurue town (the nearest to Namuli). They are focused on environmental awareness and community activation, and will participate in community engagement and consultations. AMG is an active partner in the project, working directly with the field team in communities around Mount Namuli.
  • ITC (Community Lands Initiative): ITC focuses on providing financial, technical and planning services to rural communities to secure land and natural resources user rights in stimulating economic development. As ITC has experience working in the Gurue District, LUPA will coordinate with them to complete the formalization of community ownership of the protected area.
  • Gurue District Service of Agriculture and Economy (SDAE): This government institution is engaged in all agriculture initiatives in the Gurue district. In meetings with the SDAE Gurue in early May, the group demonstrated their support of the initiative and offered the potential to collaborate on any agricultural interventions completed in the Namuli region to increase production in the lower fields and increase income generation.
  • Zambezia Provincial Directorate of Land, Environment and Rural Development: The Director of this leading program in provincial conservation efforts in Mozambique considers the initiative a worth cause and emphasized that Zambezia has one reserve and is supportive in creating a new protected area for Mount Namuli.

National and International Stakeholders

  • BIOFUND Mozambique: The Foundation for the Conservation of Biodiversity (BIOFUND) was created in 2011 according to the best practice principles of Conservation Trust Funds, dedicated to long-term sustainability of conservation finance. For the purposes of the NLP, BIOFUND (pending their board decision on August 25th) would continue to be a technical partner to the program, and may also serve as the fiscal sponsor for the life of the project (pending BIOFUND executive committee decision). NLP would benefit from BIOFUND’S leadership regarding conservation in Mozambique, experience with financial management and accounting and extensive connections within the national government. Regardless of whether BIOFUND comes on as an official partner, per their letter of support for the project, they will continue to promote the NLP within national government and non-governmental conservation initiatives.
  • MITADER (Mozambique Ministry of Earth, Environment and Rural Development): MITADER is implementing a World Bank funded initiative called the Landscape Project that covers the Gurue District and may include activities implemented in the Namuli region. The Landscape Project includes three interconnected themes of intervention: 1) securing land tenure for farms and small and medium enterprises; 2) promoting agriculture and natural resources value-chain through facilitation of access to agri-implements, services and initiatives of management of soil and water; 3) restoration of degraded land in support of agriculture and natural resources value chain activities. MITADER has been instrumental to the development of the community conservation area legislation process. MITADER has also provided advice and political support to the Namuli project through Legado and Lupa, and will advocate for the Namuli’s inclusion in the World Bank landscape-level project.
  • BIOFUND: The Foundation for the Conservation of Biodiversity, BIOFUND was created in 2011 according to the world best practice principles for CTF’s (Conservation Trust Funds), dedicated to long-term sustainability of conservation finance. BIOFUND hosted a showing of the Namuli Film at their board meeting in June of 2016 and the Executive Director of BIOFUND, Luis Bernardo Honwana, expressed the commitment of BIOFUND to advocate for Mount Namuli as a vital region for conservation. In additional to potentially being the NLP fiscal sponsor and technical partner, BIOFUND will continue to support awareness activities focused on Mount Namuli in 2017, including touring our film in the country.
  • ANAC (Mozambique National Administration of Conservation Areas): Endorsed the initiative’s efforts on Mount Namuli and are interested in Mount Namuli serving as one of the flagship examples of the new community conservation area law approved in 2015.
  • IIAM (Institute of Agrarian Investigation of Mozambique): IIAM has participated in previous studies on Mount Namuli to study natural resource use. They have expressed interest in partnering on Namuli, leading activities such as developing a baseline study of natural resource use and design and implementation of a monitoring framework. IIAM scientists are vocal advocates for the protection of the Namuli Inselberg, making several interventions to this effect at the recent BIOFUND general assembly meeting.
  • USAID Mozambique Conservation: USAID Mozambique’s environment and conservation branch has expressed their interest in the project on Namuli and suggested that they could offer government and other relevant connections, as needed.
  • Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund: Provided Legado with a large grant to complete a feasibility analysis for the Mount Namuli Region. This grant was completed in June, 2016. CEPF has also provided LUPA with a small grant to continue field work on Mount Namuli starting in June of 2016. CEPF has offered to write letters of recommendation to accompany project proposals or advocacy if necessary.

Legado: Namuli Pre-2016

We began our conservation and development work on Namuli during a 2014 expedition combining the skills of scientists, climbers, and conservationists (showcased in the 2016 film Namuli). During that expedition Mozambican-based conservation group LUPA conducted a real-time rural development assessment with Namuli’s Curruca community.

Highlights from the 2014 expedition include:

  • Conducted the first integrated conservation study of Namuli to develop an actionable integrated conservation plan that involves local leadership and multiple stakeholder groups.
  • Built capacity with LUPA, a key local organization in Mozambique, with a long-term goal of local determination and management of an integrated conservation plan.
  • Responded to Mount Namuli’s designation as a Level 1 Priority Key Biodiversity Area by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.

Check out the following pages for
climbing and research highlights from the 2014 expedition.


For more information related to the current conservation and development efforts ongoing on Mount Namuli, including our detailed Legado: Namuli brief please contact Legado’s Project Manager, Eric Wilburn.

Photography Credit: James Q Martin