Written by Monicah Mbiba, PhD
In July 2015, I participated in a symposium which Legado hosted in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique.
Little did I know, five years later that this experience and connection would land me an opportunity to do work I have always loved.
The symposium was 15 African students and a few from the US. I was doing my PhD in Environmental Science and many others were doing their undergraduate degrees, but the atmosphere just made it easy for all of us to learn from each other and talk about conservation.
After the symposium, I went back to my academic routine. I stayed in touch with a few good friends I had made and the Vinho villagers across the Pungwe River close to the park. Turns out, I had seen enough to have the place etched in my heart. The Gorongosa story was deeply inspiring, a story of rebuilding and restoration of wilderness to benefit both nature and people, a story of hope. I loved saying I had been to Gorongosa (I even named my car after the place), I yearned to go back there.
This experience, like many others I’ve had over the years cemented a desire I’ve always had to make a bigger contribution to rural communities that are dependent on natural resources. For my PhD, I had conducted research on social connectedness and natural resource use in communal areas of Bushbuckridge in the south-east lowveld of South Africa, and I enjoyed the experience. I was more sure that I wanted to be a conservation practitioner. There was so much about solving problems that rural communities living with nature, such as human wildlife conflict and land degradation that resonated with me. I had so much to say and to contribute, but lacked a platform.
When I completed my PhD, I approached a few people and organizations and started community development and conservation consulting to keep growing in practice. In January 2021, I found my mind drifting back to Gorongosa, the people back there, the Legado team who had conducted the training. So, I reached out to Majka.
I am now Legado’s Senior Program Manager, I am working on Legado: Mathews — an expansion where we are co-developing pathways to thriving futures with the Samburu people in Kenya in partnership with the Northern Rangelands Trust and the Namunyak Community Conservancy Group. I am thrilled to work in an organization whose principles align with mine, of grassroots focus, respect for rural community values, and translating people’s visions into thriving futures in consultative and collaborative ways.
Upon reflection, I see that all my experiences, education and meeting with the Legado team back in Mozambique so many years ago was all leading up to now, and I am excited for what lies ahead.
Read Monicah’s full bio here.