Activating the Power of Legacy in the

Sky Island of Namuli in Mozambique

The Carlitos family takes their crops to market on Mount Namuli, Mozambique | Roshni Lodhia/Legado

In 2014, Legado brought together local community activists, world-renowned scientists, Mozambican conservation leaders, and an international climbing team to begin working with Namuli’s Lomwe communities in securing a Thriving Future for Namuli and the people who depend on it.

A member of the Mucunha community in Mozambique | Roshni Lodhia/Legado
Today Legado:Namuli is our flagship program and our work with local community members of the region and partner organizations shaped our transformative approach to development. They helped create our philosophy of legacy that is anchored in a belief that when people design and implement solutions of their choosing, they create sustainable outcomes called Thriving Futures.
Unsustainable natural resource use and agricultural practices have threatened the mountain’s unique biodiversity—specifically through the conversion of forests and grasslands for subsistence and local market agriculture. This threat to biodiversity also posed a significant threat to the long-term well-being of the local communities.

Mount Namuli is a sky island that rises sharply out of the plains. Because it is not attached to a mountain chain, Mount Namuli provides habitat to some of the most unique species of flora and fauna in the world.

Biologists and conservationists from around the world have identified Mount Namuli as a global conservation priority. 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.


The enigmatic Namuli Apalis is a bird that you will only find on Mount Namuli | © Ross Gallardy

Mount Namuli is also the ancestral home to the Indigenous Lomwe people, and holds significant cultural, social, and economic influence in the lives of millions of people in Mozambique.

For many decades, the communities at the foothills of Mount Namuli lived in harmony with the mountain. However, poverty, climate change, and growing populations have pushed communities to seek resources and arable land further up the mountainside.

Members of the Mucunha community in Mozambique celebrate their achievement of land tenure | Roshni Lodhia/Legado

In 2014, Legado began its first programs on Mount Namuli, which is home to over 24,000 Lomwe Indigenous people. Together with the Mozambican conservation organization LUPA, we became the first group to work with Namuli communities to create a vision for their future and the future of their mountain and its resources.

In 2019, French organization Nitidae joined the Legado:Namuli consortium. Today, Legado works alongside Nitidae as well as Namuli Wiwanana (which translates from Lomwe to “Namuli, together”), a growing Mozambican organization that champions a community-first approach to conservation and development. We support complementary programming in partnership with Namuli communities to achieve their goals for their mountain and their lives.

360° Community-Led Change

Working in collaboration with Legado and our partners, people from both the Muchuna community and the Murrabue community have worked to create Legacy Plans to articulate their vision for Mount Namuli and their communities.

Every community member, including women and youth, played a critical role in defining their legacies and the priorities that would help build their Thriving Futures.

Community members established the following goals for themselves, their families, their communities and the environment.


Mucunha Natural Resource Management Committee | Legado

As a result of this work and other community planning*, we have seen:

  • 100% of the eight focal communities become titled, and 4,841 individuals now holding titles to their family lands (with 69% of these titles issued in a woman’s name). Prior to this work, no communities or families held formal land titles.
  • New sustainable agricultural practices adopted—resulting in increased yields, diversified production, and improved food security.
  • New value chains created so farmers now have greater market access for their products.
  • Health care access increase by 225% during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The advancement of the protection of Mount Namuli, which is now slated to become one of Mozambique’s first Community Conservation Areas.

(*Supported in partnership with Nitidae and Namuli Wiwinana)

Building on their success, Muchuna and Murrabue’s next priorities are:

Mucunha’s priorities:

Improve Our Community Health

  • Construct our first local health clinic, which will to serve 24,000 people
  • Ensure all of our villages have community health workers by training new workers for villages where there are none
  • Preserve our traditional medicinal plants and trees by protecting our vital forests and reforesting land where these important plants grow

Improve Our Children's Education

  • Increase classrooms for secondary education
  • Coordinate improved community leadership of the school to strengthen its management and ensure its sustainability
  • Improve access to the school so teachers and children can attend regularly

Create Stronger Livelihoods

  • Launch our first Village Savings and Loan program

Connect Our Community to Support All of Our Priorities and Our Overall Development

  • Rehabilitate community roads to ensure vendors have access to markets, teachers and students can attend school every day, and critically ill patients can make it to the hospital

Murrabue’s priorities:

Improve Our Children’s Education

  • Advocate to add 8th through 10th classes for older students to continue their education locally
  • Improve access to the school by constructing bridges over the Malema and Neli rivers, as well as clearing access paths

Support our Community Health

  • Grow our community healthcare worker force
  • Increase support for our community health workers and improve their workplaces

Create Stronger Livelihoods

  • Rehabilitate the Muyarana Road

Improve our access

  • Rehabilitate the Muyarana Road

Preserve and maintain our forests

  • Improve forest conservation so our community can maintain its livelihoods now and for future generations
To express the spirit of their Thriving Futures, Mucunha and Murrabue community members created crests to represent their communities' legacies.

Creating Thriving Futures

The Legado:Namuli team works with 8 communities and 24,000 people on Mount Namuli to realize the legacies they have defined. See them come to action below:
Click the image to enlarge the article.


A project to improve the implementation of Mozambique's well-established laws on tenure came to completion in December 2021, with the major milestone of titling 100% of community land. Read more in the excerpt from the Tenure Facility, who supported the work, on the page on the left.

    Meet Our Partner

    Namuli Wiwanana is a Mozambican-led organization formed to support our local and indigenous communities to create futures of their choosing that advance their lives, family and community economies, and culture while protecting the biodiversity of their homes.
    The Ngilai Community Conservancy (Ngilai Conservation Project) is a Northern Kenyan organization run by a board of 15 democratically elected members by the community every three years through community assembly as guided by Community Land Act of 2016. The conservancy works across wildlife conservation, rangelands management and community development.
    Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) is a membership organization owned and led by the 43 community conservancies it serves in northern and coastal Kenya. NRT was established in 2004 as a shared resource to help build and develop community conservancies, which are best positioned to enhance people’s lives, build peace, and conserve the natural environment. NRT is tasked by community leaders to support indigenous communities in their own objectives to cooperatively develop locally-led governance structures that complement traditional, indigenous systems, run peace and security programmes, take the lead in natural environment management, and manage sustainable businesses linked to conservation.


    O Nosso Legado é Namuli (Our Legacy is Namuli), is a four-minute film created by the Namuli communities, Legado, and Nitiade in 2022. The film, made by Tanzania filmmaker Roshni Lodhia and featuring original music, showcases the power of Namuli’s Lomwe people and their mountain home, which serves as a resource to the world.

    The film is narrated by local leader Fáusia José and also features the story of Inácio Josefe Napalacué, who lives out his legacy on Namuli through beekeeping.


    Legado began with a pioneering expedition combining climbing, science, and conservation on Mount Namuli. This community-backed film from 2016 tells the story of our unconventional roots and celebrates what happens when a team of rock climbers, biologists, and conservationists sets off on an unconventional expedition into one of the world’s least explored and most threatened habitats.

    Watch the trailer above or the full 25-minute, internationally acclaimed documentary now.


    In 2019 we teamed up with Google Jump and filmmaker Ross Henry to create a three-minute Virtual Reality film, Mountains = Water = Life, to take you right to the heart of the mountain. Mountains = Water = Life tells the story about the power of one mountain and its water by tracking water from the rainforests on top of Mount Namuli on its journey to the Indian Ocean — 200 miles away. Need another reason to check it out? It’s narrated by the Queen of Namuli herself.

    Check the film out in English above, or see the film in Portuguese here.