The administrator of Gorongosa National Park, Pedro Muagura, was recognized in Kigali, in the Republic of Rwanda, at the Congress of Protected Areas, for winning the “Kenton R. Miller Award for Innovation in National Parks and Sustainability of Protected Areas”.
The award was given by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) in Switzerland in 2020. Pedro Muagura was the special guest of the African Congress of Protected Areas for his exceptional work to ensure the long-term sustainability of conservation sites.
Faced in his daily life with the dilemma of continued deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and the struggle for livelihoods of local farmers after the 16-year war in Mozambique, Muagura came up with the idea of growing coffee on the slopes of the devastated mountains, and proposed that the coffee be grown in the shade of replanted native trees, providing an income for local people while restoring the forest.
At the time, Pedro Muagura’s idea was not understood by his teammates. However, because he believed in the transformative power of the initiative in communities, the administrator persevered and remained focused on proving that his vision would gain ground, even though it was not registered as an experiment in coffee cultivation in the Gorongosa area.
Muagura gathered coffee seedlings and planted. Two and a half years later he harvested the coffee fruit and presented the result at the Park’s coordination meeting. His initiative was accepted and the project was funded by the park and partners. The administrator worked closely with the community and listened to their needs, demonstrating that the benefits of restoration would outweigh the short-term gains of slash-and-burn agriculture.
Muagura also had a gender perspective, ensuring that women were empowered to contribute to the seedling nurseries and newly planted trees. Currently, the people of Mount Gorongosa plant about 200,000 coffee trees a year, along with 50,000 rainforest trees, and women make up 50 percent of the smallholder farmers.
The Protected Areas Congress was organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and was supported by African governments and international organizations linked to biodiversity conservation.
The Mozambican delegation that participated in the event was headed by Celmira da Silva, director-general of the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), and staff from the Ministry of Land and Environment (MTA).