News - Apr 9, 2024

Planting coffee in mount Namuli to protect its forests and biodiversity in Mozambique

Agroforestry coffee: a new cash crop for Namuli producers, to reconcile agricultural development and ecosystems conservation in this territory

Namuli: a national heritage to preserve

Mount Namuli (Gurué District, Zambezia Province) is of great importance to the Republic of Mozambique. Second highest mountain in the country, it is also part of the threatened South East Africa Montane Archipelago ecoregion, Namuli is the water tower for the provinces of Nampula and Zambézie (source of the Licungo and Malema rivers), a Key Biodiversity Area recognized by the National Biodiversity Direction (home to many endemic animal and plant species) and a regional cultural heritage site (birthplace of the Lomwé and Macua peoples, two of the most represented ethnic groups in the north-central region). The services provided by Namuli's ecosystems stimulate agricultural development (tea plantations, irrigated macadamia plantations, maize and soya) and industrial development (mineral water bottling). Namuli scenic beauty and culture also offer a tourism potential to be unlock for the benefits of Gurué District and Zambézia Province.

Namuli provides numerous ecosystem services on which the survival of local communities and the development as well as the influence of the Gurué District and Zambezia Province depend

However, since the 2000s, Namuli's high-altitude forests have been threatened by the commercial production of Irish potatoes as the main source of income for local communities. According to Nitidæ, almost 40% of the Murretxa forest was cut down between 2000 and 2020 (see the landscape study elaborated by Nitidæ in 2020).

Evolution of forest cover in the Namuli highlands between 2000 and 2020

In this context, Nitidæ has been working since 2019 to reconcile the socio-economic development of Namuli’s communities and the conservation of Namuli's ecosystems with a systematic and integrated approach at a territory scale. Our work has three objectives (see project presentation video):

  • Reducing deforestation through the development of sustainable and fair agricultural value chains by improving the resiliency of agricultural production systems facing climate change.
  • Ensure the rights of Namuli communities to their lands and support them in drawing up and implementing sustainable and inclusive management and development plans for their territory.
  • Formalize and strengthen Namuli's conservation and sustainable management project by creating a Community Conservation Area.

Queen of Mucunha with an official certificate recognizing the rights of community of Mucunha to use and enjoy their lands

In addition to Namuli’s communities, Nitidæ is mobilizing public institutions, research bodies (IIAM, OMR, UEM, UniLicungo etc.), NGOs, donors (LED, AFD, RFT, Land Tenure Facility, etc.) and the private sector to make this vision a reality. Since January 2024, this initiative is currently supported by the Liechtensteinischer Entwicklungs Dienst and the French Agency for Development.

Since the early years, the work has had a positive effect on the annual rate of deforestation, as demonstrated in 2020 by Nitidæ using remote sensing techniques to monitor forest cover:

Variation in the annual rate of deforestation between 2000 and 2020

Mozambique joins the list of coffee producing countries

At the same time, the Mozambican Coffee Growers Association (AMOCAFE) was created, bringing together coffee producers from all over the country to encourage production and the national market, as well as its integration at international level with Mozambique's membership of the International Coffee Organization in 2023. It has to be said that coffee production in Mozambique has grown considerably over the last 10 years, often in mountainous and/or forested areas, in the provinces of Manica, Sofala, Niassa, Cabo Delgado and Tete. In this context, coupled with the adaptation challenges that climate change is imposing on Mozambican agriculture, Namuli, a mountainous area with a cool and humid climate, offers great potential for establishing high-quality, sustainable, climate-resilient (Cassamo et al.) and socially fare coffee production.

Coffee plant in the machaùba of Mrs. Aurelina de Curuca, February 2024

Work on integrating coffee into local production systems to reduce the dependence of local agriculture on forest resources

Coffee was grown in Namuli during the colonial era on the outskirts of the tea plantations. 50 years later, Nitidæ wants to revitalize coffee production by involving local farming families. The aim is to integrate agro-forestry coffee systems, combining coffee bushes and native shade trees, into the local producers' agricultural production systems, in order to guarantee an alternative source of income to potatoes, while conserving forest biodiversity and reconverting degraded forest areas.

Map of probable suitability (probability calculations) between the conditions of agricultural plots (community cadaster) and the agroclimatic requirements of the coffee crop, based on criteria such as temperature, annual rainfall, sun exposure and slope

The coffee-based cultivation systems are implemented on farmers' fields, objectively chosen based on an understanding of the agrarian dynamics (see the agrarian diagnosis elaborated by Nitidæ in 2019) and the local agro-climatic conditions.

Thus, in 2021, Nitidæ in partnership with the company Agrimel, created three nurseries and trained nine community nurserymen to produce seedlings of coffee and native forest species.

In 2024, Nitidæ completed the implementation of the first 20 pilot coffee fields on the mountain. Consorted with native trees, planted or preserved, the coffee bushes also sometimes coexist with food crops. The work is done in collaboration with the community's leadership and Natural Resource Management Committees, to ensure that this production is integrated into the wider issues of conservation and natural resource management at community level.

Preparing coffee planting in a fallow field with Mrs. Otília from the village of Curuca and Jonito, a technician of Nitidæ team

The Nitidæ team is currently monitoring the pilot fields to observe how the plants adapt to the mountain conditions in order to assess the crop's potential. Adventure to follow!

Nitidæ wishes to collaborate with the private sector and cooperation actors supporting conservation and sustainable rural development efforts to join our efforts to conserve Namuli and improve the livelihoods of its communities.

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