The Business Year

Mateus Mutemba

Park Administrator, Gorongosa National Park

Greg Carr

President, Gorongosa Park Oversight Committee

How would you describe the significance of this park to Mozambicans? MATEUS MUTEMBA Gorongosa is a 4,000-square kilometer national park located in central Mozambique, in Sofala province. It was created […]

How would you describe the significance of this park to Mozambicans?

MATEUS MUTEMBA Gorongosa is a 4,000-square kilometer national park located in central Mozambique, in Sofala province. It was created originally as a hunting reserve, but became a national park in the 1960s. Since then, Gorongosa has been a source of pride to all Mozambicans, not only for its natural beauty and mysticism, but also because of its huge diversity of ecosystems and landscapes. We have over 129 species of mammal, over 400 bird species, 33 reptile species, and over 2,000 plant species in the park. We also have thousands of insect species, and around 35 different amphibian species. Being part of the Rift Valley adds to the uniqueness of Gorongosa, and to the diversity of the wildlife and plants that can be found here. We also have Mount Gorongosa, which was recently incorporated into the park. Mount Gorongosa also supports a large diversity of animals and plants, as well as hosting a spectacular rainforest. It is also home to a bird native to the region, namely the Green Headed Oriole.

How have you created awareness of the park?

GREG CARR We have put a great effort into building the Gorongosa brand. It seemed like a strategy that would help the nation and instill pride into the country. On the business side of things, we worked hard from the beginning to invite journalists and make films here. We actually paid for their first trip because we believed in it so much, flying in two people who loved what they saw. They went back to National Geographic and decided to make an hour-long program on the park called Lost Eden. That is an example of where sometimes you have to push a little to start things going. Now, we don’t have to push as much for awareness; it is occurring naturally.

What is the focus of the park restoration strategy?

MM The war of 1977 to 1992 destroyed most of the facilities that we had, along with the wildlife. The figures we had for 1972 said that used to have 14,000 buffalo; however, due to the losses caused by the war, by 2000 the count was less than 100. In the 1960s and especially in the early 1970s, around 25,000 tourists visited Gorongosa every year. When the restoration started in 2006, there were fewer than 1,000 tourists visiting per year. We recorded around 7,000 visitors in 2011, and 6,550 in 2012. Our goal is to bring tourists back to the park, and in fact one of the main goals of the government of Mozambique after the peace agreement was to put Gorongosa back on the tourist map. The approach to restoring Gorongosa is holistic in nature. We are working on its restoration using a paradigm that not only focuses on nature, but that also considers the human factor. We create jobs and today employ roughly 400 people at the park, of which the vast majority are from the local villages.

GC Imagine if we could have eight camps around the park, each of which could have 120 employees, most of whom are hired locally. This might be their first job in a formal sector, and it would be a wonderful start for them. It’s possible to see tourism becoming a $20 million business just here in Gorongosa. Then, each tourist would also spend when at the beach or in Maputo. It could generate real revenue for Mozambique. And if you look at the secondary and tertiary spin offs, such as food and construction, there are even more opportunities. Even now, we are one the largest employers in the province, and are just getting started. Tourism is not our only business activity; we are also active in the field of science. National parks in former times were run by conservationists whose attitude was to keep everybody out and to block access. Today, however, we have a more enlightened view of a national park that says that human beings should be using, but not damaging it. Our philosophy is to welcome tourism, scientists, educational filmmakers, and the local community. We allow 2% of the 400,000 hectares of the park to be used for research.



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