The Ocean Guardians initiative raises awareness and educates a new generation of Guardians, who understand the importance of preserving oceans in Mozambique for a better future!
Ocean Guardians – the educational arm of Marine Megafauna Foundation in Mozambique – is unique to MMF, reflecting the urgent need in Mozambique for community engagement and raising awareness of marine conservation and water safety.
The program creates a generation of Mozambican scientists, professionals, and policymakers who champion one of Mozambique’s greatest natural resources – the ocean – and work to address the threats posed by climate change. The project has developed an integrated marine conservation programme raising Ocean Guardians who are inspired by the ocean, equipped to safely enjoy the water, know-how, and why it needs to be conserved and act to protect it. Their pilot education project has reached over 2300 young Mozambicans with 7 schools adopting our integrated marine conservation curriculum since 2012. In January 2018, they launched the Coral Reef Club for 16-21 year-olds and it is already extremely popular for providing ongoing marine conservation education and support in seeking alternative livelihoods (to fishing) through vocational internships with local businesses and employment skills training.
Their motto is to ‘Learn today, Act together, Protect tomorrow’ and in 3 years they expect to:
Teach more than 2300 children graduates in targeted communities, teach more than 900 pupils how to swim, give capacity training to more than 300 young adults (through Workshops on critical thinking abilities and problem-solving, Language Training University Fees Support, Apprenticeships and Ocean Activities Internships in alternative livelihoods (e.g. fish farming) and SCUBA).
Mozambique is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world, ranked 185 out of 187 countries in the 2013 Human Development Index. 52% of the population are under 18; therefore, the education system faces many challenges in creating good learning opportunities, especially on cross-cutting topics such as conservation for all children. Thus, this education program presents a powerful opportunity to create a positive change. The country has one of the world’s longest and most biodiverse coastlines, yet illegal and unsustainable fishing practices are very common. This poses a threat not only to wildlife but also to the livelihoods of the hundreds of communities who live along the coast and depend on fishing for their livelihoods.
Low levels of education further compound this situation. In Mozambique, less than 60% of children complete primary school and only 20% attend secondary school resulting in the need to provide innovative ways to access education (UNICEF 2014). In addition, those who have the opportunity to go to secondary school have limited access to capacity building programs. Therefore, with the Ocean Guardians program, many children and youth in the community will have the opportunity to develop various skills, including vocational skills. In the context that over half of Mozambique’s population is under 18 years old, there is a great opportunity for positive change through early engagement with impressionable youth on conservation issues.
Over 2,300 young Mozambicans have learned about marine conservation, 800 pupils have learned to swim, 9 local instructors have been trained, 13 representatives for Inhambane Province at National Swim Championships in 2017, 2018 and 2020, 9 graduates have secured internships within ecotourism and more than 40 young adults have had capacity training on critical thinking abilities and problem-solving.
100% of project participants are from a minority background or children in difficult social situations from the communities in the Inhambane, Mozambique area.
– Direct Beneficiaries: By acting to preserve the ocean in their local community, their future Guardians are playing their part in a wider mission to conserve the ocean for everyone. They want to support people of all different identities and accept every religion, ethnicity, and sexuality into the program. Regarding socio-economic class, most of the students are from poor families. Instructors have extensive experience and are able to find interesting and exciting ways of involving children in the proposed activities. With the programme, all children in target communities have the opportunity to attend classes even if they are not frequenting the local schools, which can happen often as the parents would keep their children at home for housework (mainly girls) or not be able to pay the secondary school fees.
– Targeting girls: Although women are consistently more engaged in their education activities, female economic empowerment remains a challenge, and women’s influence is largely limited to in the home. The program focuses on equality, demonstrating to the girls and boys that they have the same abilities and can achieve similar goals.
– Indirect beneficiaries include persons that are indirectly influenced by the programme. It also includes all Mozambicans who are reached through MMF’s engagement on social and traditional media.
Mozambique has one of Africa’s longest and most bio-diverse coastlines, with an abundance of marine megafauna species that include whale sharks, manta rays, marine turtles and cetaceans. It is one of three unique locations in the world where these ocean giants are present all year long. However, there has been a significant reduction in the number of sightings of megafauna in this region over the last ten years, with a 98% decline in manta ray sightings and 88% decline in whale sharks sightings. Coastal populations are dependent on the ocean for their livelihoods and subsistence, yet few Mozambicans know how to swim resulting in countless drowning fatalities and there is a lack of understanding within communities about the threats to marine life or the significant pressure that current, unsustainable, fishing practices place on this unique marine environment and its resources.
The Mozambican coastline is being overfished and indiscriminate tackle is being used instead of more sustainable options. Poaching of protected or vulnerable species, shark-finning, pollution and unregulated coastal development are all exacerbating the problem. Whilst collaboration with the Government is underway to implement protective legislation and management plans to safeguard diminishing coastal resources, more work needs to be done, particularly in terms of education, awareness and capacity building.
The program is part of a wider strategy that includes a horizontal approach together with the MMF pillars in Mozambique – Research, Inspiration and Conservation. Using their combined method, Ocean Guardians has been able to research how the issues are improving by educating young and adult Mozambicans and running many conservation projects together with the community.
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