Story | 08 Jul, 2024

"Fish Have Returned, and So Has Daddy" Restoring Hope in Muinde Village: A story of marine conservation in Cabo Delgado

In Muinde, the Locally Empowered Area Protection (LEAP) Project, initiated in 2019, has revitalized marine biodiversity and transformed the community. Engaging local fishermen, including 38% women, and designating 569 hectares of marine reserves, the project has led to the return of abundant fish species, improved livelihoods, and reunited families. Led by IUCN and funded by BMU, the LEAP Project has made Muinde's fishermen guardians of their oceans, ensuring a sustainable future.

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Photo: IUCN Mozambique

In the coastal village of Muinde, Mecufi District, Mozambique, intensive and harmful fishing methods severely depleted local fish stocks. Once abundant species like horse mackerel, rabbitfish, and stonefish declined dramatically, and squid and octopus nearly vanished. By 2006, this crisis forced many fishermen to migrate to other regions such as Ibo, Palma, Mocímboa da Praia, and Macomia in search of better fishing opportunities.

From their new locations, these fishermen sent their earnings back to their families in Muinde, returning only for Ramadan and Eid. "The sea was dark and lifeless. It took us all day to catch just a few small fish, barely enough to sell" recalls Eugénio Duvi, a member of the Muinde Community Fisheries Council (CCP).

In 2019, the Locally Empowered Area Protection (LEAP) Project began supporting marine biodiversity conservation initiatives in Muinde. Sixteen local fishermen, including 38% women, actively engaged in these efforts. By 2020, the Muinde community, in collaboration with the District Government and CCPs, mapped and designated 569 hectares of marine areas as reserves—266 hectares permanent and 303 hectares temporary.

These reserves aimed to halt the deterioration of marine biodiversity, essential for the village's survival. The community embraced the fishing closure model, believing it to be an effective tool for conservation and resource recovery. Ali Natuca, President of the Muinde CCP, reported that since 2021, the six-month temporary closures have led to the return of previously vanished species and larger, more abundant fish.

"Initially, we were skeptical, but after seeing the results and exchanging experiences with others, we gained confidence," says Eugénio Duvi, member of CCP. "Today, we don't need to convince the community to value the reserves; the benefits are clear." he added. 

The reopening of the temporary reserves has become a village celebration, bringing together fishermen, buyers, and consumers. Ruquia Uhithino from Muinde highlights the economic and social impact, noting that the high-value fish sales have improved livelihoods, enabling families to build better homes, farm, and send their children to school.

Abudo Andrawali who migrated in 2006 to Mocímboa da Praia to seek better living conditions, returned because he can now fish locally. "The marine reserves have transformed our fishing experience and our lives. I'm grateful to be back with my family, and many others are considering returning as well," he says.

In the absence of their husbands, the women of Muinde had to take on all household responsibilities. Muanamine Abedi recalls, "I was both mother and father. There was no time to rest." Inspired by the positive changes, she abandoned harmful fishing practices and vowed to comply with the new regulations. "I don't want to be left alone again. I'll follow the fishing rules and respect the community reserves. I will never use mosquito nets for fishing."

Today, Muinde's sea is teeming with life once more, reuniting families and bringing hope.

The LEAP Project, an initiative by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), implemented by the Friends of the Environment Association (AMA) and funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), has made a profound impact. There are more fish in the Muinde Sea and the parents who had previously left far away have returned to their families. Fish is bringing families together again in Muinde."

Together, the fishermen of Muinde have become guardians of their oceans, ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come. 

Moment of deploying buoys to delimit community marine reserves. Credits: Manuel Daniel, IUCN

A map of the chile region

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Figure 1: Location of the two locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), temporary and permanent. Credits: Manuel Daniel, IUCN