In 2009 the Dutch King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima had a villa built in Mozambique. The Dutch government decided to sell this villa because the Dutch people said their King and Queen shouldn’t be allowed to have a luxury villa in a country where the inhabitants are so poor.
This incident illustrates how the people of the Netherlands can influence events, but what does that influence actually mean when it doesn’t lead to a solution to child-labour, poverty, deforestation or overpopulation? In Mozambique a man from the Netherlands called Elsard and his South African girlfriend Ingrid were confronted with this contradiction between poor and rich. They actually think you need to do the right thing yourself.
Ingrid is the daughter of a forester from South Africa and Elsard has a passion for reforestation. As a diving instructor Ingrid knew the southern part of Mozambique and she grew up surrounded by nature in South Africa. Elsard had visited plantations in Brazil, some of them very special and Elsard is chairman of renaturefoundation.nl Their research led them to the conclusion that there were reforestation opportunities in Mozambique.
They started to investigate possibilities in Mozambique in 2014. They made contact with local people and entrepreneurs and became interested in planting Moringa Oleifera trees. A bungalow builder brought them into contact with Derrek, a 76 year old farmer who fled with his wife from Zimbabwe to Mozambique where they now live at lake Zitundo. As a former tobacco farmer he was familiar with drying leaves and his experience was vitally important for drying Moringa leaves in order to then grind them into a nutritious powder.
The project area: Maputaland-Mozambique
This province is situated between Maputo and the South African border and lies between Swaziland and the coast. It is only a small stretch of the Mozambican coast which is actually 2600 kilometres long! The roads are mainly dirt roads that require a 4-wheel drive car, but the Chinese are currently building a road that connects the southern border with Maputo. Malaria is under control and the area is safe for tourism. Many tourists from South Africa spend their holidays here, enjoying the beach, which brings labour and business opportunities to the coast. There are just a few hundred tourists so it is not to be compared with tourism in Southern Europe.
An important part of the area is the ‘Maputo Elephant Park’. This is where the Peace Park Foundation has initiated a connecting corridor with the ‘Tembe Elephant Park’ in South Africa.
Ingrid and Elsard took the initiative to investigate and understand the needs of the local people and the characteristics of the land in this area.
They developed activities in Zitundo and in 2015, 2017 and 2018 they also went to the ISET University (Instituto Superieur Educacao e Tecnologica)/ OWU (One World University) situated close to Changalane. From there they visited a few communities and small towns and they talked to students in Namaacha who were studying to become teachers and worked in small schools in the rural area. They managed to build up a good relationship with the University and they are looking forward to creating changes for the students. In 2017 they demonstrated how to plant vegetables according to the first chapter of Syntropic farming and the University mentioned them in their half yearly report.
Ingrid and Elsard: “The most important thing we found out is that the majority of the youngsters give us hope, a lot of hope. Not only the students at ISET or Namaacha but all the youngsters. Most of them speak English. They are polite, modest and prepared to work in the rural areas. They teach the children in order to give them a better future. They are the driving force motivating us to go on.”