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Mozambique: Slashing and Burning

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mozambique-by-douglas-drake

I recently spent three months cycling through Mozambique, in a range of temperatures from sweltering to incinerating. In addition to the obligatory saddle sores and sun burn, it provided some great insights into the country and the people.

Visiting different national parks and conservation related projects was the overarching aim of the trip. However, reality saw the bulk of my time spent cycling along roads, with varying degrees of tarmac and consistent volumes of litter.  What was past the litter was most telling, which for large stretches of the country was burnt or burning land.

Slash and burn agriculture is used extensively across Mozambique, to the point where it is clearly visible when protected areas of land begin and end. Forested land is clear cut and then burned; the layer of ash created then provides rich nutrients for a few years of farming. Once the nutrients are used up, another area of forest gets the same treatment, with habitat loss, air pollution and soil erosion all occurring. In essence the practice works for the short term but longer term – especially in light of a population growing at 3.8% a year – is unsustainable and hugely ecologically damaging.

Not only is slash and burn agriculture a long term issue, it is symbolic of far deeper problems within Mozambique, which raises questions of why the struggling general population would even care.  The title of the World Bank’s recently released bi-annual report on Mozambique sums it up well: ‘Mozambiqe Economic Update: facing hard choices’. Conflict, drought, low commodities prices and a depreciating currency are all highlighted as plights for the country.

Cycling through Mozambique it is easy to see slash and burn at the coal face. What is not so conspicuous is the fact that it permeates from the upper echelons of politics and international institutions such as the IMF.   Two examples are indicative. In 2012 offshore natural gas was discovered, so following the textbook, in swept the oilmen and bankers. Credit Swiss and Russian lender VTB, motivated by high commissions, helped the government raise $2.2bn in loans – not insignificant for a country with a GDP of $16bn – most of it done secretly. An additional $850m was raised to fund a state owned tuna fishing company.  In both cases the money was squandered and the resultant debt scandal has hammered the currency, leaving people in one of the world’s poorest countries facing annual food inflation of 40%.

Even assuming the money had not been wasted, both deals stink of slash and burn. Look to Nigeria and Angola for examples of fossil fuel resources making international institutions rich, whilst keeping general populations locked in poverty and corruption.  There is also a dark irony in the export of more commodities being seen as a long term solution, whilst simultaneously being peddled as a reason for the countries current economic woes.   That is before you even look at future reductions in fossil fuel use and fish stocks which will be driven by climate change and overfishing.

But perhaps worst of all is the reality that the exporting of natural gas and tuna will hurt the general population, not benefitting them in the short or long term. Fish is a staple part of the Mozambican diet and fishing a major source of employment. Increasing commercial fishing in an already overfished area, relocating fisherman and drilling offshore will undoubtedly have significant negative effects. Once gas and fish is then exported, all evidence suggests that revenue will be plundered and benefit a very small minority – much like the original debt – and not be spent addressing real and important issues like slash and burn agriculture.

Like much of Africa, Mozambique needs to turn a food deficit into a food surplus. With a reported 30%-40% of crops such as maize being wasted, it is obvious that investment in storage and transport infrastructure is required. This along with education and governance – to prevent practices such as slash and burn – is where private and public institutions should be focused.

Having spent a few nights at the beautiful Nzou Camp in central Mozambique, surrounded by African Paradise-Flycatchers and beautiful forests, it was all the harder leaving on a road surrounded by what was previously the same dense woodland. In its place, a carpet of black and dusty threadbare stumps, rolling as far as the eye can see. Sadly, that is the just the real slash and burn’s little brother.

Written by Douglas Drake

Aspiring adventurer, writer and environmentalist. Having sold his soul for a few years, Doug is now pursuing his true passions in life which revolve around animals and the natural world.  With a background in business and finance it is likely Doug’s articles will tilt that way.

Environment

Extra-Mile Water Conservation Efforts Amidst Shortage

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water conserving

While some states are literally flooding due to heavy rains and run-off, others are struggling to get the moisture they need. States like Arizona and California have faced water emergencies for the last few years; water conserving efforts from citizens help keep them out of trouble.

If your area is experiencing a water shortage, there are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.

Repair and Maintain Appliances

Leaks around the house – think showerheads, toilets, dishwashers, and more – lead to wasted water. Beyond that, the constant flow of water will cause water damage to your floors and walls. Have repairs done as soon as you spot any problems.

Sometimes, a leak won’t be evident until it gets bad. For that reason, make appointments to have your appliances inspected and maintained at least once per year. This will extend the life of each machine as well as nip water loss in the bud.

When your appliances are beyond repair, look into Energy Star rated replacements. They’re designed to use the least amount of water and energy possible, without compromising on effectiveness.

Only Run Dishwasher and Washer When Full

It might be easier to do a load of laundry a day rather than doing it once per week, but you’ll waste a lot more water this way. Save up your piles of clothes until you have enough to fully load the washing machine. You could also invest in a washing machine that senses the volume of water needed according to the volume of clothes.

The same thing goes with the dishwasher. Don’t push start until you’ve filled it to capacity. If you have to wash dishes, don’t run the water while you’re washing. Fill the sink or a small bowl a quarter of the way full and use this to wash your dishes.

Recycle Water in Your Yard

Growing a garden in your backyard is a great way to cut down on energy and water waste from food growers and manufacturers, but it will require a lot more water on your part. Gardens must be watered, and this often leads to waste.

You can reduce this waste by participating in water recycling. Using things like a rain barrel, pebble filtering system, and other tools, you can save thousands of gallons a year and still keep your landscaping and garden beautiful and healthy.

Landscape with Drought-Resistant Plants

Recycling water in your yard is a great way to reduce your usage, but you can do even more by reducing the amount of water required to keep your yard looking great. The best drought-resistant plants are those that are native to the area. In California, for example, succulents grow very well, and varieties of cactus do well in states like Arizona or Texas.

Install Water-Saving Features

The average American household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. You obviously can’t cut out things like showering or using the toilet, but you can install a few water-saving tools to make your water use more efficient.

There are low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators. You could also use automatic shut-off nozzles, shower timers, and grey water diverters. Any of these water saving devices can easily cut your water usage in half.

Research Laws and Ordinances for Your City

Dry states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada must create certain laws to keep the water from running out. These laws are put into practice for the benefit of everyone, but they only work if you abide by the laws.

If you live in a state where drought is common, research your state and city’s laws. They might designate one day per week that you’re allowed to water your lawn or how full you can fill a pool. Many people are not well versed in the laws set by their states, and it would mean a lot to your community if you did your part.

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Environment

Cyprus is the Forerunner for Ecotourism

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When I was looking for a second citizenship, I happened to see One Visa’s offer on Cyprus Citizenship by investment program. I had heard about Cyprus being a beautiful country, but I did not know much else, so I decided to start my own research about this gem of a place.

After I did some research, I discovered that Cyprus is a popular destination for tourists. Unfortunately, heavy tourism and the associated development affected villages here and there, with some communities being slowly abandoned. To avoid this from happening any further, Cyprus went into ecotourism, and today, it is the forerunner in this arena. Let’s look in further detail at ecotourism in Cyprus here.

How was it started?

It all started in 2006 with the launch of the “Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative.” This program has the sole scope of promoting ecotourism developments in the tourism industry. It concentrates on those areas which require conservation and environmental safety. At the same time, it helps develop social, as well as economic statuses in the rural parts of Cyprus. Through this program, the government was able to acknowledge that ecotourism will play an essential role in the future of Cyprus, with the concept gaining momentum among tourists from all over the globe.

How to go about it?

So, now you are interested in going for an ecotourism vacation in Cyprus. How will you go about it? I would immediately say that everyone should visit the quaint Cypriot villages spread throughout the island. These communities have a smaller population, and not many tourists visit. They make for a great relaxing spot. Enjoy seeing the bustle of village life go by where simple pleasures abound. Most hamlets are linked by specific minibus tours which ferry tourists to these havens. These trips will have a regular schedule, aimed at promoting ecotourism further. Such tours will be regulated to ensure that while the villages can benefit and develop, they do not get overpopulated or overcrowded with tourists. Therefore, you can be sure to enjoy the beautiful sceneries that nature has to offer here.

If you are wondering if there are any activities to do here, my answer would be: “Yes, plenty.” You can go for some guided walks across various regions here. Here you will be able to explore the diversified natural beauty and wildlife of the area. Several agritourism activities and services are planned to open shortly. Once launched, you will be able to engage in picking olives, milking goats, and several other such events here.

What can be learned?

Although we are aware that natural resources need to be preserved, we do not always remember it in real life. When we go on tours such as these, we can realize the significance of protecting nature. Also, when more and more people visit these places, the concept of ecotourism will become popular among more people. Awareness about ecotourism is set to grow and spread throughout the world. Subsequently, sustainable tourism will gain popularity around the globe with Cyprus being the forerunner for ecotourism .

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