MOUNT GORONGOSA, Mozambique, November 7 (Reuters) – Park warden Pedro Muagura sees hope for the future as he harvests a handful of ripe, cherry-red coffee beans from a more resistant variety of coffee trees introduced to farming communities in the vicinity of Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park.
The prospect of a more reliable harvest from the crop, which thrives in the shade of indigenous trees, has provided residents of the Gorongosa region with a longer-term incentive to protect a rainforest that has lost more than 100 hectares of tree cover per year over the past four decades.
Gorongosa is still recovering from a civil war between 1977 and 1992 that claimed the lives of approximately one million people.
The park, once regarded as one of the finest in Africa, became a conflict zone and lost nearly all of its wildlife.
As a result of population growth and urbanization in neighboring communities, remaining animals were poached and forests were cut down for agriculture and housing, undermining restoration efforts.
“We realized that if we continued to talk about reforestation as a park without immediate tangible benefits, (progress) would be very slow,” Muagura said.
The Gorongosa Park department of sustainable development has been researching coffee tree varieties that are resistant to pests, disease, drought, and extended rainy seasons. In 2020, it planted the variety Muagura was considering.
In one of the world’s poorest nations, Mozambique, climate shocks such as repeated cyclones have disrupted livelihoods due to increasingly erratic weather patterns.
“Sometimes the rainy season is very long, and sometimes it is very short,” Muagura said. “We wish to cultivate resilient species.”