You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) using Archive-It. This page was captured on 00:03:14 Dec 15, 2015, and is part of the UNESCO collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page.
Loading media information hide
Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands


Land-Ocean Interactions
 in the Coastal Zone


Report on 2003 activities in the Unesco project on cultural and ecological responses to development on the Maputaland coast of SE Africa

prepared by M Jury based on student inputs

December 2003

1 Survey of botanical biodiversity at Ponta do Ouro
2 Preliminary survey of socio-economic conditions at Ponta do Ouro
3 Environmental awareness and school curriculum activites
4 Improving farming technology at Mabibi in a demonstration plot


1. Survey of botanical biodiversity at Ponta do Ouro

This activity was supported by Anisha Naidu, Mark Jury and Gelmer Mulder

The purpose of this part of the Unesco project was to inventory plant species richness in various ecological zones are Ponta do Ouro. 10 x 10 m quadrats were sampled in the dune forests, grassland savanna and wetland pans along a transect from the coast at Ponta do Ouro inland through areas adjacent to the village, as done at Mabibi a few years earlier by Ms Govender. Soil samples and photographic surveys were completed in addition to the collection of plant specimens.

Ms Naidu is a 23 year old Indian lady from the coast of KZNatal with a BSc in Botany. She engaged in the Unesco project through honours studies at the University of Zululand. Field trips were made in early May and mid June 2003 to collect the samples. Each ecotone was replicated twice, to improve confidence in the baseline inventory. The table below lists the species present.

Species Name Common Name Forest Grassland Wetland
Vangueria infausta - +
Allophylus natalensis False currant +
Chaetacme arista Thorny elm +
Cordia caffra Septee +
Deinbollia oblongifoli* Dune soap berry +
Brachylaena discolor Coast silver oak +
Eugenia capensis Dune myrtle +
Euclea natalensis Tonga Guarri +
Oplismenus hirtellus Basket grass +
Panicum deustum Broad-leaved panicum +
Brachypodium flexum - +
Sideroxylon inerme White milkwood +
Albizia adianthifolia Flat crown +
Eragrostis capensis Heart-seed love grass +
Perotis patens Cats tail +
Ischaemum afrum Turf Grass +
Bromus catharticus Rescue grass +
Andropogon appendiculatus - +
Digitaria argyrograpta Silver finger grass +
Sorghum versicolor Black-seed wild sorghum +
Species Name Common Name Forest Grassland Wetland
Aristida stipitata Long-awned three-awn +
Hyparrhenia anamesa Bundle thatching grass +
Hyparrhenia filipendula Fine thatching grass +
Digitaria eriantha Finger grass +
Eustachys paspaloides Fan grass +
Anthephora pubescens Wool grass +
Eragrostis nindensis Wether grass +
Eragrostis pallens* Broom grass +
Eragrostis plana Love grass +
Diplachne fusca Swamp grass +
Mariscus congestus - +
Melica racemosa Fluffy grass +
Imperata cylindrica Cotton wool grass +
Acroceras macrum* Nile grass +
Cenchrus cilaris Blue buffalo grass +
Chloris gayana Rhodes grass +
Chloris virgata Feathered chloris +
Eragrostis tef Teff +
Paspalum dilatatum Common paspalum +
Phragmites australis Common reed +

A total of 13 species were found in the dune forest, 16 in the grassland, and 11 in the wetland, yielding a total of 40 species in three distinct ecotones. Of the three ecotones, only the dune forest is likely to remain pristine in the short-term. The grassland sites are being allocated for residential development and the edge of the wetland pans are being used for crop farming.

Soil nutrients are listed in the following table:

Ecotone % moisture % organic carbon Organic matter Phosphate(P) Potassium(K) Nitrate
Dune F. 3.3 2.37 4.1 38 362 18
Grassland 0.7 0.77 1.32 11 308 4
Wetland 1.3 0.45 0.78 10 347 15

It can be noted that soils in the dune forests exhibit a high nutrient content. If the biodiversity values are normalized for basal diameter (eg. grassland and wetland species are half the size of forest species) and compared with P values we find a reasonable match. This confirms that the bio-physical modeling done earlier by Govender at Mabibi may provide useful insights for ecological conditions at Ponta. One difference in the two results is the greater number of wetland species found at Ponta.

Below are photos of the Ponta do Ouro biodiversity sites.

Wetland site


Grassland site

Forest site

Entrance to forest site from beach

2. Preliminary survey of socio-economic conditions at Ponta do Ouro

This activity was supported by Simphiwe Morajane, Elena Masinga and Mark Jury

The purpose of this component of the Unesco project was to evaluate the socio-economic status of Ponta do Ouro at individual and community level, and to provide an infrastructure needs assessment. Two field trips were conducted in May and June 2003, to collect data, develop teamwork amongst project researchers and provide a comparative analysis with respect to conditions in Mabibi, South Africa. Mr Morajane is a 28 year old Sotho man from an inland village, and engaged in the Unesco project through honours studies at the University of Zululand. University of Edwardo Mondlane staff were invited to attend, but couldn't make it. Patricia Cuamba, a graduate student from Mozambique is arranged to join the project in 2004.

Ponta do Ouro is the coastal border town in Mozambique that is most accessible to South African tourists. It's setting is unique - to the south a long-line of forest covered dunes 100 m in elevation occurs. At Ponta the coast swings to the west, creating a leeward protected bay. Beach sands that are transported northwards by swell-driven currents bypass the bay and the dunes are less than 10 m high, hence stable enough to support beachfront development.

We always stay in the large campsite operated by the Mozambican tourism authority near the point. Around the perimeter there are a handful of scuba diving camps and a number of privately run eco-tourism lodges. These have attracted dozens of Tsonga people who work as casual service providers. Originally the town was a coastal resort with hundreds of Portugese people living in upmarket houses along the ridge overlooking the beach. These have remained despite the civil war of the 1980s.

Surveys have been conducted in Ponta since 2001. Noticeable improvements to the beachfront houses have been recorded. From our questionnaires it is estimated that two-thirds of all supplies and tourists to the area are from South Africa, a short 10 km journey to the south. The road northward to Maputo via Zitundo is in poor condition. Our surveys asked the questions: why is the local community poor, if there is so much economic turn-over? What is slowing the delivery of infrastructure, in particular a road network and water supplies?

Some background information was collected. Mozambican per capita income averages less than R300 per month ($50). It is one of the poorest countries in the world, due to its past history of political instability and lack of extractable resources. Personal savings and investment are minimal in Mozambique, hence international partners are required to sustain development. In 2002 tourism generated 7 % of total revenue, more than half is pre-paid and remained outside the country.

In other Mozambican coastal resorts jobs are generated for about 10% of the local population (averaging R 500 / month), with a knock-on effect reaching a maximum of 25%. Local prices are high, so a large fraction of revenue goes to pay for imports. Additionally foreign tourism operators often bring in their own supplies and staff. Hence the national economy may benefit through border duties and taxes (that are prone to corruption), but the local economy sees little tangible gain.

A number of interviews were conducted with individuals. A few highlights:

Joze a local community member - head of a household with 5 children, whose wife works as a maid. He works at the hotel providing noctural security for the past 8 years. Prior to that he lived in the area over two decades, and served as a Frelimo officer. He grows cassava, bean and maize next to his reed house. In response to the question - How was life before the civil war? - Life was good because of the economic activities of the resident Portugese people. When the civil war started, most people left for BelaVista, Catembe, or Maputo. Now life is difficult, because most basic foods, etc are imported from South Africa and the local police demand taxes in addition to a border duty of 50%. My job doesn't pay much, and school fees are relatively high.

Ali, a recent arrival from a village near Maputo - married with no children. He works at one of the Scuba camps as a certified Dive Master. His wife bakes bread to supplement an income of R 800 / month. He collects water from the community well for cooking and fishes at the beach and offshore whilst clients are diving. He mentioned the difficulty of getting around without public transport. Twice a week some people club together paying R 40 to go to Manguzi for shopping with the Dive Camp operators. They use local firewood for cooking and candles for light. His house is made of reeds, with a sand floor and tin roof. It could blow down in a strong wind.

Alexia, a 40 year old Tsonga lady from the local community - owns a small informal restaurant in the baracas (market) area. Her opinion was that about half of tourists to Ponta were from Maputo. She prepares meals using foods imported from South Africa, selling for about R 10 per person. Much of her profits go to electricity and transport. She mentioned that the local induna is on the side of the government (viewed as corrupt by the local community). He collects money but does not remove garbage as intended. She indicated that not many foreign tourists come to her restaurant because of its poor appearance.

Gena, a French immigrant running an eco-tourism lodge overlooking the beach. She indicated that obtaining the lease to run the business was difficult and took many years to organise. She employs 5 to 10 people depending on tourism volume. Her profits fluctuate and are about R 20 000 / month in summer, but disappear over winter. Much of her products are imported from Maputo, to avoid border duty. She was against improving the road to South Africa as it would bring criminals. However the road to the north should be paved. She would like to see improved health care facilities, a water supply scheme, and a postal service.

Daniel, a Mozambican managing the beach hotel. He stated that profits were dependent on South African scuba divers. His records indicate about 10 000 guests / year visit Ponta, 40% from Maputo area, 50% South African and 10% international. In response to the question - How does Ponta compare with the coastal resort of Xai-Xai? He mentioned that business is more seasonal here. The hotel infrastructure is far behind, although they get clean water pumped from a nearby lake. Most of their food is imported from Maputo. He mentioned that some of the S A dive tourists were arrogant. He stated that staff salaries ranged from R 500 - 800 / month. Rooms rent for a similar amount per day. The hotel is co-owned by South African, Portugese and Mozambican people. He wanted to see better schools, clinics and roads in the area. He mentioned that his family did not want to join him in Ponta, so they live in Maputo and he visits them twice monthly. He was against plans for a big hotel development in the campsite.

Fernando, a Portugese electrical engineer working in Ponta. He is in charge of the community electrification project. He mentioned that most houses were currently still without power because of low income levels. Electricity charge rates were found to be about half those of South Africa. He said that 180 houses had been connected. He pointed out that the rates collected were banked in Maputo, in the absence of any local facility.

Tourists' response to questionnaires - a sample of 20 people were interviewed in and around the campsite. Most were in the age group 25 - 40 years. 19 tourists were from South Africa, 14 were camping. Asked - What brings you here? Most answered the rural environment and beautiful ocean. 75% came for scuba diving or swimming, 25% came for hiking and culture. Asked - what development would you prefer? Many said that uplifting the local people should be important, only 30% were against improvements in respect of infrastructure, water supplies, etc. Most were in favour of better roads, but not big hotels. Most tourists claimed to spend about R 500 / week locally for food and services, and another R1500 / week for accommodation.

The campsite manager provided some information. Revenue fluctuates from about R 2500 / day out of season to R 15 000 / day in season. Expenditure is divided between agent booking fees and government taxes (40%), transport and related activites (30%), equipment refurbishment (20%), and local services (10%) that generated over 20 jobs.

D C, a dive camp manager was interviewed - He has been providing diving services for 10 years. Initially Ponta was very quiet - but things are picking up. He mentioned the problem of seasonal tourism, when facilities were overloaded and septic tank discharge mixed with borehole water. Total turnover was R 200 000 / month at peak times. His camp employs 7 local people earning R 600 - 1000 / month. He spends over 50% of his takings on fuel, replacement equipment (eg. boat, trailer, 4 x 4 vehicle, scuba tanks, masks / fins, wetsuits, etc). Another 30% is taken up-front, leaving 10% for management and 10% for local help. He mentioned the need for banks in the area to prevent large sums of money being transported. He also stated that the school needed to be improved and the clinic better stocked. Concessions to the dive operators need to be formalised and made long-term, so a sense of ownership would lead to further improvements.

The craft market at Ponta does a thriving business, particularly before Christmas. High quality carvings, paintings, weavings etc are available. Many of the crafters were happy with conditions in the area and had few complaints. Roadside stall owners were interviewed, and mentioned that they walked 2 hours to Ponta from the SA border to sell fruit such as bananas.

In summary, Ponta do Ouro is a growing coastal resort, with an annual turnover of R 20 M from about 100 000 dives per year (in 2003). Infrastructure is in poor condition, but is being gradually revived, after being decimated in the civil war backed by the former SA government. The area's population is returning slowly, not to the hinterland but to this coastal resort in search of work.

Culture is not separate from socio-economic conditions, and here Ponta do Ouro has the distinct advantage of exhibiting a blend of Portugese and Tsonga cultures that gives a sense of racial harmony. The lower crime rate and informal outdoor nature of communal and eco-tourism areas makes this resort attractive. But much work remains to be done. Local governance needs to emerge - Ponta can no longer be managed from a distance.

The Unesco project can involve itself at Ponta in a variety of activites in the near future:

a baraccas (market) beautification effort,
revive and promote cultural events,
and provide recommendations on local development

- based on consultations with stakeholders in meetings and workshops. Its aim should be the incorporation of priority projects into the town plan:

water system,
road network, and
better support for the school and clinic

- funded through local taxes and border duties, (eg. giving back what is taken) that provide the means for sustainable growth, and linkages with infrastructure development elsewhere that will benefit all sectors of the community.

Photos pertaining to this activity are given below.

Baraccas (market area)

Rustic dive camp

Elena at eco-tourism lodge

3. Environmental awareness and school curriculum activites

This activity was supported by Bongi Dlamini, Elena Masinga and Amos Mthembu

Bongi Dlamini is a 25 year old Zulu lady from a village near Pongola. She holds a BA in Communication Science and involved herself in the Unesco project through honours studies at the University of Zululand.

She focussed on the level of environmental awareness by observing peoples' activities (eg. litter, deforestation, etc) and by conducting interviews, based on structured open-ended questions in both Mabibi and Ponta do Ouro. One aim was to determine whether living in a nature reserve (at Mabibi) would contribute to a greater awareness than being exposed to mass tourism (Ponta). A hypothesis is that community members will be able to engage in tourism services at a higher level with a greater level of awareness. The smoothness of the transition from a subsistence economy to a cash economy was similarly dependent. Ms Dlamini ran a curriculum workshop with teachers at Mabibi after presenting some of the material to their students and gauging its uptake. It is considered premature to engage in participatory activites at Ponta until graduate students from University of Edwardo Mondlane are involved.

At Ponta, some background information was gathered during a photo-survey of the community, culminating at the school. Bongi was appalled by the poor standard of facilities at the school and the litter strewn about. However, the teachers seemed enthusiastic and committed to their task.

Micas, the school principal was interviewed. When asked about the needs of his school - he stated that the government does not help much, other than paying salaries of 9 teachers (sometimes late). They have 395 children enrolled as of 2003. They run two shifts to fit all students into the limited resources, including a total of five classrooms, two of which are temporary and made of reeds. When asked about environmental awareness of the value of the wetlands adjacent to the school - he replied that most people grow food crops there during times of drought and low water (the situation in 2003). The people do not have enough water. When asked about his curriculum material on environmental issues, he mentioned that getting books was a problem. They have mainly Euro-centric books supplied by the Portugese missionary service.

Bongi made observations of activities around the baracas (market). She found that about 20% of local people engage in informal trading. Individual stall owners estimated a profit of R 1500 per month. Of 15 adults she asked the question, Does the environment supply your basic needs? 87 % said yes, and would therefore be in a weak position to demonstrate environmental awareness. She then asked whether they had noticed any landscape degradation that caused them to be concerned? Only 20% said yes. At Mabibi on the other hand, nearly half of age 11-12 students said yes.

Bongi asked further questions about development options. Opposing responses came from different sectors of the community at Ponta. 100% of local residents wanted big hotel developments and paved roads, whilst 97% of existing camp managers did not. It is unclear whether a real desire to preserve the landscape and its informal style is the motivating factor, or whether competition is the issue.

A seminar was presented with age 11-12 students at Mabibi. The nearby wetlands were sketched; the habitat it provides to animals and the services it yields to people were listed with input from the students. There was the realization that an undisturbed wetland provides clean drinking water. The classroom session was followed by a short field trip to the wetland. During this visit, students were asked to role-play a 'tourist' and consider 'their perceptions'. It was then interesting to hear the students commenting on the birds they saw and heard, etc.

Following the seminar and field trip, Ms Dlamini met with the Mabibi school principal and teachers to discuss environmental curricula. The teachers were initially reluctant to engage in the workshop, as they thought that Bongi was acting as an agent for KZN Wildlife Services. Once the air was cleared and Unesco was seen as neutral, the workshop commenced. Potential student activities that would be easy to run and have high impact included:

Taking regular field trips to the wetlands
Planting and tending indigenous trees
Picking up litter and recycling; amongst others.

At the end of the year, a final survey was conducted to view progress on the Tonga Beach Lodge.

Photos pertaining to this activity are given below.

Mabibi students engaged in environmental classwork

Bongi conducting field trip to local wetland


Tonga Beach Lodge development area in coastal dune forest


Local residents from Mabibi benefiting from jobs in the hotel development

4. Improving farming technology at Mabibi in a demonstration plot

This activity was supported by Nqobile Nyathikazi, Amos Mthembu and Alec Wilson

The purpose of this part of the Unesco project is to get actively involved in the every-day life of the community and to divert impacts from the wetlands by improving farming technology. Ms Nyathikazi, a 25 year old Zulu lady, joined the project in April 2003, having completed here BSc Agriculture with some training at the University of Udine, Italy. She engaged in a number of preliminary trips to Mabibi in May and July 2003, a literature survey of similar projects, and then joined the community for October - November 2003. She kept an on-site diary of events as follows:

She arrived in Mabibi in early October 2003 and settled in with the Twala's (hosts). Nqobile laid out the plot with the help of Mr Nhlozi the community participant, and received compost from Mr Wilson, the University of Zululand agriculture expert.

Seedling trays were used to start the crops with a view to transplanting them into the garden in due course. Meanwhile the ground for the plot was tilled and stripped of vegetation, having been an undisturbed grassland savanna.

A few community members stopped by each day to see the progress and make friendly inquiries. Nqobile explained that the plot was an experiment to see what would work best. Mr Nhlozi would receive direct knowledge then transmit this to the wider community later, when it was proved which techniques were most successful.

The onion seedling nursery was prepared at Mr Nhlozi's house, by mixing compost and local (sandy) soil, after removing small weeds. Watering was done by hand into the seedling trays, and the germinating plants were protected from animals and strong sun by a small net.

Fencing of the 10 x 20 m plot was started at the end of October 2003. Designation of the random locations for the two treatments in the various 2 x 2 m sub-plots was done. Spacing between sub-plots was 0.5 m. Compost was worked into the treated sub-plots, whilst the untreated plots were left as is. All plots were labelled accordingly.

After growing in trays for two to three weeks, the onion seedlings were transplanted into the demonstration plot. Next, peanut seeds were germinated and transplanted into the demonstration plot.

Meanwhile, Nqobile went around the neighbouring wetlands and assessed what was done there, speaking to the farmers and taking photos. Many complained of the poor soil and dry weather. When asked if it was usually this dry, most said 'yes, there is never enough rain'.

Nqobile returned to the University at the end of November 2003 and held discussions with Prof Jury.

Nqobile mentioned that she initially didn't like the place (Mabibi), being too rural and isolated. But the local people made her feel at home and she made many friends. The Twala's (her hosts) mentioned that she fit in well. Nqobile indicated that the community now believes that the Unesco project researchers truly want to help them improve their life.

Mr Nhlozi will continue to water the garden at daily intervals, except during heavy rains. The water is fetched from a hand-drawn well-point about 1 km away. He brings it to the demonstration plot in 2 x 25 litre plastic bottles by wheelbarrow. This is an arduous task over the hilly terrain along soft sandy tracks. Mr Nhlozi will be paid a small fee for his efforts.

At harvest time in March, the treated and untreated plants will be evaluated to test for statistically significant measurable differences.

Prof Jury, Mr Mulder and Elena Masinga (from Mozambique) visited the plot in December 2003. Surface temperatures in the cleared plot were significantly higher than in the adjacent grassland savanna. Nqobile agreed that the bare soil in the demonstration plot was getting too hot in the mid-day sun. Prof Jury suggested that a mulch layer be added to reduce evaporation.

Already certain improvements can be envisaged: adding some shade netting and providing a local well-point would help ensure the long-term success of this effort.

Ms Bulfoni of University of Udine (Italy), will join the farming activites in March 2004 for a short period, and a letter of proposal in this regard has been passed onto the tribal authorities. Mr Nhlozi has agreed to act as host.

Photos pertaining to this activity are given below.

Farm plot before

Farm plot after implementation with Mr Nhlozi

Trees cut down for farming

Children at the well-point

See other articles related to the UNESCO pilot project on 'Development-conservation strategies for integrated coastal management in Maputaland (South Africa, Mozambique)'


  Introduction Activities Publications search
Wise practices Regions Themes