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Since we completed our community consultations a couple of weeks back we have been getting reports of sightings of our project in the Mozambican press.

Sighting number one: A mention on Moz Tv – but not sure about the details but mentioned with relation to tourism development in Nampula Province.

Sighting number two: In the Tourism News section of this exciting new website: http://www.clubofmozambique.com

Go to  South African Companies Invest in Moz Tourism to see the complete article. It is wonderful to see government and Tourism behind our project and active in promoting it.

Saturday 6 October 2007

 

An early morning start, five hours of driving on a variety of dusty and corrugated, dusty and bumpy and dusty and downright difficult roads to a huge lunch of rice, sauce, and chicken, courtesy of Dumi, at our mainland camp, and then a leisurely lancha ride across the Rio Larde to the edges of the Larde Village itself, where are greeted by grinning boys and Chefe de Poste of Larde. “Welcome to our village, we have everything ready for our meeting, it is this way…”

 

A lot of planning went into this meeting. First, we had to invite local government officials, then we had to arrange how to get them to Larde, which is 250km’s from Nampula. We also had to place notices in all the relevant local areas so anyone wishing to attend the meeting could make the necessary plans. The notices went up in Moma and Larde and surrounding villages. The government officials attending were the 3 reps from Micoa, the District Secretary of Moma and the Head of Education in Moma. We also had the Head of Apemo, the Moma Fishing Association come along in support.

 

Larde Village itself is a small but neat place in the middle of nowhere, with a main street lined with neat single storey government buildings and a middle island decorated with some frondy green plants. This is in contrast to the settlement of dust on the skins of the children surrounding us. While the Chefe de Poste greets us and we wait for the meeting area to be arranged I spot our Fresh Limitada guys coming down the road in their new blue overalls and bright new white T-shirts. It’s such a moment of pride and they stride along, spread out, looking like an advert for a super team.

 

As we walk down to the meeting place we are met by the head village elder, dressed in his official uniform, which looks remarkably like some kind of military get up. All the village heads wear this uniform, kaki shirt and trousers, with badges on the shirt and likewise in the hats which are either a smart capped hat or a beret depending on status, and, it seems, age.

 

Under a tree where the people of the village gather, there is a table laid with a cloth and some chairs. There is a hurried rearrangement of benches and people being sent for more chairs from some of the nearby houses as it becomes apparent our party is bigger than expected. Finally we can all settle down, but we are told we need to wait, as the Queen is on her way. (This is a surprise to me, not realising that there exists a queen in this village culture) Once our Rainha has arrived, we sit to the tune of Larde locals singing and clapping in opening of what they obviously see as a very important meeting. This is followed by a couple of fist in the air chants which I take to be an expression of the strength and pride of this area, or perhaps it is an alliance to Mozambique the country.

 

All the adults sit in front of us, the women mainly to the left side, the children have gathered themselves in a semi circle behind us, from where they will begin to squirm as the meeting goes on. The Chefe de Poste introduces everyone; the Secretary of Moma does too. Then Hassane takes everyone through the project and finally we are at the question and answer session. This is, as with the previous day, the most interesting part. And it is also the moment that I fully realise the impact our project is going to have on these people, this community. They ask some very interesting questions such as “what will the social impact be?, why don’t we employ more women?, can everyone join the English lessons, what do they get from all of this?”

Mostly they all show enthusiasm and excitement about what we are doing, they want this to happen, they are excited about the opportunities it creates, but they still need to know that they will be the main beneficiaries of a project such as this.

 

Once Jack speaks and thanks the people of the area for everything, there is lots of cheering and again singing and clapping, fists in the air and shaking of hands. We leave the meeting spot as the children line up waiting for the most exciting part of the days events, the free cooldrinks and biscuits about to be handed out.

 

We leave the Chefe de Poste at the river’s edge and meander slowly toward our mainland camp. Everyone is in a good mood, the meeting has gone well, our spirits are high. And the whole journey back to Nampula, all 5 hours of it, all I can think of is how we are going to get all our community projects started, I want to do them all now! The enthusiasm of all the people have made me see the reality of what we can achieve, and reawakens an excitement in me that I can only belief. 

With any tourism project in Mozambique, there are a number of licences that need to be awarded before one can legally go ahead with the project. Sadly, not all developers adhere to these rules, but that is something they can worry about when they hit a snag in their game. We, on the other hand, have spent the last few years making sure we get all these licences lined up in a row, and not we wait only for the final piece of the puzzle, the Environmental Licence.

 

To this end, we recently completed the final community consultations, which are needed to go ahead with the final report which then gets submitted for approval and finally, the licence itself can be issued.

 

The first meeting was more of a public discussion of the environmental report concerning our project. This took place in the Girassol Conference Room on Friday, 5 October 2007 at 9am. Attending this meeting was a government official from the Tourism Department, 3 representatives from Micoa, the Minister for Minerals and Energy in Nampula Province, someone from the Finance Department, the Port Authority from Angoche District, some of our guys, some interested friends and was headed by our two consultants, Hassane, an environmental impact consultant, and Alice, a top biologist in Moz.

 

Our project was introduced, various negative and positive impacts were discussed and possible solutions proposed. This was followed by some questions and suggestions from the ‘public’ which will then be included in the report. On a whole the meeting went well, and there was general agreement from all. Some good points were raised and these were duly answered. From Energy, why won’t we be using power from Cabora Bassa, answer, because putting power lines along the ocean bed is environmentally unfriendly and prawn trawling practices in the area could cause problems with the cables. But we are getting power to the mainland area soon! The rest will be generators and perhaps solar energy. From Angoche, will fishermen still be allowed to stay on the island when there is a resort built and how to we deal with this in a socially conscious manner. Yes, they are allowed to stay overnight in bad conditions and there will be an allocated space for this. We also require fish from the local fishing communities but we just ask that they don’t fish off our reefs.

 

Mostly, I got the impression that there is some excitement over seeing this project come to fruition. It will be one of the biggest tourism projects in Nampula Province and it will be a great boost to the local communities.

 

It is great to see how, in a place where so many people cry corruption, that there is such importance placed on the public availability of information on new projects such as ours and on open discussion of such projects!

 

Next, we have the community consultation in our actual local community, which is Larde village, in Moma District…

No longer need I feel bound to eat all my meals at the Carrusca Restaurant when I am staying in Chocas Mar. I have finally, belatedly discovered the 2 Coqueiros Bar and Restaurant. This is the restaurant attached to the hotel school in the old Naval Academy in Cabaceira Grande. I knew it existed but didn’t really know.

 

The restaurant sits at the back of the hotel school (one can also stay in one of 2 rooms here) in a lovely simple garden setting which is beautified in the evenings with hanging lanterns and lit pathways. The staff is friendly, well spoken and generally helpful. And the food – well there is a menu but as most people will tell you, you usually need to ask for what is available that day, as is the case in most places in the area. But what they do produce is lovely and comes at an even lovelier price – what I would expect all prices in a country like Moz to be.

 

Unfortunately the wine turned out to be not so well priced. We ordered some, what we perceive as cheap Portuguese wine, assuming that it would be in the same category as Graça, which on the menu is priced at 210 per bottle. But the bill arrived with a tag of 420 per bottle. We complained and the managing staff arranged for the price to be lowered. All fine until one of the owners sent us a note to say we had to pay the full 420 and that’s that. Then she proceeded to come up with all sorts of excuses from “it costs us to get it here” and “the menu you see is old” to “it’s for charity.”

Firstly, it costs just the same to get a bottle of Graça there, then if the menu is old you are legally obliged to show the new one or customers can pay the old prices and lastly, if this was all for charity why didn’t we all just do away with dinner and put some money in a box. This is a restaurant and we expected reasonable service. I feel we got it until the end when the owner was unable to let go of her ego. I won’t order wine there again.

 

But on the more interesting side, there is a small homeopathic laboratory there, headed by one of the staff who is learning the trade. This is definitely something I would be interested in going back for…

I have visited Ilha de Moçambique plenty of times, mainly because every time somebody comes to visit, this is the historical must of Northern Mozambique. But I have been living under an illusion all this time that this was the only historical tour site worth going to.  That is, until I saw Cabaceira Grande.

 

Now, I have always heard of it, but never had a chance, or rather, never managed to get myself off the beach long enough to visit. People are always talking about the hotel school restaurant there, but no one has mentioned the historical buildings in the area, I am sure of it – perhaps if they had I would have gone sooner.

 

Capoceira Grande is on the mainland directly opposite Ilha de Moçambique and it a short drive across the mangrove swamps from Chocas Mar. A small sign signals the turnoff from the main dirt road onto what seems like an overgrown garden path, at the end of which stands the Governor’s Summer Palace, the restored hotel school, what was once the Naval Academy, and a very tiny Centro de Saude de Cabaceira Grande. Take a left turn at the palace and there stands the oldest church in Africa. There are the remaining ruins of what were once fortified residences dotted about.

 

I find it amazing that there is so little information about this place and its history. The fact that here sits the oldest church, built in the 1500s and still in use, that the Governor’s Summer Palace is just an old building that is used sometimes as a school and has fid trees growing in the walls, and that nobody really knows why the residences were fortified and in fact, when they were built, blows my mind. There is something especially exciting about just pitching up in the middle of nowhere and wandering around what, in any other country, would be a major tourist site, with a few friends and one or two curious local kids in tow.