Editor's note: Idaho Statesman photojournalist Katherine Jones is in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, accompanying Zoo Boise director Steve Burns and exploring the connection between Boise and the wildlife-rich park.
“If wildlife conservation is 50 miles, you go about four feet before you realize it’s not just about animals,” says Steve Burns, director of Zoo Boise.
Gregg Carr realizes that, too.
Vinho is the small community across the Pungue River. Many of its residents work in the park, and representatives from Gorongosa Restoration Project meet regularly with community leaders to solve problems and keep communication open. Recently, for instance, elephants have been crossing the river, trampling corn and scaring residents. The mutually-arrived-at solution is that the Project will build a fence.
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“Now the park for me is like my family,” says Baltazar Bongesse. The agricultural team is using his field as a model farm. “They are showing me we are together.”
Patients wait for the health clinic to open, sitting around a bore hole. Gorongosa Restoration Project drilled several wells for the community because about 10 people a year were dying from altercations with crocodiles. “An old lady washing dishes,” says Vasco Galante, director of communications for the Project. “Or fetching water.”
Gorongosa Restoration Project built a health clinic and turned the staffing of it over to the Ministry of Health. Medical technician Alex Dias (pictured) and a nurse see 40 or 50 people a day, about half of whom are expectant mothers. Other issues are malaria, diarrhea, HIV. “Our biggest need,” says nurse Lidia Jeque, “for the whole district, we only have one ambulance.” It’s 40 kilometers away.
Kids play in the yard of the school, built by Gorongosa Restoration Project and turned over to the Ministry of Education. One rotation of classes meets from 7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and the second rotation meets from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Students attend from grades 1-7.
The Gorongosa Restoration Project’s agricultural department is working with Baltazar Bongesse, a respected community leader. His field has been turned into a showcase model garden using simple but sustainable techniques, like composting, multiple plantings and supplemental watering. “I have many experience now, new knowledge,” says Baltazar through an interpreter. He’s thinking of expanding what he’s learned to another field, all so that he can care for the nearly 100 orphans whom he has taken under his wing.
Mike Littman has fun with kids in the schoolyard. “What did I learn in Africa?” said his mother, Trudy Littman, a little later. “How little people can live on.”