April 29, 2024

Empowering Mozambique’s Marine Conservationists: A Dive into the Reef Check Program

Submitted by Maputo Dive Center

In the heart of Mozambique, a transformative journey unfolds as aspiring marine conservationists dive into the depths of the ocean, not just to explore its wonders but to emerge as guardians of its future. Maputo Dive Center (known as “Centro de Mergulho de Maputo” in Portuguese), Mozambique’s pioneering dive center, has become a beacon of hope and empowerment, guiding individuals from diverse backgrounds on a path to scientific diving and marine conservation. Last month, they celebrated a significant milestone, with the graduation of 9 university students, including 5 from Universidade Pedagógica, 3 from Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, and 1 independent learner.

Evander Nhaule: From Ocean Enthusiast to Guardian
One such individual is Evander Nhaúle, a graduate in Languages and International Relations, who found his calling in the ocean’s embrace. “I found my vocation in diving thanks to unexpectedly seeing whales in my vicinity,” Evander shares. His journey from being an ocean enthusiast to a scientific diver is a testament to the transformative power of the Reef Check program. “I was happy when they announced the scientific diving course because I never wanted to see the ocean just as a ‘recreational tourist’ but rather with the scientific eyes that enable me to understand what I’m really seeing before me. I believe that with this course, we can take on leadership roles that support marine conservation actions and the development of the Blue Economy, which is what I propose to do.”

Esperança Bila: Nurturing a Passion for Marine Ecology and Conservation
Esperança Bila, a final-year student in Biology Teaching and Laboratory Management from Maputo’s Universidade Pedagógica, echoes this sentiment. Her motivation stems from her background in conservation biology, her involvement in seagrass research and a deep understanding of the marine ecosystem’s complexity. “The diving course has given a significant boost to my skills as a biologist,” Esperança states. Her experience in the Reef Check program has been nothing short of incredible, “Diving is a passion. During the training, I was able to acquire knowledge and scientific methodologies focused on constructing questions that should be investigated. This is the essence of the scientific journey, where generated answers can be rigorously tested and validated. In marine scientific diving, the experience transcends merely observing the captivating beauty and vastness of the underwater world. It involves systematically gathering data to address scientific inquiries.”

The Graduates’ Voyage into Marine Conservation
Both Evander and Esperança highlight the program’s impact on their personal and professional growth. For Evander, it’s about “increasing my necessary experience to gain recognition in my monitoring capabilities.” Esperança sees her future in contributing to marine biodiversity conservation, “My knowledge and experience in Biology can be useful for Marine Biodiversity Conservation.” Their journeys through underwater data collection and analysis, identification of indicator species, and an entry-level coral reef monitoring program mark the beginning of a promising career in marine conservation.

But for most of the students, this was more than just a scientific diving course. They completed a much longer journey that began years ago when they learned to swim and dive recreationally before becoming scientific divers. It is a step forward in Maputo Dive Center’s mission to develop the next generation of marine conservationists, researchers, and conservation area managers in Mozambique.

The Urgent Mission for Coral Reef Conservation in Mozambique
Looking ahead, the recent approval of the National Strategy for the Management and Conservation of Coral Reefs underscores the urgency of this mission. With over 2,500 km of coastline, Mozambique lacks research and monitoring capacity for Marine Protected Areas. Swimming, snorkeling, and diving are fundamental skills for the management and conservation of coral reefs.

This first group of graduates will be crucial in helping to achieve the goals set out in the national strategy, but this cannot be a one-time exercise. Continuous training is needed to build an adequate workforce. With this in mind, and learning from the experience of the graduates, Maputo Dive Center conceptualized the Zero to Hero Diving Program to develop local capacity for the research and monitoring of coral reefs in Mozambique.

Zero to Hero Diving Program: Scaling Scientific Diving and the Reef Check Program
The Zero to Hero Diving Program will be an annual 9 to 12-month program that takes participants with zero underwater skills and teaches them swimming, snorkeling, and diving, including scientific diving methods through the Reef Check program. It is the replication of the experience that last month’s graduates had, in a single structured course. The goal is to continue bridging the gap between education and employment, complementing university theory with the introduction of practical knowledge and skills to work comfortably and safely underwater. The goal is to develop and enhance the capacity for coral reef research and conservation within Mozambique and prepare students for careers in marine conservation.

In this regard, last month, Maputo Dive Center signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Universidade Pedagógica to continue training their students through the future Zero to Hero Diving Program. This partnership aims to replicate the success to-date and continue building a resilient marine conservation community.

We extend our sincere gratitude to Reef Check, Associação Natura Moçambique, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, and all individual donors for their support in funding the courses to date. We also thank Universidade Pedagógica for their participation in these trainings with their students, Maputo National Park as the guardian of the beautiful and biodiverse context in which the training was conducted, and Dr. Yara Tibiriçá for writing and teaching the scientific diving curriculum, including teaching the Reef Check curriculum. Your contributions have been fundamental in shaping the future of these graduates.

Join us in congratulating the graduates and everyone who contributed to this journey. If you are interested in supporting our mission to build the capacity of future marine conservationists, please get in touch. Let’s make the Zero to Hero Diving Program a success together!

Click here to watch the graduation video to witness the joy and hope of this program. Together, we’re diving into a brighter future for Mozambique’s marine life!

Maputo Dive Center (Centro de Mergulho de Maputo)
Instagram: @centrodemergulhodemaputo
Email: info@cmm.co.mz
Phone: +258 87 734 5333