Swim today, Act together, Protect tomorrow
Inhambane Province, Mozambique is lined with some of the richest and most productive waters in the Indian Ocean and over 125,000 international tourists per year are drawn to this area to have encounters with its unique marine megafauna. Commercial fishing practices including illegal poaching, are now seriously threatening resident populations of these animals. The marine wildlife along this coastline are not the only ones at risk. In this area alone, an estimated 45% (130,000) of local jobs require people to work in, on or around the water, yet the majority of the population cannot swim. Each year there are thousands of drowning fatalities along Mozambique’s coastline as people risk their lives to provide for their families.
The Marine Megafauna Foundation aims to change this. In 2012, Sarah Bishop, MMF’s Director of Education, created Nemos Pequenos or ‘Little Nemos’, a swimming and marine conservation program that aims to save lives and create ocean guardians. Through hands-on engagement with local communities, this program helps to change the lives of people living in rural coastal areas and in doing so, shape the human-ocean dynamic in Mozambique. Our hope is for local people to be more confident around water, to inspire a greater love and understanding of the ocean and to encourage them benefit from the burgeoning eco-tourism industry in the province. Ultimately, we want Mozambicans to celebrate and protect their native marine animals and environment, as natural heritage and a means of sustainable livelihoods.
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How it all began
When Sarah Visited Tofo
Nemos Pequenos began after Sarah visited Tofo and heard of the high number of local people drowning in the area. One story in particular highlighted the enormous impact this was having on the community.
With the support of local businesses and the community, in January 2012 Nemos Pequenos commenced its first ever two-week intensive holiday program. Twenty local boys and girls aged between 10-18 years old from Tofo and surrounding villages participated in ten swimming and five educational sessions. Through the education sessions, the children learnt about the diversity and biology of the local marine wildlife and improving conservation awareness – many of whom were unaware of the amazing marine life that existed in their ocean. Sessions were held by resident MMF experts, Dr. Andrea Marshall, world renowned specialist on manta rays, and Dr. Simon Pierce, lead scientist on whale sharks. News about the program spread through the community and every day more children would arrive to the lessons wanting to join in the fun. The program was concluded with a presentation ceremony and students were also given the opportunity to participate in an ocean safari with Peri Peri Divers, where the children went snorkeling and had the chance to see for themselves the marine life they’d learnt about during the week. The ocean safari was one of the highlights with it being the first time many of the children had been out on the ocean.
In March 2013, Nemos Pequenos was fortunate to have Cathy Cronje join the team. With over 20 years experience in swimming instruction and running the successful Starfish swim school in Johannesburg, Cathy was an asset to Nemos Pequenos. Cathy set about running two intensive training courses with our local instructors, Narcisso Nhampossa and Narcisso Gove, to train them in South African ‘Learn to Swim’ instructor certification. This included a trip to South Africa to complete their training.
Through training local Mozambicans to be swim instructors and marine conservation educators, Nemos Pequenos helps to equip them with the skills needed for the professional market and opens up new employment opportunities such as in the dive industry, tourist guide, national park rangers or swim instruction. Cathy continues to be involved with Nemos Pequenos by providing her expertise to help shape a scalable swim program, with the hope of integrating the program into schools across the Inhambane province.
For the past two years, we’ve been running small and extended scale pilot programs in Tofo, Inhambane. With our local instructors receiving their South African ‘Learn to Swim’ instructor certification, they’re able to now construct and run their own lesson plans. Intensive holiday programs run at regular intervals throughout the year and Nemos Pequenos is working in association with a number of schools to systematically teach all of their students to swim.
In February 2014, we extended Nemos Pequenos to Bazaruto Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago. We focused on a local population of around 250 people where only 14 people knew how to swim – a staggering statistic given most people rely on the ocean as a source of income or for food. Our two instructors from Tofo, with their recent instructor certification, were able to help train the 7 new instructors on the island, which included 3 women. The program was based in the Tilizinwe community on the island with 14 children participating. As there was no pool available, the program was run in the ocean, with our instructors adapting the program to meet the different environment. Across the community the program was greeted with enthusiasm, with children travelling from right across the island just to see what it was all about.
On the marine education and conservation side, we’ve been working with MMF volunteers and staff to develop resources for the education program. Through promotion of the program internationally, we’ve established partnerships in the UK, Portugal and Australia, and are starting to gain support from all over the world. Local government engagement is underway with the aim of integrating Nemos Pequenos into primary school curriculums across the Inhambane Province in the near future.
The next phase will see Nemos Pequenos extended to other parts of the Inhambane Province, in Vilanculos, Benguerra Island and Zavora, beginning with identifying and training new local instructors to lead each of the programs.
Ultimately, our goal is for Nemos Pequenos to be a self-sustainable, government approved swimming and marine conservation education program that is integrated into primary school curriculums across the Inhambane Province, and to provide the opportunity for all Mozambican children to learn to swim and celebrate and protect their native marine animals and environment, as natural heritage and a means of sustainable livelihoods.
We will achieve this by creating a sustainable program, which focuses on three areas:
Swim – “Zero to Hero”
Act – “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”
Protect – “Creating tomorrow’s Ocean Guardians”
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