International Crane Foundation


Lower Zambezi Valley and Delta Program

Africa: > Lower Zambezi Valley and Delta Program

Lower Zambezi Valley and Delta Program
A joint initiative of the International Crane Foundation and the Museum of Natural History-Mozambique in partnership with the Zambezi Valley Planning Authority and many other institutions and organizations.

For the past decade the International Crane Foundation-USA and the Museum of Natural History-Mozambique (Museu de História Natural) have taken a leadership role in the Lower Zambezi Valley of Mozambique, raising awareness about the global significance of the Zambezi Delta and promoting its conservation for the benefit of people and wildlife. We have worked in close collaboration with Mozambican scientists, historians, community members, major stakeholders, and government decision-makers to build consensus on the need for a holistic management plan for the delta to resolve competing visions for how the resources of the Marromeu Complex should be used, including strict protection, wildlife hunting, ecotourism, sugar production, timbering, fisheries, grazing, and subsistence agriculture. We conducted extensive research on the hydrology, vegetation, and wildlife of the Zambezi Delta, and demonstrated the importance of restoring seasonal flood flows in the Zambezi River to sustain ecological processes and subsistence production systems in the delta without sacrificing the national development aims of Mozambique. To disseminate these findings, we organized a series of face-to-face meetings, including three international workshops, to raise awareness among local stakeholders and national decision-makers about the need for integrated management of the lower Zambezi Valley and Delta. We met with President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, key members of Parliament, and the Governors of Tete, Sofala, and Zambezi Provinces in the Zambezi Valley. Our work also was featured in the BBC Earth Reports documentary series that aired at the World Water Forum in Japan last year. This extensive dialogue has resulted in the political will and commitment necessary to implement a unique vision for the future of the Zambezi Delta.

In October 2003, the Government of Mozambique declared the Marromeu Complex of the Zambezi Delta as the first Wetland of International Importance in Mozambique under the Ramsar Convention. The Ramsar Convention is the world’s foremost international agreement for the protection and wise use of wetlands, and requires national commitment to the sustainable management of designated wetland sites. The International Crane Foundation and Museum of Natural History were instrumental in preparing the application to the Ramsar Convention and justifying the boundaries of the Marromeu Complex to the Government of Mozambique. The designation of the Marromeu Complex as a Wetland of International Importance was honored as a "Gift to the Earth" by the World Wildlife Fund, their highest accolade for globally significant conservation achievement. In addition to designating the site, the Government of Mozambique stipulated that an integrated management plan must be developed to ensure the sustainable development of the Marromeu Complex in accordance with the spirit of the Ramsar Convention.

In December 2003 the Museum of Natural History and International Crane Foundation were approached by Mozambique’s Zambezi Valley Planning Authority (Gabinete do Plano de Desenvolvimento da Região do Zambeze) and the Ministry for Coordination of Environmental Affairs (Ministério para a Coordenção da Acção Ambiental) to coordinate the first integrated management plan for the newly designated Ramsar site. The project is to be implemented through collaboration with formal and emergent community leaders, management authorities (National, Provincial and District decision-makers) and stakeholders (including safari operators, sugar plant managers, foresters, aid organizations, prawn industry representatives, small farmers, subsistence fishers, others), with emphasis on participatory management in natural resource decision-making. It requires the integration of wetland conservation and wise use with broader river basin management objectives as defined by the Zambezi Basin Action Plan. Through this process, the project offers a tremendous opportunity to promote the sustainable use of natural resources while protecting and restoring the ecological integrity of the Zambezi Delta. The project also offers the opportunity to advance integrated river basin management for the entire Zambezi River basin.

What’s New
The Marromeu Complex of the Zambezi Delta was declared a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, the world’s foremost international agreement for the protection and wise use of wetlands. The World Wildlife Fund recognized the Read morearrow

The Zambezi Delta: management opportunities and challenges
The Zambezi Delta is a broad, flat alluvial plain along the coast of central Mozambique. The delta is triangular in shape, covering an area of approximately 1.2 million hectares that stretches 120 km from its inland apex (near the confluence of the Zambezi Read morearrow

Large dams and the degradation of the Lower Zambezi Valley
The Zambezi River system is the lifeline of central Mozambique, ancient home to more than a million villagers and of immense conservation value as one of the most productive and biologically diverse tropical floodplains in Africa. Over the millennia, Read morearrow

The Ways Forward: our Mission and Goals for Zambezi Delta Management
Our mission is to help produce a comprehensive, visionary, and realizable management plan for the conservation and sustainable use of the Zambezi Delta Ramsar Site, involving all stakeholders – local community, government agency and administrator, private sector, and NGO – in the management planning process in a way that is meaningful to them and that allows them to use their particular skills and knowledge most effectively. Read morearrow

Zambezi Delta Management Planning Process
Extensive information on resource uses, trends, and ecosystem inter-relationships has been collected and analyzed over the past decade. Before, during, and after the awareness meetings we compiled, integrated, and summarize information on the socio-cultural, Read morearrow

Research and advocacy for the best use of Zambezi waters
In recent years, scientists have undertaken significant research to prepare the groundwork for evaluating resource management and environmental flow needs in the Lower Zambezi Valley and Delta. ICF’s Dr. Richard Beilfuss conducted the fundamental hydrological Read morearrow

Program Partners and Supporters
Our main program partner is the Museum of Natural History (Mozambique). Mr. Carlos Bento, Senior Scientist at the Museum, has participated in the Lower Zambezi Valley and Delta Program since 1997 and is currently serving as full-time Project Coordinator Read morearrow

Program Publications
Working papers

Wattled Cranes, waterbirds, and wetland conservation in the Zambezi Delta, Mozambique. Working Paper 1 (Bento and Beilfuss 2000) – (.pdf Read morearrow