Portuguese born, without any formation in photography i take it as an hobby. SInce child i admire the frozen moments that phography register forever. From mountains climbed, rivers crossed to faces front looked passing through the quietness of wild animals and also the forms of architecture or the taste and colours of food, i like to share what see, feel, breath, question and admire... First in Europe now in Africa thats my main studios for social and landscape photography. Photography as an hobby, civil engineering as a profession. Technically i just use a fujifilm hs10 camera, a nokia x10 cellphone and paint shop pro 7 as editing software.
Luis Miguel Rodrigues
Lake Malawi - turbulent times in quiet waters
David Livingstone named it lake of the starts in 1867 after seen the spectacle of the lights that hundreds of traditional fishing boats use during the night to fish in its waters. Mozambicans and Tanzanians call it Lake Niassa, but internationally it’s called Lake Malawi. It’s the 9th biggest lake in the world, the 3rd in Africa, after Lake Tanganyika and Lake Vitoria, and the most southern lake in the great African rift valley.
Even before the independence of Tanzania and Malawi, there was already a dispute on its name and its borders, but now the probable oil reserves that the 700 meters deep of its waters reserves for millions of years bring a new fear in this part of Southern Africa – the specter of war to keep the sovereignty of the water and what lays in its bottom.
With an average dimension of 560km length per 75km width, more than 1000 species of cichlids fish and more species of fishes than any other body of fresh water in the world, Lake Malawi hosts borders between three countries; Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Between the first two, the water is divided by the middle and there are no questions of who manage which side. But between Tanzania and Malawi a crescent fight in words is taking place between both governments. That’s the reason why a committee from South Africa Development Community headed by the former South African President Tabo Mbheki and the former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano are trying to solve amicably this dispute to keep the waters of Lake Malawi quiet as they always were.
The recent dispute, started two years ago when sounded that the lake could have big oil reserves and Malawi started allowing international firms to survey its bottom. Tanzania warned that half of the lake it´s from the country and recently, in July 2013, warned that if necessary its army is ready to guard and fight for the country territory. In the other side, Malawi, a poor country that never have seen war in its history, known as the Warm Heart of Africa and cited in various tourism guides as one of the peaceful and friendly countries in the world already said that don´t want war and it will take the case to the International Court of Justice to decide fairly who have reason.
Both countries guide themselves by the 1840 Heligoland Treaty signed by the victorious Great Britain over Tanganyika (the old name for Tanzania) from Germany. It was decided that all the water would be managed and part of Nyasaland which now is Malawi.
For the last 50 years, this fight has been cordial and peaceful once there was just water, fisherman in its canoes and wild life. But now, the oil industry and the perspectives of explore it, bringing income for one of the countries, makes this dispute increase the tone of the words changed between the two nations and worry the neighbor community.
Apart of this, fisherman all around the lake shores continues to live and survive in a simple way of life paddling their canoes and the cichlids fishes showing its colours above the waters of the lake.
trekking in a 20 million of years old rainforest in Madeira Island, Unesco World Heritage Site
Gurué, town and history
Once called the
Switzerland of Mozambique, Gurué, in Zambezia Province, centre of Mozambique is forgotten for decades after the independence of country and three decades of civil war.
In colonial times, the district, founded in the 19th century and named, later, Vila Junqueiro, was the biggest tea region in Mozambique, having a total of fifteen factories processing tea leaf and exporting worldwide. Now only three to five remains working without major problems and in tentative of a constant and uniform production.
Due to the high level of the region (having the second highest peak in Mozambique - Namuli Mountain) and the wet climate, the settlers, one century ago, found this place with the proper conditions for tea plantations. The landscape was largely transformed to grow tea and tea tasters from India and producers from Europe began building the city with its houses, factories and other infrastructures. Gurué is a model in colonial architecture with a well preserved number of houses, churches, and other vestiges of Portuguese heritage.
By the middle of 20th century, brands like
Chá Licungo and
Chá Gurué as others, achieved international recognition in Europe, Great Britain and even America and Canada. It was the time of the tea aristocracy with its wealthy style of living making this place be named
Switzerland of Mozambique.
Nowadays, the Lomwe people, continue to work in the tea, this time owned not by the old settlers but mainly by Indian capitals. However the production is far from the 70´s of last century. The independence from Portugal in 1975 made the old European aristocracy run back to the
metropole. Everything was abandoned and three decades of civil war along with leftist collective economy politics, leaded by the single ruling party FRELIMO, made the production decreases and most of the factory’s get nationalized and later closed, destroyed and abandoned.
Meanwhile the intense green, the complete transformation of the landscape made by the vast tea plantations, the unique climate and its isolation together with the individuality of this Mozambican region make Gurué a must visit destination.
The tea culture, past and present
By the late 70´s of the past century, Gurué with its 15 tea factories was producing an average of 19.000 tons per year of processed leaf employing around 28.000 workers from the city and neighbor villages. It was the time of around 300 settlers, ruling sometimes using forced labour brought even from other provinces, own plantations that reached near 9.000 hectares of cropped land. It was the golden era of Mozambican tea and of the city itself.
By 2012, the last figure shows that the production was reduced to a number of around 2.500 tons, just thirteen per cent of the average before independence and with an area used of just 5.700 ha, near half of the past. The industry employs now around 3.000 workers in peak periods but just 250 are in an effective job situation. This figure makes the tea jobs, once a major employment industry as just a part of the solution for the daily income in one of the poorest countries in the world for these Lomwe people.
With a ratio of two workers per hectare, picking the leaf into wood baskets that they hang in their back, its necessary to work two entire days to receive about eighty metical’s (three dollars) for each fifty kilograms of leaf picked. It’s around one dollar and half a day, when there is leaf to be picked. To make the situation worst, at least in two of the five active factories, there are about 8 months of salary with late payment. This situation creates a vicious cycle where the employer don’t pay and the workers, in a silent and quiet strike, are pushed for an inactivity, tactically and inevitable, making all this industry atrophy year after year in this isolated region of Mozambique.
Together with the low wages and late payments that make the productions much lower than before, also the plant itself, named
camellia sinensis is no longer strong and able for productions per hectare comparable with the figures achieved in the last century. Planted mainly in the 60´s of the last century, the plant need to be replaced with other varieties more productive and adequate to the region. This fact make the tea decrease its quality what creates difficulties in the sales at the international markets. From the neighbor producing countries like Malawi and Kenya, Mozambique is the only one that up to know didn't renovate the old plants.
All this facts make the income of the industry decrease significantly. The actual owners of the industry, mainly Indian capitals and in one case a joint venture between Indians and Mozambicans claim they need about 100 millions of dollars of investment for the renovation of the potential 10.000 hectares of the crops and with that bring the production to the old values achieved before independence. They also claim that due the actual panorama, bank credit is difficult to get to support the modernization of the business. The low productions and low quality make this business unable to deal directly with international buyers and inevitably part of the production must be sold in auction flours in Kenya and other part sold internally. The situation of sell it in auction flours makes the final price be much more vulnerable to the market price fluctuations and much difficult to deal in good terms and conditions. Resuming, the business in its actual situation don’t encourage the exportation of the goods due to the actual market sold prices. With an average of 1 dollar per kg as sold price and low productions, it is not enough to export directly to international markets worldwide. Far are the times that the tea was directly exported to Europe, America and Canada and Gurué was the
Switzerland of Mozambique.
Perspectives for the future
With a recently created producer association, in 2011, ideas and hope for solutions are being discussed to change the actual wilt panorama. One is to bring more power and control to the workers instead of being mere wage earner from the capitals that owns the industry. The simple
be employed conditions have shown that it is not an adjusted solution for the present times. The idea of create and provide conditions for small production associations and family’s to grown themselves the tea leaf and sold later to the industries is gaining adepts.
With this solution, the production of the leaf would be passed to the workers in form of associations or among their families. It would make easier that small financial loans, difficult to get by the owner of the factories, could create big changes. Instead of being mere employed, the workers would be responsible and be more active in the production of the crop. By the other side, the factories would spend less financial resources in some operations like fertilizing, that due the general poverty of the workers and few control see many times the products being robbed, employing and others and would concentrate and specialize just in the leaf processing, packing and exporting. That’s the new hope for Gurué industry and for Lomwe people in the interior of Zambezia Province.
GORONGOSA IN THE XXI CENTURY
After decades of war and deprivation, Gregg Carr, an American philanthropist funded a 50 million USD project that intends to bring back the glorious days of Gorongosa National Park, which, in the late 70´s, was the biggest National Park in Africa.
Gregg Carr changed, from one of the first I.T. tycoons, that generated wealth from his invention - the voice mail - to a full time philanthropist, dedicating himself to humanitarian and sustainable development activities. One of this projects is a 30 years plan that will use 50 millions of USD from his personal wealth to restore and bring back to the wild life, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and other species to a place that in the past was the Heaven of wild life in Africa.
Activities like planting more than 3 millions of trees, creating and subsiding a natural research center with a full time investigating team, establishing eco tourism and specially make the communities that live around the park to better levels of health, education and employment were already done. Bring back the times where 6000 elephants, 500 lions and others could be seen in Gorongosa is the next step to be done in this National Park over the next 30 years.
HISTORY OF GORONGOSA
From the beginning of the 20th century to our days Gorongosa region was most of the times seen as a sanctuary of wild life unique in Africa. Meanwhile it reached the 21th century practically depleted of its wild life due to the brutal civil war between Renamo and Frelimo, political party's in the country during cold war time. But the hope and the will of the people, the philanthropy of a millionaire and the magic of Africa is giving Gorongosa rivers, lakes, tress, grass and specially wild animals a new spirit and life is returning to the glorious days.
In 1920 Gorongosa was declared by the colonial Portuguese administrations a game reserve for its directors, governors and all the superior staff and elite at the time. From the 30´s of the past century until the 70´s, Portuguese administration turned Gorongosa into a interesting touristic place receiving around 6000 tourist a year. It can be said that before Kruger National Park in the neighbor South Africa, Gorongosa have transformed safaris and wild life observation, in Africa, a democratic to do thing for the middles classes living in this region. Wild life was abundant and its easy to find old photos where 70´s fashion cars like Mini Cooper and others were stopped near lions or elephants with the same 70´s fashion style persons inside enjoying the animals. It was the time of around 6000 elephants and 500 lions among other species.
But after 15 years of struggling for its independence from Portugal and after few years of relatively peace and high social convulsion and revolution, Mozambique started a civil war between the Soviet supported Frelimo as the ruling party and the Western counterpart, Renamo. It was 13 years of destruction, guerrilla and real war that spread all over the country. Gorongosa, centered in the middle of Mozambique and located exactly near the biggest opposition base (Renamo), have seen a disaster, day by day, happens. Most of its animals were killed for illegal hunting or feeding both sides soldiers or even due to the lack of prey, they starved and diminished in number. Ivory trade played also an important role in the death of wild life, being used as gold in exchange for weapons to support and feed the war machinery.
1994 have seen a peace deal signed but both parts, headed by Italian NGO, Vaticano and the international community. Renamo and Frelimo agreed to shake hands and share the country with the democratic institutions and real politics ruling. Free elections came and started a project of democracy in the country. The war was finally over. In 1994, with the help of African Bank and European Union, Mozambican authorities started again, slowly and with the resources that one of the poorest country's in the world could have at the time, protecting, restoring and rebuilding the Gorongosa heaven.
10 years of peace in the country and Gregg Carr, together with Mozambican authorities, plans to develop and mainly give back to the wild life the park, the necessary support, quietness, freedom and naturalism to grow and return to the past splendor.
Gorongosa have now one main touristic camp in Chitengo area with all the standard commodities and a new luxury tented style opening in July 2013. Even if the number of animals nowadays is not the same as in the 70´s of last century; lions, elephants, innumerous antelopes, hippos, crocodiles and several others species together with more than 350 different species of birds can be seen in this part of Mozambique. Easily reachable from the capital Maputo by plane or even from Johannesburg in South Africa it can be visited from May until December when is dry seasons.
GORONGOSA IN NUMBERS and DATES
1969 - 2.200 elephants / 3.000 zebras / 200 lions / around 6.000 tourists per year
1974 - 6.000 elephants / unknown / 500 lions / around 12.000 tourists per year
1975 - Mozambique Independence
1992 - End of Mozambican Civil War
1994 - 100 elephants / 6 zebras / 6 lions / tourism was insignificant
Due to the official low profile relationship between Tanzania and Malawi, the weekly boats that cross the lake from its south to the north just stop in Mozambique and Malawian shores, avoiding the Tanzanian side of the lake. People that need to cross to Tanzania must use traditional boats to cross the lake.
Drying fish under the sun.
Lake Malawi hosts 90% of the fresh water fish species of all the world in this single lake. Exporting them and tourism related with snorkeling is other of the activities, apart of fishing, that provide some jobs to the population.
Lake Malawi borders Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. Between Malawi and Mozambique the relationship has been cordial, at least about the lake since the borders stand exactly in the middle of the lake.
Traditional fishing with canoes
Fishing is the main activity at the lake and in the recent time there have been troubles, for both fisherman of Tanzania and Malawi, with maritime forces in both countries once they are accused of fishing in extra territorial waters.
Lake Malawi is the 3rd biggest African Lake, with nearly over 13 million habitants, only on the Malawi side of the lake.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa with high HIV rates.
Malawi is cited, in Lonely Planet Travel guides, as one of the ten most peaceful and friendly countries in the world. Historically speaking, the country has never have experienced war and in 2013.
children at the lake
Problems occur due to the oil reserves at the bottom of the Lake in Tanzania.
Fishing, bathing and washing clothes are constant activities at the lake.
Canoes made from tree trunks are everywhere in the lake shores. Even if there is a fishing industrial business at the lake, most of this activity is made in traditional boats like this.
Typical landscape at the lake shore. Tourism is an important aspect of revenue for Malawi economy.
Shire river starts in Mangochi and is the way for the waters of the lake go flow after the heavy rainy season that happens from December to May each year.
The bridge in Mangochi marks the end of the lake and the beginning of Shire river, an affluent of Zambeze river. The bridge was made with donations from the Japanese Government. Malawi is one of the countries known for the good management of international funds given from donors.
Chambo fish served with nsima (boiled maize) is the national dish in Malawi.
The daily life at the lake revolves around fishing, taking baths and washing clothes on the shore.
Local children in one of the poorest African countries but also considered one of the friendliest and peaceful countries in the world.
Children playing football on the fine sands of the lake in Senga Bay
Local musician wait for tourists outside of the lake shore lodges to try to get some extra money selling or playing instruments.
Raining season make the water get more turbulent and bring to the shores rests of trees and others that are collected by the locals to do ropes, fences and have other uses.
In the waters of the lake, a collection of fresh water animals are fished out and sold worldwide for aquarium enthusiasts. Locals dive without oxygen up to 10 meters below the water surface to pick Cychlids fish with colors that range from deep blue, red, yellow or other colors. They are sold to some lodges that export them internationally.
view of the lake
Cape Maclear is a paradise for backpacking tourists that spend their times under the Malawian sun with the people on the shores. This village, together with Nkhata Bay, Monkey Bay and Livingstonia are the main attractions for Malawi tourism and an important revenue for the country.
Fishing is the main activity on the lake
the lake is the 3rd biggest in Africa and have unique landscapes as well wild life.
The water at the lake is, most of the year, calm but between June to August waves up to one meter or more can happen.
Drying fish under the sun is the best way to keep it suitable to eat in a country where most of the households don´t have access to refrigerators or even electricity to keep the fish fresh.
A simple way of life in one of the poorest countries in Africa.
Cape Maclear is the center of a UNESCO world heritage site that encompasses all the Lake Malawi National Park.
Fisherman over his canoe. The lake and all its wild and human life that live from its shores have seen international protection after UNESCO declared it World Heritage Patrimony
Deck over lake Malawi in Senga Bay. Most of the fresh water fishes in aqueriuns sold in pet shops in Europe and America came from this lake. It have more than 1000 different species of fishes ranking dozens of colours.
Fish eagle in Livingstonia. This eagle is the national symbol of Malawian Police
Water channels that after more than 350 years continue to deliver water from inside the island to the villages and farms. The trek paths follow this water routes until its final destination
After some flora, many birds are also endemic species that can be found only in this island
Wild flowers grows everywhere in the island
Many times the paths turns into
varandas with more than 800 meters below
Madeira Island is home of hundreds of endemic flora species like more than 30 different wild orchids only found in this island
Deep V valleys rapid change from subtropical sun to intense fog and humity