Learning how to swim can protect marine life and alleviate poverty

Jangamo Bay, Mozambique is known for its diverse marine life of sharks, manta rays, and humpback whales. It was once named a top 10 place in the world for diving. 

It’s what attracted Franscesca Trotman, founder of Love The Oceans, to the area as part of a marine biology internship. After spending some time studying in the bay witnessing the shark finning industry and other unsustainable practices, she knew this place was special. It hadn’t been thoroughly studied and she wanted to change that. 

It soon became clear that in order to create long-lasting change, the conservation program she wanted to start needed to be able to run independently of the organisation. For the mission to be successful, they determined education was essential. By implementing Education and Community Outreach programs, their conservation strategy ensures an empowered community and protects the oceans while also alleviating poverty. 

When Francesca started the organization, she and Pascoal Nhamussua, Community Outreach Manager, sat down with the elders of the community and discussed what their top priorities were. Education was one of them. They needed new classrooms and a secondary school for the older kids, so Love the Oceans got to work providing employment and investing in the local community by building the necessary facilities. 

Basic Marine Resource Management

Love the Oceans is right in the classroom with the students supplementing the national curriculum’s biology and geography lessons with basic marine resource management. Student’s learn about the oceans, marine life, protecting them, the trash problem, ecotourism, and sustainable fishing.  

A very important part of what they also teach is sea safety. Jangamo Bay has experienced 13 drownings in the last three years. The bay is notorious for very strong riptides so the kids learn how to identify them and, if they are caught in one, how to get out. 

Because part of the overall mission is to provide the children with more opportunities within their community, every student who attends the marine resource class is able to participate in free swimming lessons hosted by Love the Oceans. Through the Educational Outreach program, they’ve taught over 1000 kids about the basics of the oceans and over 800 have had swimming lessons. 

The interesting point of note is that the basic marine resource management class is totally optional for the students because it’s held during their free periods. This doesn’t stop a consistent stream of 30-100 eager students from joining in to learn about the ocean and the animals on their doorstep. Instructors keep these lessons interesting and interactive for the kids through games. 

Francesca excitedly says “It’s awesome to see so many kids taking advantage of it. It’s a very different attitude to education in the West where school isn’t cool in England, but in Mozambique, it’s popular, and everyone knows the importance of it, which is really good.”

Shark game

The idea of sustainable fishing is taught in the classroom through a simple game. 

They ask the kids if they’ve ever eaten shark (sharks are overfished in the area) and about 90% of the class raises their hands. Pascoal splits them into different groups: humans, sharks, bigger carnivore fish, smaller herbivore fish, and algae. 

The game starts with all students standing. He tells them the humans have fished all the sharks and there are no more sharks left. The sharks have to sit down. And so he says, “Okay, well, the kingdom doesn’t have a natural predator anymore”. So the bigger carnivores can spread out, but there’s not enough prey for them all and they overeat, so the small fish sit down. So then the big fish have to sit down because there’s no more food for them to eat. Then the algae grows. Humans don’t eat algae so they are left with nothing. 

Francesca says “It’s quite a poignant exercise, because the kids kind of look around and they realise  the human group has to sit down because they fish the sharks. It works every time because everyone’s always like, ‘Oh, wow. Okay, that’s how it all hangs together. Okay, we’re not going to do that anymore.” 

Reaching more students

Part of the commitment LTO has made with the schools is maintaining the current classrooms that are running, which means the head teachers don’t have to charge maintenance fees to the parents. This has allowed education to now be free for about 1500 kids. That also means the parents who had previously pulled their kids out of school because they need to help on the farm, can send their kids back to school. 

70% of people rely on subsistence farming in the area so it’s common that children help their families with farm work. With the additional classrooms and soon a secondary school, LTO will be able to reach more students, especially the older kids who got pulled out of school to work. 

One of the struggles of getting more kids to the swimming lessons is the location of the pool they’ve been using. A resort has allowed them access but it’s far away so parents are without their kids help for several hours.

Because of the location of the pool, the fact that about 95% of people in the area can’t swim, and the desire to be able to provide even more kids with swimming lessons, they’ve raised money to build the first community swimming pool. This means kids will be able to walk to swimming lessons and won’t be away from the farm as long, increasing the number of kids they can teach as well the frequency of their lessons. 

The ability to help more kids in a single family is extremely important because sometimes the eldest child is made to look after the younger siblings when they go to the beach. If they can recognize where riptides are, they can care for their brothers and sisters more carefully.

During the winter holiday of August 2021, Love the Oceans is partnering with SwimTayka to provide more lessons than usual. For two weeks, volunteer instructors from around the world will teach an intense swimming zero-to-hero workshop where over 200 local children will learn swimming skills for drowning prevention and water stewardship. Volunteers have the opportunity to experience an extremely unique environment and add a level of diversity, excitement, and inspiration to the childrens’ lessons and lives.

Ocean Conservation Champions

As students get older, progressing through the lessons and relationships are built with the students and families, they have the opportunity to intern with LTO. If the kids are getting paid then parents won’t miss them on the farm as much. They can participate in research projects to help with the overall mission of establishing a Marine Protected Area in the bay.

They can also gain further qualifications relating to marine tourism and get jobs leading snorkel and diving tours or get their skipper’s license. By providing the opportunity for kids to follow along this path and find a job, they are helping to alleviate poverty in the area. 

After going through the marine resource class and swim lessons, students can become what Love the Oceans calls Ocean Conservation Champions. They can act as conservation ambassadors within their own communities running conservation workshops ensuring vital culturally integrated change. 

Sustainable fishing brings balance to the bay

Part of what the conservation ambassadors are currently working on is promoting sustainable fishing within the community. 

Due to the pandemic, 30% of the community transitioned from making a living with tourism to fishing. This brought about a rise in the number of nets and spearfishing being used to fish because it was easier. It also caused overfishing of certain types of fish throwing off the balance in the ecosystem of the bay. 

LTO launched an initiative with Gemo Guilamba, chief fisherman, and Pascoal, the Community Outreach Manager, to move all the fishermen over to kayak fishing. 

By transitioning people over to kayak fishing, fisherman can go further out to sea, catching blue water fish like barracuda and tuna. It gives the fishermen more to eat and the chance to become more professional and sell the fish. The hope being on completion of the project, they’ll get complete net elimination in the area which also eliminates bycatch and similar destructive  activities. Doing so sustainably is a win for the community and the environment. 

Through education, swimming lessons, and job opportunities, Love the Oceans is well on their way of fulfilling their mission of creating a sustainable and economically viable solution to the people of Jangamo Bay by saving marine life, preventing drownings, and alleviating poverty.