Mezimbite Forest Center

Founded: 1994

Sector: Cooperative, Environmental Goods and Services

Location: 50 km from Beira in Dondo District, 15km north west of Dondo (town) and south west of Mafambisse in central Mozambique

Website: http://mezimbite.com/

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Introduction

The Mezimbite Forest Center is a community based programme with an integrated sustainable design, forest management and education/training centre. The Center was founded in 1994 by Allan Schwarz, an architect, environmentalist and former teaching fellow at MIT, and gained formal legal status in 1996. Mezimbite works to eliminate poverty in forest communities by providing sustainable economic alternatives that protect and restore the forest ecosystem. The Mezimbite Forest Center is located 50 km Northwest of Dondo (population 80,000) and south west of Mafambisse in central Mozambique. It is beginning to extend its services and programmes into neighbouring countries. The Center directly employs close to 100 Mozambicans, and through its various activities and programmes is one of the largest employers in the area. The Center is active in a variety of fields, including: the production of timber products, all heirloom quality and consumer ready made from sustainably harvested African noble hardwood; the production of non timber forest products such as foods and personal care items; reforestation with original species; carbon offsetting; environmental damage repairs; consulting services to design products and projects in service of a sounder environment and lifestyles.

Philosophy

"We believe poverty is at the root of ecosystem destruction. We break the cycle of poverty by empowering local citizens through creative economic means so they don't just survive, but thrive. We work to conserve existing lands and to restore forests with the idea of creating the highest value product or service out of the ecosystem's resources while instilling behaviour that preserves those landscapes."

How the Mezimbite Forest Center operates:

  • Life expectancy in the rural areas where Mezimbite works is 31 years (Men) and 32 years (women). Mezimbite provides health care for all of its workers.
  • Improper nutrition is a widespread problem throughout Mozambique and is linked to a variety of serious health problems. Mezimbite provides highly nutritious foods grown by the people for the people.
  • In rural areas of Mozambique, energy is relatively inaccessible and most people rely on fire and charcoal for cooking, boiling water, and for light. Mezimbite works to provide alternative forms of energy, including exploration and expansion into biofuels.
  • Less than 50% of Mozambique's population can read and write and schools are overcrowded and underfunded. Mezimbite provides scholarships for the children (boys and girls) of its workers. If Mezimbite finds out that a girl is not being sent to school because of her sex, that worker is fired.
  • In Mozambique uncontrolled burning accounts for 915 of forest degradation. Mezimibite does not practice any of these operations and trains its workers alternative forms of energy and agriculture production.
  • Unauthorised logging is a significant and growing problem in Mozambique. Through its tree planting initiatives Mezimbite seeks to do its part in countering this activity.

Enterprise Activities

a.d.schwarz Furniture and Homeware

The Mezimbite Forest Center produces high quality furniture and home-ware made from sustainably harvested African noble hardwood. Products are crafted by local artisans trained at the Center, and all pieces are finished with beeswax and natural oil harvested in Mozambique. These products are sold locally and internationally, with the profits from their sale reinvested in the center and activities aimed at community development and forest restoration.

a.d.schwarz Jewellery

Hand-wrought jewellery made from sustainably harvested African noble Hardwood. Products are made by local artisans at the Mezimbite Center and finished with beeswax and natural oil harvested in Mozambique. Profits from their sale are again used for social and environmental purposes.

R & B

Home grown farming and harvesting of natural products, products include: honey, rice, beans, oils, sesame, nuts, preserved fruits, piri piri, tea and infusions, mushrooms and fungi.

Reeseed Africa

The Mezimbite Forest Center is the largest planter of trees in Mozambique and second largest employer in the area. Through the Center's Reseed Africa Programme, trees are being replanted in nearly a dozen sustainable forestry initiatives throughout the country. Mezimbite and Reseed Africa are currently looking to expand in both Mozambique and other countries. Tree planting not only creates a healthy, viable ecosystem and offsets the carbon from business operations, but offers employment and food for local inhabitants.

a.d.schwartz consulting

a.d. schwarz consulting develops architectural and community sustainable development solutions for the developing world

Bio Óleos de Maxixe (BoM) Mozambique

Bio Óleos de Maxixe creates partnerships with rural Mozambican communities to sustainably harvest local oilseeds and other forest products, extract natural oils and manufacture a completely natural line of skincare products. As a new business initiative, BOM brings a market for undervalued forest products to economically isolated communities in rural Mozambique, and with this market an effective economic incentive for our partner communities to value and assume responsibility for the health of their forests www.bom-mozambique.com.


Mezimbite Forest Center Training and Scholarships

Artisan Training and Scholarships

The Mezimbite Forest Center provides artisan training and scholarships for training. Carpenters and cabinet makers have a minimum of five years training as an apprentice; wood turners take a minimum of three years training; carvers train for two years as do construction workers. Many of Mezimbite's artisans are exposed to all possibilities to determine what they are best at. Following the completion of their training, artisans take on the responsibility of passing on their skills to new apprentices who in turn become journeymen and masters. Community outreach through tree planting and teaching workshops are part of the scholarship.

Agroforestry and Nursery Technician Training and Scholarships

The Mezimbite Forest Center provides Agroforestry and Nursery Technician training. Through the centre scholarships are provided and used to teach local inhabitants proper planting and management techniques. Agroforestry scholarships are reserved principally for women (but also given to men) who train and work at Mezimbite for three months. They are trained to be agricultural technicians who understand the soil, all that is in it and its cycles, how to grow nutritious plants, harvest them, and manage the process. Traditional foods and skills to grow and prepare those foods have degraded since independence. Mezimbite trains people to grow a range of nutritious foods that are important for a healthy diet. About thirty percent of the women who go through Mezimbite's training use the agroforestry systems at home and continue to grow vegetables and higher nutrition crops. Training involves a rotation of 12 women every three months. Mezimbite feeds over 100 people every day through the women's skills. A minimum wage for three months is approximately $270.00 – which is roughly twice the legal minimum wage – and largely what is needed to raise the women out of poverty and gain enough skill to grow their own nutritious foods successfully.

Nursery technician scholarships are also primarily reserved for women. Given the fact that most women are illiterate, the skills are reduced to drills. Nursery staff learn how to build a proper nursery through building one under guidance and supervision. This includes: selecting a site, choosing and harvesting local materials, assembling the materials together to build a nursery, collecting seeds, preparing soil and planting pockets, germination techniques (over 40 indigenous species used), identifying and labelling trees, taking care of them, planting them, and fostering their growth over a three-year period. There is a constant requirement for supplies and support and supervision, so training is always being updated informally. It takes about three months to train a nurseryman, but often individuals learn at their own pace. Mezimbite has the capacity to train 30-40 nurserymen every year.

Mezimbite Magazine

The Mezimbite Magazine provides views on African sustainable communities, culture, environment and artisan training by leading experts who offer diverse ideas and new solutions. Key areas of discussion include:

  • Ecology
  • Education
  • Sustainable investing in Africa
  • Peace corps in Africa
  • Empowering women
  • Artisans
  • African voices
  • Expert interviews and perspectives

Contact Details

Contact Name: Allan Schwarz

Address: EN6 km 50 Mozambique

Contact Number: +258 823856960

Email: trees1@teledata.mz

Website: http://mezimbite.com/