Environmental Flows for enhanced biodiversity and poverty alleviation in the Incomati delta, Mozambique (EFlows-Moz)

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Duration of project: 
2 years
Objectives of project: 

To design environmental flows that would maintain and enhance biodiversity values and the functioning of the estuarine and deltaic ecosystems of the Lower Incomati in order to optimize the delivery of a number of key ecosystems services to a range of stakeholders, with the wellbeing of vulnerable user groups a priority.


Specific Objectives of Project:

Objective 1: To constitute a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional and participatory research team for observation, monitoring, analysis and Environmental Flows (Eflows) scenario-development.

Objective 2: To develop a comprehensive mapping of the key habitats and biodiversity values of the Lower Incomati and their evolution in the past 70 years.

Objective 3: To analyze the current freshwater flow pattern (as a driving indicator): the aim is to analyze the quantity, quality and the spatial extent of the freshwater entering the key habitats of the Macaneta wetlands in the Lower Incomati (and their interaction with the tidal rhythms).

Objective 4: To identify and quantify the relationships between the freshwater flow pattern and the coastal wetland productivity using biological proxies (plants, fish, birds) – Ecological indicators

Objective 5: To carry out an ecosystem services analysis, including a semi-quantitative analysis of links between the natural resource produced by the delta and the user livelihoods, at the household level, and conduct a  comprehensive analysis of the stakeholders’ natural resource use strategies (including the policy context) and their interactions, tensions and trade-offs.

Objective 6: To jointly develop and discuss E-flows scenarios that could optimize the wetland productivity, meet the downstream user needs and strategies and alleviate poverty.

Project Summary:

Over the past 15 years, economic growth in several areas in Mozambique has been increasingly relying on the extractive sector with minimal translation of such growth to an equivalent increase in living standards. Most of the rural population thus remains highly dependent on natural resources and their associated ecosystem services for which rainfall and river flows are key drivers.

The Macaneta wetlands in the Incomati delta are used by a range of stakeholders engaged in fisheries, agriculture, free-range livestock keeping and the gathering of a variety of natural resources (e.g. reeds, wood for energy and construction, wild fruits, etc.). The wetlands are vital to the community in the area providing an estimated 20% of the 200 tons of shrimp fished in Maputo Bay are derived from the Lower Incomati and healthy mangrove and saltmarshes systems essential for productivity of the wetlands. However, with the recent increase in flow of tourists into Macaneta areas, new developments such as the construction of a new road bridge across the Incomati River, and building of new lodges and housing have increased, inevitably tapping into the groundwater resources of the floodplain and dunes.  Further, due to ongoing drought situation (since 2014) in the southern part of Mozambique, the Pequenos Limbobos dam in the Umbeluzi river has not been able to adequately supply the great Maputo urban area which has led to the development of a new well-field to tap the important groundwater system adjacent to Incomati river, to augment the water supply to Maputo city.  This has led to greater strain on the water resources of Incomati river.  A clear assessment of the groundwater resources and the impacts of increased salinity in the river is needed considering that (I.) currently around 50% of the water from the entire Incomati Basin is abstracted upstream, mainly for irrigation, (ii) the increasing abstraction of groundwater resources in the aquifer system adjacent to the Incomati river, (iii) the climate trends in Southeastern Africa resulting in a decrease in rainfall and (iv) more dams are planned or under construction. Realistic scenarios of increased freshwater flows that can improve the functioning of key species and species groups (e.g. the mangrove, the saltmarshes, the reedbeds and the grasslands) within the system can be developed to ensure that the river flows have the potential of improving the well-being livelihoods of vulnerable users in the system (fishers, livestock keepers, gatherers of wild plants e.g. reeds, etc.). This project seeks to design environmental flows that would maintain and enhance biodiversity values and the functioning of the estuarine and deltaic ecosystems of the Lower Incomati in order to optimize the delivery of a number of key ecosystem services to a range of stakeholders and with the well-being of vulnerable user groups a priority. The project will contribute to the implementation and testing of the Environmental Flows Assessment (EFA) guidelines for the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region, and their adaptation to the Mozambican context. Hence, the experiences and results will allow Mozambique to contribute lessons learnt and innovative ideas for further development of typical methodologies for environmental flows implementation by the WIO countries. It will also contribute to fostering of multidisciplinary team working to interface natural and social sciences.


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