Reviving a Maritime Past: Architectural and ecological heritage of Chinde, Mozambique – Roberto Mussibora, Joaquim Campira, Francis Massé & Manuel Chigarisso
Like other coastal communities, the population of Chinde has a heavy reliance on mangrove ecosystems for their livelihoods. In Chinde, this dependence is having harmful results, even threatening the physical integrity of the village due to coastal erosion caused not only by the indiscriminate felling of mangrove trees and the extraction of clay for house building, but also by sea level rise and reduction of water in the Zambezi River.
As part of our field survey throughout Chinde village, we witnessed the increasing levels of erosion and consequent degradation of the socio-ecological surroundings of Chinde. Communities in the area are unanimous in stating that today, Chinde is in its 3rd city phase. The third phase refers to the newest phase of city building as coastal erosion will have destroyed what would be the original two phases of city construction, known as the 1st and 2nd city, including much of the original infrastructure and architecture from those periods. The 1st and 2nd city also represent the original centre of the city of Chinde.
Throughout our survey we see evidence of the central zone (1st and 2nd Chinde) in the form of remains of structures and artefacts (roads, locomotive debris, coffers and boats) along the coastline and in the mouth of the river Chinde / Zambezi River.
We kicked off our workshop by introducing the Reviving a Maritime project: Architectural and Ecological Heritage of Chinde-Mozambique (RMP: AEHChinde-Mz) and Rising from the Depths and its funding partners, Global Challenges Research Fund & Arts & Humanities Research Council.
Being smaller in size, our Workshop in Chinde had a main target of training a group 10 people (6 females and 4 males) on how to document, manage and disseminate the existing Architectural and Ecological Cultural Heritage in Chinde. The presentations were subdivided into two sections: Ecological Heritage and Architectural Cultural Heritage.
Ecological heritage plays an important role in the culture, economy and social aspects of the community, shaping their lifestyle and livelihoods in ways where the community depends on their natural surroundings, including elements of biodiversity and ecosystems that the local environment offers. The purpose of focusing on ecological heritage in the workshop was to empower and instill in local students the knowledge and tools for identifying ecological heritage, the processes involved in ecological identification and ways of preserving heritage in a time of climate change and unsustainable exploitation of biodiversity and its ecosystems. The workshop also emphasized the relevance of coastal erosion and its impact on the architectural and ecological heritage, including the socio-economic and cultural dynamics of Chinde.
After the end of the ecological heritage section of the workshop, students expressed interest in voluntarily collaborating on data collection in the field for the RMP: AEHChinde-Mz project. They saw the project as presenting issues of social and cultural importance. They also expressed concerns of open fecalism on the beach, and through discussions have challenged themselves to set up a student club at the local school (Chinde Secondary School). Such a club will aim to raise awareness of the importance of preserving local heritage and the risks posed by some unsustainable exploitation practices of the elements of local biodiversity and ecosystem on local heritage and socio-economic and cultural aspects associated with climate change.
Two members of local institutions (Environment and Forest and Wildlife technicians) also participated in the workshop and made themselves available to continue data collection. In addition, technicians benefited from basic training on coastal erosion risk zone mapping techniques and their importance, as well as the enhancement of some basic local ecosystem services, and the creation of a database to better understand the dynamics of erosion. They also learned basic skills for using photography and film to document a continually degrading coast.
Architectural Cultural Heritage
The architecture and cultural heritage focus examined the built urban environment of Chinde, from the pre-colonial era, British concession, to the present time.
Participants were actively involved and together reflected on the issue of sustainable conservation of maritime cultural heritage, with more emphasis on architectural heritage, in order to preserve and repurpose existing structures.
The workshop focused on training participants on basic techniques of surveying, inventory making and documenting buildings that may be classified as national cultural heritage. This included specific training on the use of plaques and photography in preserving, documenting and promoting this architectural heritage. The survey work and training was conducted on maps.me, a free smartphone app, that can work offline (without any network connection), and is capable of storing over 500 points, as well as including notes to these points. The maps.me accuracy error is less than 10 m, and is accessible to all smartphone devices, since gps is expensive and inaccessible.
At the end of the workshop, we took the students to survey the properties located in the risk zone, while the other group of students photographed the properties for the documentation and inventory process. We were able to feel the enthusiasm and participation of the students throughout the sections and training sessions. Several related discussions emerged about the sustainability and symbioses between architectural, cultural, and ecological heritage.
Our workshop and training received strong and enthusiastic support from the local community and the Chinde District Government. They welcomed us warmly and provided us with the necessary room and equipment for the presentations. In the course of the fieldwork, the Chinde Government provided us with a boat to cross to the Micaúne (opposite Chinde) and motorbike for areas without car access. We therefore take this opportunity to reiterate our thanks to all officials of the Chinde District Government, in particular Administrator Pedro Vírgula, for the support offered.