Traditional Knowledge and Conservation – An interview with Atanasio Brito

"Rare Quotes" features leaders from across Rare putting the work into their own words.

March 29, 2024

Atanasio Brito, Vice President of Fish Forever in Mozambique, shares thoughts on the power of local communities to enact change based on their historical and traditional connection to conservation.

Full transcript

Can you describe the communities you work with?

Well, the people in my community are humble people. They basically like connecting with the nature, that is what they have been doing for their livelihoods. They are connected with, and they have local knowledge to even implement whatever programs they would like to implement. And organizations like us will just go there to facilitate some of that processes, which are already known by the communities.

What are some of the biggest barriers they face in changing their behaviors?

Poverty is one of these main barriers, which basically people have been impoverished through times due to many factors, illiteracy, climate and other challenges that happen there. It’s not because people don’t know how or which actions they should be taking, but oftentimes knowing is not enough. You need to get enablers in place. Basically, the communities are supporting this process. They want it.

What impact does climate change have on Mozambique’s coastal communities?

Climate change now basically is happening with extreme weather events that happen. We see more frequent cyclones in the communities that we live basically destroying their basic construction.

How does the Fish Forever program support local communities?

Fish Forever is about making this connection between nature and people. Making basically a balance between what are the real needs of people and the needs of nature. Basically, trying to make conservation with a sustainable use because oftentimes organizations only focus on biodiversity conservation and forget about the people that depend on these or have depended on these for generations. We have programs of community engagement, behavior adoption using the local needs of the people, trying to identify what are the barriers they have and trying to find solutions and levers that will help these communities adopt those behaviors.

What is your hope for the future of Mozambique’s coastal communities?

Having healthy ecosystems, thriving communities where this balance exists. Basically, people can have enough food from these natural resources, but they also have other alternative livelihoods that would complement. What gives me hope is believing and seeing the people also are believing. There’s always some doubt sometimes when you have challenges, but definitely knowing that the people are there with all those hopes, they have strength, they want to continue even after you have a cyclone hit in the community, people want to rebuild.