It is all in the seagrass – exploring small-scale fisheries in the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park


This blog post is written by Carolina Åkerlund, a MSc student from the Department of Aquatic Resources at SLU, during a field trip to Mozambique October to December 2022.

Fishers gathered at a landing site on Sitone beach on Bazaruto Island after a day of fishing. Photo: Charlotte Berkström

In October last year, I travelled to Mozambique with another Master’s student, Amanda Rydhem, to conduct fieldwork in the beautiful Bazaruto Archipelago as part of our Master’s work. We got the chance to experience stunning environments and meet wonderful people in a setting very different from Sweden. We also got the opportunity to collaborate and work with local scientists, students and NGOs, participating in capacity building of marine science in the region. Our thesis work focuses on exploring small-scale fisheries within the national park of the Bazaruto Archipelago. 

Why work with small-scale fisheries?

Small-scale fisheries contribute to the livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries, being a key contribution to food security and income. In the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, many people are highly dependent on small-scale fisheries for their subsistence. The area’s high marine biodiversity and occurrence of charismatic fauna, including sea turtles, several species of sharks, dolphins and East Africa’s only viable population of dugongs, led to the creation of the Bazaruto Archipelago national park in the 1970s. A common feature of the shallow seascape in Bazaruto is the seagrass that forms lush meadows which are important habitats for fish and crustaceans etc. Due to the park’s protection of certain areas, including coral reefs, most of the small-scale fisheries are practised in and around seagrass habitats. They serve as key fishing grounds, and many of them have local names. Lack of fertile soil on the islands limits agriculture, and this together with a steadily increasing population and few alternative livelihood options increases the pressure on the seagrass fish community. Decreasing catches within the park have raised concerns regarding sustainability and the future of the seagrass fisheries.

One of the targeted species, carapau (Decapterus spp), caught in the tidal channels close to the seagrass meadows. Photo: Charlotte Berkström

Managing small-scale fisheries is in many cases challenging due to complex social-ecological interactions and small-scale fisheries target a variety of species using a range of gears. These fisheries are also generally data poor, which makes it difficult to make informed decisions about proper management measures. Measures often include gear restrictions and seasonal and/or temporal closures. To study small-scale fisheries management within the Bazaruto Archipelago national park, we joined a group of scientists and students from five universities in Sweden, Mozambique and Brazil to take a closer look at the seagrass habitats and collect spatial, ecological and socio-ecological data.

How did you become familiar with the environment and the techniques needed for data collection?

The project started with a weeklong workshop in Bazaruto Island to get familiar with the diverse marine habitats, and together discuss and practise the different methods to be used in the upcoming fieldwork. The team practised snorkel techniques, fish- and seagrass identification, and survey methods as part of capacity building of marine science in Mozambique.

Students from Sweden and Mozambique practising data collection of fish and seagrass. Photo: Carolina Åkerlund

What did you do during your stay?

Nevertheless, all good things must come to an end, and so do educational and rewarding workshops. After an intense week of learning, we stayed on another eight weeks to conduct fieldwork. During these weeks, we spent time both under and above the sea surface and a variety of ecological and socio-ecological methods were used to get an overview of the seagrass  and small-scale fisheries in the park.

Not all days doing fieldwork are sunshine and calm seas. Photo: Amanda Rydhem

Fish communities were surveyed using two different methods: 1) underwater visual census (UVCs), where all fish within a certain predefined area were identified and counted during low tide and 2) deployment of GoPro cameras to identify and count fish during high tide.

Preparing GoPro cameras before deployment. Photo: Charlotte Berkström

Together with representatives from the Bazaruto Archipelago national park and Mozambican university students, we conducted interviews with fishers in three villages in the northern most parts of Bazaruto Island. The aim with the interviews was to gain knowledge on important seagrass areas for fisheries, fishing effort, targeted species, preferred fishing grounds, and local ecological knowledge concerning habitat use and connectivity for some of the targeted species.

A fisherwoman with vast fishing experience being interviewed in Sitone village, Bazaruto Island. Photo: Santos Mutondo

Our thesis work is part of a larger project in collaboration with researchers, students and park representatives from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Stockholm University, Federal University of Santa Maria,Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Universidade Pedagogica and the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. Information gathered within the frames of this project will contribute to an increased understanding of fish communities of tropical nearshore ecosystems; how these are affected by environmental factors and by fishing pressure related to the UN Sustainable goals (SDGs) 13 (Climate action) and 14 (Life below water). Knowledge of how these factors are interacting in shaping the seagrass fish communities and how certain species may respond differently will be helpful within management efforts aiming to develop sustainable small-scale fisheries, providing food security (SDG 2), boosting social and ecological resilience and reducing poverty (SDG 1).

A sundowner together on the beach is the perfect way to end a day of fieldwork. Photo: Carolina Åkerlund

For more info see: Joint efforts in studying Mozambique’s important seagrass beds by Swedish and local students | Externwebben (

The Mozambique project is part of  SLU Aqua’s international development cooperation


Safeguarding mangroves is crucial for our future


This blog post is written by Josefine Norgren and Johanna Pettersson, students at the MSc course “Sustainable Forestry and Land Use Management in the Tropics” during a field trip to Tanzania December 2022. 

The mangroves in Tanga district, Tanzania. From left: Josefine Norgren, Yusuph Kajia and Johanna Pettersson. Photo: Ulrik Ilstedt.

During a field trip to Tanzania with SLU we got the chance to visit a mangrove forest located in the coastal district of Tanga. We had the privilege to learn from a local guide, Yusuph Kajia, who is working for the Tanzania Forest Service Agency.

We discovered that despite mangrove forests having many important functions, they have not received the same attention as other forest ecosystems on the planet. Yet, they are one of the world’s most important ecosystems! You have probably heard about climate change and the importance of reducing CO2 emissions. You may also have heard how trees and forests can mitigate climate change and their potential to sustain  livelihoods for millions of people. But have you heard specifically how the mangrove ecosystem is connected to these topics? And why should we even care about an ecosystem that makes up only 0.1% of the Earth’s surface? We want to tell you why!

Why are mangrove forests important?

The mangrove forest ecosystem is a unique and vital part of the Earth’s natural landscape, providing a wide range of ecological, economic, and social benefits to both local and global communities. These forests are found in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide and are characterized by their ability to thrive in salty, coastal environments. Mangrove species have one of the most unique reproductive strategies in the plant world. Some mangrove species are viviparous, which means that seeds germinate into seedlings while still attached to the parent plant[1]. Our guide Yusuph explained another unique strategy, so called aerial roots, that some of the mangrove species have developed in order to survive in this aquatic environment.

Viviparous seeds on a parent plant. These seeds will eventually fall to the ground and take root. Photo: Josefine Norgren

Tanzania has ten different species of mangroves that have many important functions. Apart from acting like a carbon sink, they also provide shelter for a vast number of plant, animal and aquatic species, holding great biodiversity[2]. Yusuph explained that the mangroves also serve as natural barriers against storms and erosion, protecting inland areas from flooding and other natural disasters. He also mentioned that these forests support the livelihoods of local communities who rely on them for a range of activities, such as fishing and wood harvesting, which provide food, shelter, and income for millions of people.

Aerial roots (at the bottom of the picture). Photo: Josefine Norgren

Why should we care about saving the mangroves?

Historically, mangroves have been extensively logged, leading to a decline in their extent and quality. Today, they still face many challenges and threats mainly caused by human activities, such as land conversion, pollution from industrial and agricultural activities, and the impacts of climate change, according to Yusuph. This is a concern considering its many important functions mentioned earlier. Another important factor that can incentivize safeguarding of mangrove ecosystems is that they can capture and store carbon at a much higher rate than most terrestrial forests. When carbon is captured by the worldÂŽs oceans and coastal ecosystems, it’s called Blue carbon. Most of this carbon is stored below ground in the soil and is often thousands of years old[3]. Coastal mangroves are also estimated to store up to four times more carbon compared to temperate and boreal forests![4] This makes them an essential tool in the fight against climate change.

Overall, mangrove forests are a vital and complex ecosystem that provides a range of important ecosystem services. Losses of mangroves can have a huge impact on the climate, biodiversity and people’s livelihoods, which should be a strong incitement to care about the conservation and restoration of this forest ecosystem.

What is done today?

The tide has turned and things are changing for the better. The loss of mangroves is declining and our knowledge of their value and importance has improved[4]. In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on sustainable management of these ecosystems to ensure that mangrove forests are protected and managed in a responsible manner, according to Yusuph. This includes the development of new management plans, the implementation of conservation measures, and the enforcement of forestry regulations. Yusuph explains that they also work with local communities and other stakeholders to ensure that the benefits of mangrove forests are shared equitably and sustainably. They are, for example, establishing plantation forests aimed to fuel wood harvesting to relieve the pressure on the mangroves.

“Government cannot protect the forest alone, we need to include the locals to save the mangroves” – Yusuph

Another example is an area of 69.3 ha of mangroves in the Tanga District in Tanzania that was rehabilitated successfully between 1994 and 2003 as part of a collaborative coastal management approach involving local communities[5].

The most recent effort connected to the issue of mangrove deforestation was a report launched in September 2022 by The Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA). The GMA consists of over 30 organizations that work together to accelerate mangrove restoration and conservation measures around the globe. The report is given out annually and aims to compile the most current information on what we know about the mangrove forests and what is being done to reverse the downward trend. Nowadays, we also have access to more extensive and reliable data about the current status of the mangroves via the Global Mangrove Watch maps.

We have learned that the mangroves support many important functions that are crucial for humanity and that this ecosystem can play a key role in mitigating climate change. To stop the loss of mangrove forests across the globe, it is essential that we work together to identify and address the root causes of habitat loss and degradation. This may involve working with local communities to promote sustainable land use practices, supporting conservation efforts, and investing in research and monitoring to better understand the dynamics of these complex ecosystems. By taking a proactive approach, we can ensure that these valuable ecosystems continue to thrive and provide a range of benefits for future generations.

[1] Reproductive Strategies of Mangroves. [2023-01-10]

[2] Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS). Tanzania’s Mangroves.  [2023-01-10]

[3] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. What is Blue Carbon? [2023-01-10]

[4] Leal, M. & Spalding, M. (2022). The State of the World’s Mangroves 2022. Global Mangrove Alliance.

[5] Erftemeijer, P., de Boer, M., Hilarides, L. (2022). Status of Mangroves in the Western Indian Ocean Region. Wetlands International.

How can pearl millet and cowpea be good for healthy diets?


This blog post is written by Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade, PhD student at the Department of Molecular Sciences at SLU in Uppsala.

Mothers are informed about the interview process. Photo: Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade

When I think about undernourished children in Mozambique, I wonder how I can contribute as a researcher to reduce these alarming malnutrition rates in my home country. 

In 2020, I was in Cabo Delgado (the northern part of Mozambique), doing fieldwork. I had the opportunity to talk to and ask some questions to mothers and community leaders to understand the problems connected to undernourished children in these areas. These questions and observations were important to understand food habits, cultural choices and traditions, which helped me to develop different ideas for the project. The idea to choose pearl millet and cowpea in my research is because these grains are locally produced, available, affordable, nutritious and drought resistant. During my fieldwork it was possible to interact with the people in these communities to understand the problems and explain how these grains can be a potential choice to incorporate into their diets, especially into children’s diets, to prevent malnutrition and food insecurity. Furthermore, how to apply traditional processing methods to these grains, such as soaking, germination and fermentation, and why it is very important to apply these treatments to enhance the nutrients and make them bio-available and bio-digestible.

Mothers are informed about the interview process. Photo: Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade

Pearl millet (left) Cowpea (right) Photo: Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade

Soaking, germination and fermentation have been used as traditional processing methods for decades in some parts of African communities since it is affordable and effective in improving nutritional quality and reducing the anti-nutritional factors of the grains. In addition, these traditional processing methods benefit grain digestibility and give favourable characteristics to the final product.

Germinated grains have a high activity of hydrolytic enzymes, which is important for breaking down the major compounds such as starch and non-starch polysaccharides, to reduce the viscosity of thick porridges without dilution with water. Using flour from germinated grains increases energy density and improves the content of some nutrients. On the other hand, fermented grains are important because microorganisms and enzymes produced by the natural microflora alter the composition of the substrates in various ways, improving texture, taste digestibility and nutritional value.

Pearl millet and cowpea are as nutritious as other grains; the key is to know how to prepare them to enhance the nutrients and reduce the anti-nutrients present in the grains. Pearl millet is a good source of macronutrients such as fat, protein, carbohydrate, and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. It is also a gluten-free product. Cowpea is a plant protein source used to enrich infant cereal food. Its high lysine content makes it an excellent enhancer of protein quality to add as a complementary ingredient. Moreover, it is beneficial for people that do not have access to animal protein.

Why is this important to know and why is it interesting to study the effect of traditional processing methods on the grains?

Mozambique is a low-income country in the southern part of Africa; 43% of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Food quantity is not always the principal problem, improper feeding practices, i.e. a poor combination of food products, and insufficient knowledge on enhancing nutritional quality through traditional processing methods are the primary problem. This project provides knowledge on changes caused by traditional processing methods on the physicochemical and microstructure properties of pearl millet and cowpea grains and gives potential knowledge about the raw material and possibilities to develop new novel food products.

My study showed that the traditional processing methods, such as germination and fermentation, positively affects the grains, changing the physicochemical properties and microstructure characteristics. Germinated pearl millet showed high enzyme activity, which reduced the amount of total starch content and amylose content, something that is important to increase the energy density of the porridge and soluble dietary fibre. These soluble fraction of dietary fibre are essential because it attracts water and turns to gel in the gut, trapping carbohydrates and slowing the absorption of glucose. Fermentation also changed the physicochemical and microstructure properties of pearl millet and cowpea. However, total starch and amylose content was not affected by fermentation.

This research can have a global impact contributing to Agenda 2030 by improving nutrition and achieving food security. We all know that malnutrition is one of the biggest problems in the world, and this research can help other countries facing the same problem as Mozambique.


Read more? Visit the webpage about millets at SLU Global.


 LOSS and DAMAGE – two words with so much meaning.


This blog post is written by Hanna Wolf, Division of Environmental Integration SLU and advisor at Sida’s Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change.

Climate activists at COP27
Photo: UNFCCC_COP27_19Nov22_CivilSocietyActions_KiaraWorth-8, CreativeCommons

LOSS and DAMAGE. Two words with so much meaning. For some it means the difference between hope and despair and for others it means facing costs and responsibilities. This year’s UN Climate Change Conference Of the Parties in Sharm El-Sheikh Egypt, COP 27, was the first COP where Loss and Damage were put on the agenda. For some that was a win in itself, for some it meant trouble.

COP 27 cannot be considered a success, far from it. It was only in the last minute the line on 1.5 degree Celsius target was kept. And a lot in the outcome text presented after two days overtime of negotiations, are missing. For example, much needed climate actions to drastically reduce emissions were not addressed. It is clear that the decision makers in Sharm El-Sheikh have not listened to what science tells us: e.g. that emissions peak before 2025 is necessary, the phase down of coal, and phase out of all fossil fuels is a must to limit global warming well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. That is the goal of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.

However, this year’s conference closed with a reported breakthrough agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.

This outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”

UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) reports that the decision means that Governments agreed to establish new funding arrangements, as well as a dedicated fund, to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damage. Governments also agreed to establish a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalise both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year.

But, the outcome is hardly a victory to celebrate for the most vulnerable countries. Just imagine Pakistan, still struggling with the devastating floods earlier this year, as an example of the need for a loss and damage fund, with over 1700 lives lost and destruction of critical infrastructure, loss of schools for millions of children, hospitals and health centres destroyed and livelihoods, farms and homes gone. I can’t help wonder, can that ever be compensated for? The progress on loss and damage is indeed historic and has the potential to support and increase the support for the most vulnerable. But lots of work has to be done before that is a reality.

For me in my role as an advisor, working with environment, climate and development, I have followed the meeting with great intensity. Although not physically present, I have been able to follow both side events and official meetings. Reports, comments, tweets, live streams and various notifications have strangely, despite the seriousness and the gloomy tones, given me energy to continue work for climate justice and climate action. From this year’s COP, I especially take with me, an increased dedication of keep referring to science in all my advisory services and that all my recommendations should be Paris aligned.

Decisions taken at the Sharm El-Sheikh climate change conference can be accessed here:  Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference – November 2022 | UNFCCC

More information on the Paris Agreement can be accessed on UNFCCC webpage: The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC

The Division of Environmental Integration at SLU was established in 2018 and works for an increased environmental integration in various sectors in society. The division manages Sida’s Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change in cooperation with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).



Video shoot with SLU Youth Institute


This blog post was written by Viktoria Wiklicky, Research Assistant at the Department of Energy and Technology; Environmental Engineering Unit, SLU and first published at the blog Kretsloppsteknik.

To promote SLU Youth Institute and the advantages for high schools becoming part of it, Viktoria Wiklicky was invited to talk about the Black Soldier Flies in their 2022 launching video. Fly larva composting is a tool to close the loop of a now linear food production system and aims to make food production more circular. Promoting the technology to the next generation will ensure that our passion and our ideas will be continued in the future.

SLU Youth Institute aims to create interest among Swedish youth for global food security and to find sustainable solutions to the global challenges based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The programme was founded 2020 and is part of the many Youth Institutes coordinated by World Food Prize Foundation. High school students engage with local leaders and experts to discuss critical global challenges, participate in hands-on activities, and explore exciting ways to make a difference in Sweden, across Europe and around the world. By the way, also the larvae showed their best side in the spotlight of the cameras and luckily, cameras cannot record smell (yet).