August 12, 2003 - World Wildlife Fund: The Conservationists - Swaziland RPCV Peter Bechtel living in Mozambique

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mozambique: Peace Corps Mozambique : The Peace Corps in Mozambique: August 12, 2003 - World Wildlife Fund: The Conservationists - Swaziland RPCV Peter Bechtel living in Mozambique

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, August 12, 2003 - 9:17 pm: Edit Post

The Conservationists - Swaziland RPCV Peter Bechtel living in Mozambique

The Conservationists - Swaziland RPCV Peter Bechtel living in Mozambique

The Conservationists - Peter Bechtel

Peter Bechtel
Photo: WWF/Lee Poston

Peter has lived in Africa since his graduation in the U.S. in the early 1980s, first in Swaziland and then for nearly a decade in northern Mozambique. After 20 years of rural development and agricultural support to impoverished rural communities, he became convinced that simply giving things to the poor -- fertilizer, seeds, fishing nets, wells, technical advice, etc. -- was the wrong answer.

For one, providing technological improvements (fishing nets, for example) often resulted in more efficient resource use and, therefore, more rapid depletion of the resource base; the fisheries of most of Mozambique are in the last stages of exhaustion due to 20 years of this sort of support.

As important, he got tired of treating people as if they had nothing to offer. The people of northern Mozambique live in some of the most beautiful and biodiverse areas left on this planet. Instead of simply handing out buckets of donor support, he thought, why not create a partnership aimed at preserving and conserving these areas? This will help address human and environmental issues at the same time. Within Mozambique, rural fishermen, government employees, tourist investors, and even politicians saw the logic of this idea. What he did not find initially was donor support.

In a brave move Peter left the sphere of gainful employment and set out without funds, resources or a paycheck (but with a lot of friends) to see what he could do. He credits his wife, Ruth, who continued to take care of their children, the family farm, her own failing eyesight, and her ailing parents in Swaziland, while he stayed in Mozambique. "We had high phone bills," he says. Peter's parents also pitched in with financial support at crucial times, saving the Bechtels from having to "bet the farm" in the most literal sense.

Eighteen months later the gamble paid off when the Mozambican government officially created the Quirimbas National Park, nearly 3,000 square miles (7,500 km2) of wilderness, islands, bays, and open sea. Forty villages were involved in the creation of the park, as was WWF, which came on board to finance the park after visiting Peter in June last year.

For Peter, this declaration was a proud moment and a fitting tribute to his years of hard work. The park is the largest marine protected area in Africa, the first to be declared in post-independence Mozambique, and the first park anywhere ever to be created at the request of local inhabitants. And Quirimbas National Park's goals state that it must be for the good of all -- whales and lions, local residents and visitors -- mirroring Peter's philosophy.

Reading Peter's CV, it's easy to forget the humanity behind the technical talk. But it is impressive. For example, Peter is a founding member of GECORENA, the Natural Resource Management Working Group of Cabo Delgado Province, a coalition of governmental and NGO bodies working in the areas of community development and conservation. He provided programmatic advice and support to both government and other NGOs within the province, working closely with Dinageca to divulge the New Land Law of 1997 to rural populations, and to "develop standard procedures and practices for delimitation of community lands."

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Story Source: World Wildlife Fund

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS- Mozambique; COS - Swaziland; National Parks; Wildlife



By SwazilandBarry ( - on Thursday, January 17, 2008 - 12:52 am: Edit Post

Peter Bechtel, This is Barry and Norma. I've been trying to find a contact on you for such a long time. Send me an e-mail so we can communicate.


Barry & Norma

By Peter H Bechtel ( - on Thursday, May 22, 2008 - 11:43 pm: Edit Post

Barry, Norma,

We are in Mozambique. having a great time. Done a hell of a lot of things including making a national park (Quirimbas National Park), creating and then selling the worlds best tourist destination (according to the BBC, 2006) and raising our kids and having a ball.

Come and visit. moz is a great place to be these days.

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