All of us at Trees4Moz would like to thank Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation in the UK for their kindness in giving us a special one-off grant to restore the damage caused by Cyclone Idai to the Nhamacoa Forest.

We would also like to thank Marie Levesque and Scott in Canada for their donation and Johann Weyers and Erin Miles in Cape Town for their contribution.

When Cyclone Idai devastated central Mozambique in March 2019, it not only caused a human catastrophe but also an environmental one.

In the Nhamacoa Forest, over 200 large trees were ripped out of the ground by the fierce wind, as well as many smaller trees. The shade netting of our indigenous tree nursery was torn to shreds and there was considerable damage to the eco-tourism houses; roofs torn off, windows shattered, rooms flooded and furniture soaked by rain and covered in green and black mould.

For two weeks after the cyclone hit, the Nhamacoa forest was eerily silent.  There was no bird song; no chattering from the Samango and Vervet monkeys; no little bush babies screeching and running across the roof of our houses at night.  Noisy insects were still and not a butterfly or bee were to be heard or seen.

Hopefully, with the help you have given us, the beautiful Nhamacoa forest will get back to normal and continue to provide a safe home for the wildlife that lives in it.

We are truly grateful to you all.  Thank you!


No one who knows them will dispute the fact that Vervet monkeys are the most mischievous, the most curious and the most destructive of all the monkey family.

When we first arrived in the Nhamacoa, the forest was enormous and to see a monkey, any monkey, was unusual.  But when their habitat was destroyed, we began to see them more often until one day I got quite a shock.  Strolling under the leafy, shady trees, I happened to look up and saw the branches heaving and teeming with little black faces peering down at me.  It seemed we were over-run with Vervets!  Even worse was the discovery that Vervets are prolific, producing young every year and living to the age of 24!  We were in for trouble.

Soon, we had Vervets sneaking into my laundry room, on to the verandah and even stealing bananas from my outside kitchen, not to mention juggling with the plates that had just been washed!

The vegetable garden fared even worse.  Lovingly tended butternut, sweet melons and cucumbers disappeared into Vervet stomachs and although they obviously didn’t think much of carrots, they pulled them out of the ground anyway, wondering “What’s this?”

In an attempt to frighten them off, Chamboco, our old gardener, made a scarecrow dressed in O’D’s old clothes, a slouchy hat and holding a stick-like rifle against its shoulder.  This deterred them for some weeks while they sat in the trees overlooking the garden and studied the object standing guard over the forbidden vegetables.  But Vervets aren’t too easily deterred, especially where food is concerned.  Some experimentation was made by the braver Vervets and this brought the discovery that the scarecrow stood motionless no matter how close they crept up to it.  And soon, to our dismay and their delight, they were joyfully back to their marauding, pilfering ways.

We’ve grown used to buying vegetables and fruit at Shoprite or the local market now and although it’s good to know our monkeys are so well fed, I only wish they would show a little gratitude and leave something behind for us – even if it’s just one mango or a paw paw!


After some very hot summers and hardly any rain, the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 have given us some extremely torrential downpours.  Although this has meant that our plunge pool has filled up with rainwater – before we even managed to paint it and finish it – and several of our neighbours’ houses have fallen down, this  deluge has been good for our trees!

The forest is lush and dense and the grass is higher than our heads.  As a result, birds are difficult to see, although the monkeys are still very visible as they continue to rampage through our fruit trees, run into our outside kitchen and all over the roofs of our houses.

At the moment we are busy planting out the 5,000 chanfuta and umbaua trees we grew and they are taking very well in this wet weather.  It’s a lot of work, especially as we have to keep the ground clean around the trees to prevent them from being smothered by grass.

To end, I would like to thank Ross Norman of Sharps Pixley in London who gave us a most wonderful and unexpected donation to grow more trees.  Thank you so much, Ross.  Your 200 chanfuta and umbaua trees are amongst those we are planting out at the moment.
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​Sometimes, the locals living around us bring us small animals whose mothers have been killed for bush meat and once, one of these was the tiniest of genets.

This little genet, which we called Geoffrey, was so tiny he fitted into a hand.  Not yet weaned, he was still unsteady on his feet and made high pitched little squealing noises, calling for the mother he had sadly lost. With 10 cats and a big Rhodesian Ridgeback in our house we had to keep him out of harms’ way in a cage in the little cottage next to our us. We also had to keep him for at least six months before letting him out into the forest. There are dangerous creatures out there, if you’re a little genet!  Creatures like owls and pythons.

At first we filled a tiny syringe and fed Geoffrey with UHT milk from Shoprite, our local supermarket in the town of Chimoio. This, by the way, was the only milk available and he thrived on it.  Soon, he had recovered his spirits and began to play, jumping all over his cage and out of it – even occasionally falling onto his head, fortunately without any bad effects!

He was a remarkably clean little animal and used to love it when I exchanged the soft cotton sheet on the bottom of his cage for a newly washed one, joyfully throwing himself all over it and rolling around on it with his legs in the air.

Geoffrey’s favourite games were hide and seek and catch me if you can.  Small as he was, he was a tremendously fast runner and always outran us, whizzing around the room as fast as a little rocket.  He was also a great climber, zooming straight up our legs and onto our shoulders – or in my case – onto my head, especially when I was sweeping out his cottage.  Sitting on top of my head, he would peer down at the broom with great interest as I went around from room to room, sweeping the floors.  I must have looked a weird sight, sweeping out a room with a genet on top of my head!

As Geoffrey was obviously a tree dweller, O’D cut down a small tree and moved it into the cottage for him and as it was positioned near a window, he could sit on it and look out into the forest which would one day become his new home.

When Geoffrey developed teeth, which were like little razors as O’D found out to his cost when he played with him, we stopped the milk and fed him on boiled fish and chicken.  Then, as he grew older we gave him a more natural diet and paid the locals to bring him mice.

​We set Geoffrey free when he was six months old.  It was a sad day for us because he was such a delight.  At first, he was a bit nervous outside in the big wide world and hopped around gingerly on the grass, finding it rather prickly to walk on.  Then, he darted up into a nearby mango tree where he spent his first night.  We never saw him again after that although one night, several months later, O’D did see a big genet in the trees near our house.  Hopefully, that was our Geoffrey.


Many lovely birds have made their home in the Nhamacoa.  In August, at the beginning of our summer each year, I sometimes see the green, red-breasted Narina Trogon sitting on a branch in the big old mango tree right in front of the window of my computer room.  Birds seem to like this tree and over the years I’ve been able to see the beautiful African golden oriole, the dark-backed forest weaver, the wattle-eyed flycatcher and the paradise flycatcher all at the same time from my window.Our resident pair of Vangas (Bias Musicus) on the other hand, prefer the tallest of trees and almost every day pay a visit to a eucalyptus tree behind our outdoor kitchen or to our kapok trees next to the sitting room window.

We’re lucky to have these birds living with us as I understand they are rare in Southern Africa.

I first noticed the Vangas back in 2005, so if these are the same pair, they are at least 10 years old. The male Vanga is black and white and makes sharp whistling notes while the female Vanga is white and a rich russet colour, with a black head and makes a churring sound.  They both have yellow eyes and short, yellow legs, heavy bills and prominent rictal bristles.

Every year they produce two female Vangas and after flying around with their young offspring for a month or so around our house, they all disappear for a while.  When the Vangas reappear, they are without the young females, leaving us to ponder on the mystery of where they have taken them.  Another mystery is why they always produce female Vangas and never males.
The male Vanga is quite an aggressive and protective little bird.  Once, when O’D was filming the Vangas, he saw the male fly straight at a young hawk that was sitting on a branch just minding its own business.  The hawk got such a fright, it fell off the branch!  And then there was the time there was the bird-fight between the male Vanga and the Emerald green cuckoo, a fight which not surprisingly the male Vanga won.

Some years ago I read that birds that lived in miombo forests such as the indigenous forests of Mozambique are unable to adapt when their habitat disappears and as a result, die out.  How sad that forests in Mozambique are vanishing at such an alarming rate and no one is doing anything to stop this.  After all, once a forest is gone, it is gone  –  along with all the marvelous  and beautiful birds and other wildlife that it supported.




The Nhamacoa Forest is full of bees and over the years we have managed to persuade many of them to come and live in our bee hives. Unfortunately, the people living on the boundaries of the Nhamacoa don’t have the same ideas of harvesting honey as we have.

Last night I listened to someone chopping down a tree from seven o’clock in the evening until about a quarter past eleven. As chopping down a tree at night was a clear indication that someone was up to no good, I sent our gardener, Vilanculos, this morning to go and find out who had been doing this. When he returned, he told me that not only had unknown people entered into our little forest and chopped down several small trees, as well as laying traps and snares, but a neighbor, Paulo, said that someone had chopped down a large tree in order to help himself to the honey from a beehive in the tree.

Destroying a hive, it seems to me, is a rather pointless and destructive way to get honey but in our area and many other areas in Mozambique, this is the way they prefer to do it.

We often leave empty bee hives in various spots in the Nhamacoa in the hope that bees will make their home in them and have been quite successful. Last year, though, during the Queimadas, someone set fire to a section of our forest and after we had managed to put it out, I was extremely saddened to see that one of these hives had been inhabited and that many bees inside had been burnt to death.

If people carry on destroying nature in this way, we are soon going to find ourselves left with nothing. And we will only have ourselves to blame.


Terry Dawson, who lives in Zimbabwe, wrote this lovely poem about elephants and very kindly allowed me to put it onto Trees4Moz blog.
I wander the wilds lost in thought
And scant heed to those wilds I paid
But presently my eye was caught
By elephants at rest in shade
Of albidas that dot the plain
Of that vast region, flat, untame.Those giants in majestic state
Despite their might exude a calm –
My heart beats on at steady rate;
All to my soul a soothing balm.
By scent and sight they me discern
Yet they rest on in unconcern.

Motionless the behemoths stand
Like statues in the wilderness
And in my heart I understand
They are the more and I am less.
In wonderment I stare bewitched
Not knowing yet how I’m enriched

Now I am old – long years have past
And thinking back to that far time
I see the lesson well at last:
Oneness with wilds is near-divine
And he who would be person whole
Firstly must be enriched in soul.

Terry Dawson


Like all monkeys around the world, the Samangos are on the endangered list in South Africa.  This, of course, is because of human activity which has led to habitation loss and fragmentation of our valuable indigenous forests.  Sadly, these shy and gentle monkeys are also often killed for bush meat.

I’m not quite sure how many Samangos live in the Nhamacoa Forest but once, in 2009, our cook Douglas counted about 30 living around our dam.  Now, in 2016, they seem to have increased in number as they no longer keep to the dam but have spread themselves all over the place, even in the trees behind and in front of our house.  Fortunately, unlike our mischievous Vervets, the Samangos rarely leave the tree tops for the ground and so my vegetable garden is at least safe from them!

Samangos live until they are about 30 years old.  One male Samango usually has a harem of several females who normally produce young every 2 years.  The gestation period is 5 months.  As you can see from the photograph, they are handsome monkeys with jutting out eyebrows and black furry arms which make them look as if they are wearing long black elegant gloves.  They also have very long tails.

They make a variety of sounds, ranging from “Pyow!” to clicks, grrrrs and a “boom” sound, as well as a long staccato “ah ah ah ah ah ah ah!”

Their home range is about 17 hectares, so at the moment they still have enough space and enough to eat in the little Nhamacoa Forest.  Their diet consists of seeds, leaves, vines, insects, flowers and fruits.  At the end of the year when the mango trees are loaded down with fruit, they gorge themselves on mangos, quite often even before the mangos are ripe.

I often wonder what will happen to our Samangos, Vervets and Bush babies if their home in the Nhamacoa Forest was to be destroyed.  Without a home and shelter and without food, where would they go?  And how would they even know where to go? Would they try to scuttle, hearts beating with fear and panic, through fields to the next little spot of yet untouched forest, chased by ferocious dogs and killed by people?  Or would they just slowly die of hunger and become extinct like so many other animals in a world which humans are now over-populating?

Let us hope that, in our case, it never comes to that.


While Google busies itself with driverless cars and Face Book wrestles with inventing a new ‘dislike’ button, thousands of people in the Nhamacoa and the rest of Mozambique struggle to light up their homes with jam jar lamps.

These are jars or bottles filled with some paraffin and with a rag for a wick.  Home-made lamps like these don’t give that much light but it helps people to lift a little darkness from their homes at night.

In the towns, thousands of people without access to electricity use charcoal to cook their food.  Obviously, this need for charcoal is infinite and one of the reasons why forests are being destroyed.

If people had proper lighting in their homes, how easy it would be for children to read and study.

If people had access to renewable energy, how easy it would be for them to start up small businesses, repairing and manufacturing things.

The planet on which we live generously gives us great and free gifts of ample sources of renewable energy but we turn a blind eye to it or, what little we do to make use of it is too costly for the ordinary person.

And so we continue to play with the invention of things that are not essential and ignore the great need of affordable renewable energy that could bring hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty – not to mention saving our valuable forests and the wonderful fauna and flora in them.


The capulana, or sarong, is one of the lovely things of Africa and especially here in Mozambique.  They are lengths of brightly coloured cotton usually about 1.2 metres long and are useful for all sorts of things.

Women (and men) tie them around their waists and use them as cool and comfortable sarongs; you can also hang them up as curtains to brighten a room, use them as bedspreads or wear small pieces on your head like a turban.  I wear them too, as well as using them to make covers for my kapok cushions.

The first time I came across a mention of the uses of the kapok tree ((Ceiba pentandra)  was in a book I read a long time ago.  The book, by Alistair MacLean, was a totally absorbing war story about a ship called ‘HMS Ulysses’ and one of the characters (if I remember correctly – because it was a long time ago!) was a young sailor called the Kapok Kid.  This was because he had lined the inside of his jacket with kapok fibre to keep warm.

Some years ago, we planted several kapok trees around our house and these are now quite large.  The small black, round seeds all have to be removed from the seed pod, of course, before using the fibre and we use nose masks to do this.  The creamy-coloured fibre is very fine and silky and tends to head straight towards your nostrils when you breathe in, just like iron filings to a magnet!

Dal, one of the Trees4Moz team, has bad memories of kapok.  When she was young and living on the family farm, she had to sleep on a mattress filled with kapok and it was quite horrible, she says.  The kapok mattress went lumpy, flattened out and was terribly uncomfortable.

Despite Dal’s bad memories, this is a great tree when it comes to bees and all sorts of birds, especially our lovely sunbirds.  At the beginning of summer, when the pretty white flowers open up, the kapok trees hum and heave with busy insects and birds.

This tree was widely cultivated for its fibre and was introduced into Southern Africa from tropical America, India and Africa.  Its trunk has a greenish tinge and sometimes the seed pods grow in such abundance that their weight breaks the branches they are growing on.