As my plane lands in Maputo, I am welcomed home by blankets of turquoise waters edged in creamy ribbons of sand, and swaths of greens in every shade, from scrubby mangroves to unique coastal forests endemic to Maputaland. But I also see rapidly sprawling human settlements and degraded areas where forests once flourished. Forests cover 70% of the country, employ 22,000 people, and contribute $330 million to the annual economy.

However, they are being lost at a rate of 220,000 hectares a year. Conservation areas protect 23% of the landmass, but dire financial and personnel shortages lead to increased risks of wildlife poaching and habitat loss. Identifying opportunities in one of the world’s poorest countries, where 70% of the population depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, requires an approach that actively promotes a healthy coexistence between humans and nature. —