Who We Are
Allan Schwarz, master etcher, journeyman cabinetmaker, architect, environmentalist and academic, returned to Africa in the early 90s after he felt that nobody was taking home what he was teaching and that corporate architecture clients only cared about quarterly returns and not about the social and environmental effects of their actions. The idea was to put in practice the ideas of sustainable design that were the content of “Design with Nature” – a course he taught as a Teaching Fellow at MIT, CAVS.
Mezimbite Forest Center, a community based enterprise, was established in 1994 and finally legalized in 1996 (due to bureaucratic hold-ups) harvesting indigenous noble hardwoods and building of the first indigenous species nurseries in Mozambique. As he developed new skills amongst the local community members the proportion of value added product increased and raw material sales ceased. He was elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2000.
With greater knowledge and skills Mezimbite now does a number of non-timber forest products and produces surplus foods through its agroforestry division. In 2010 products from Mezimbite (under BoM and ADS brands) were used by UNCTAD as best practice examples of Biodiversity products during the UN’s Year of Biodiversity. Mezimbite is gearing up to grow until it hits its optimum sustainable size in a series of satellite community bases on the model of Mezimbite.
Led by Allan, the Mezimbite Forest Centre consists of a proud group of anarchist greenies. The Centre employs close to 100 Mozambicans – from woodworkers and oil pressers to nurserymen and apiculturists.
Here is a closer look at some of our most notable team members.
Allan Schwarz – The Patron. Master Architect, sustainable community development engineer, designer, tree forest ecologist and Ashoka Fellow. South African-born and MIT-educated, Allan forged his pioneering vision in sustainable development through his creation of The Mezimbite Forest Centre, which established the first and largest indigenous tree nurseries and reforestation program in Mozambique.
MAINTENANCE & LOGISTICS:
Daniel – Chief of Maintenance & Logistics. Mozambican-born and came to Mezimbite through his late father, Fernandez, who had also worked with Mezimbite. Has no formal education because of the Civil War but has taught himself everything and is incredibly reliable and an exceptional hard worker.
Joao – Chief Clerk. Started as a woodwork apprentice but was really no good at any artisanal skills.
George – The Chef. He started of as the guard and soon became Allan’s daughter’s nanny. When daughter departed for school in England, George became the houseman and went on a few cooking courses. He now is the Chef.
AGRICULTURE, AGROFORESTRY and AGROPROCESSING (AAA)
Richard – Head of AAA. South African History graduate who was looking to get his hands dirty.
Mercia – Director of Moringa Program. Born in Mozambique and Anthropology Honors graduate.Richard’s fiance. In charge of the Moringa program and also the one who makes sure that all nutrition and agriculture efforts tie together for the whole of Mezimbite.
Abdullah – Former Head Nurseryman (now deceased). Abduallah was a delightfully corrupt drunk and womanizer who died of AIDS. Despite his flaws, he was an exceptional nurseryman. All the original people in the nursery were either trained by Abdullah or Allan. Abdullah had to be taken to the hospital once in a wheelbarrow with a most intense case of gonnorhea where his testicals blew up to the size of balloons. He recovered but died shortly thereafter.
Salimo – Head Nurseryman. Second employee ever hired by Mezimbite, working for over 16 years. He is an ex-Army sergeant and a highly competent nursery trainer. Thinks he was a movie star in his past life.
Angelina – Director of the Women’s Working Group & Nurseryman. Please note that it’s important to keep the title of “nurseryman” because it gives her a status that is equal to men. Angelina is one of the brightest stars at Mezimbite and has been there for years.
Maria & Maria & Maria – Nurserymen. At Mezimbite, there are always more room for Marias.
Euzebio – Market Gardener. Believes he was turned into a warthog by the Curandeiro by messing with his wife. Pitched up months down the line at Mezimbite running through the forest without any clothes.
Florencia – Market Gardener. Has a nickname of “Flora” and one of Mezimbite’s newest additions.
Rosalinda – Market Gardener & Nurseryman (deceased). Rosalinda inspired the development of R&B. She was caught stealing vegetable sets with Beatriz so she could grow them in her machamba.
Beatriz – Market Gardener & Nurseryman (deceased). Beatriz inspired the development of R&B. She was caught stealing vegetable sets with Rosalinda so she could grow them in her machamba.
Kenasse – Master Apiculturist. Charismatic Christian who cannot communicate with anyone. He speaks an extinct dialect of Sena and is the sole survivor of the language group. All other Sena-speaking people of that dialect were killed in the war. Communication is great fun and he is the main bee-keeping guy.
Xavier – Organizer of the Wild Harvest Group. One of three people allowed to cut on the farm.
Tiago – Organizer of the Wild Harvest Group. One of three people allowed to cut on the farm.
Antonio – Organizer of the Wild Harvest Group. One of three people allowed to cut on the farm.
Zacharias – Local Fumo. A “fumo” is equivalent to a baron. Does not work explicitly for Mezimbite but is a direct neighbor and assists in wild harvest and fire protection.
Ana Alecia – Managing Director of bOm. Former Peace Corp volunteer who was looking to continue work in Mozambique. She joined Mezimbite and was integral in launching bOm. Lives near Inhambane and helps oversee coconut oil processing and formulations.
Pedrito – Oil machine operator trainee. Speaks some English, one of the “cool kids.”
Moises – Oil machine operator trainee. Nephew of George, the cook.
Ricardo – Lumberjack. He is a lumberjack originally from Moscadosonho, which means the tsetse fly though the literal translation is “fly of dreams.” He had to be rescued from jail by Allan for killing and eating a hippopotamus at Gorongosa National Park.
Basilio – Trainee machinist. Both trainees have all their fingers in spite of trying not to.
Nelson – Trainee machinist. Both trainees have all their fingers in spite of trying not to.
Abdullah – first employee of Mezimbite, hired over 16 years ago.
CONSTRUCTION & CARPENTRY
Charles – Head of Construction & Carpentry (C&C). Local charismatic pastor who only works to pay for his church.
Santo – C&C Apprentice. Apprentice of Charles. Loves climbing.
Antonio – C&C Apprentice. Apprentice to Charles.
David – Chief carpenter. Trained in wood working, quiet and sweet.
Francisco – Journeyman carpenter. Previous apprentice to David and Head of the small woods carpentry. One of the “cool kids” and incredibly devout. Goes to Charles’ church.
Louis – Coconut wood journeyman. Hollows out coconut bowls. Tried him everywhere and Mezimbite was about to send him home but just happened to be cleaning out the coconut wood and quickly saw this was something he could do.
Masada – Coconut wood apprentice. Apprentice to Louis
Carvalho – Master carver. Trained in the Colonial era. Clearly lies about his age to avoid the national mandatory retirement. One of the oldest artisans at Mezimbite and probably one of the oldest Mozambicans. Has an apprentice named David.
Alvaro – Journeyman carver. Formerly trained under Allan and Carvalho. Demobilized soldier. Quiet and very disciplined. Has an apprentice named Herculano.
MARQUETRY & INLAY
Alfonso – Marquetry & Inlay journeyman. Went through every activity at Mezimbite until he found the right spot. Since working at Mezimbite, his two brothers had died of AIDS for which he now provides for three wives and multiple children.
Chitembo – Marquetry & Inlay apprentice. Inherited his job from his brother (also named Chitembo) who died of AIDS in 2010. Alfonso’s apprentice.
Antonio – Head of wood turning training. Used to be the Master Turner but had a stoke. He still loves to come to Mezimbite when he is able.
Antonio Dauce – Master turner who is deaf. He often calls Allan on the cell phone but forgets he can’t hear properly.
Joao – Journeyman turner who trained at Mezimbite. Has two apprentices called Junior and Aroulo.
Ernesto – Journeyman turner who is the most recently qualified turner. His nickname is “Ito” and has two apprentices – Moiade and Junior.
Nito – Journeyman turner who also trained at Mezimbite. Has two apprentices named Domingo and Joao Junior.
Copper – An 11 year old beach dog who adopted Mezimbite as his home. Acts like a pup. Has never eaten dog food in his life.
Ypsilon – A Staffordshire Terrier and great irritant to Copper.