Maluleque conducts research at the World Agroforestry Centre’s tree genome laboratory.
Trees hold many solutions to human problems. Few know that better than Ivete Maluleque, a 2015 AWARD Fellow from Mozambique and forest researcher at the Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique. “I am leading two projects in Mozambique. One is the Agroforestry Systems for Food Supply and Energy and the other is a venture that focuses on learning local knowledge on the baobab tree.”
Maluleque initially became interested in agroforestry because of visits to the forests near her grandparents’ home. “When I was young, I went to my grandparents’ home for holidays. I saw a way of living— exploiting the benefits of the forest. They would go with us, and we would come back happy with good things from the forest.”
Maluleque pursued a career based on her childhood interest and obtained a Master of Science in Forest Science from the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil. Her research focuses on trees as sources of nutrition and medicine. Her research is important because it has expanded knowledge on the value of trees and limited the cutting down of trees. Her research methodology pays homage to her grandparents for first introducing her to forests. As part of her work, she has conducted numerous interviews with indigenous communities who have utilised non-timber products from forests for centuries. The produce include fruits, leaves, honey and other tree products that can be obtained without cutting down trees. From the locals, she also acquired other knowledge on forests and their intrinsic values.
Her work with local communities is empowering and culturally responsive. She explains, “In my country, public hospitals aren’t everywhere. People use the traditional plants instead [of modern medicine]. This is common not just in Mozambique, but in other African countries.” Maluleque doesn’t want her research to gather dust on a shelf in a research institution; instead she wants her research to give communities more agency to care for themselves.
One of the highlights of her research is its reciprocal nature. As she gains knowledge on non-timber forest products, she ensures that indigenous communities are empowered to protect their forests. “People from outside the community don’t value the forest as much, but if the community learns more about the forest, they can better protect it.” She also emphasizes, “We have to explore sustainable ways to use and protect our natural resources.”
Maluleque’s research will also improve the economic status of women in Mozambique. She explains, “If we empower women with knowledge to explore the forest, they can better feed their children and families.” By engaging local women in her research, Maluleque is able to improve the life outcomes for entire communities. “When we show these women how to use these forest products in a better way as well as how to market and make profit, they can create wealth,” she adds.
Maluleque is currently taking on her next challenge—conducting research at the World Agroforestry Centre’s (ICRAF) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. This opportunity is part of the Advanced Science Training (AST) component of her AWARD fellowship. While on placement, Maluleque will work with ICRAF scientists to continue her research on the extraction of nontimber forest products for food security and medicinal purposes.
Download: Ivete Maluleque, 2015 AWARD Fellow, Mozambique