Mozambique: Tackling flooding through climate-resilient agriculture

Source(s): African Development Bank

Thanks to the combined actions of the African Development Bank, the Climate Investment Funds – for which the Bank is one of the implementing agencies – and other development partners, Mozambique, the third-ranked African country for exposure to climate hazards, has decisively embarked on the path towards a climate-change resilient future.

One particularly urgent issue for Mozambique is that it is the only country in Africa at high risk of every one of the principal negative impacts of global warming: drought, flooding and coastal cyclones. These hazards have cost the country an average of 1.1% of GDP and have produced repercussions that go beyond the economic to the human: every year from 2000 to 2013, three out of four Mozambican farmers lost harvests or livestock. 

Beyond the figures, human suffering

In 2000, Mozambique suffered its worst flooding in 150 years, causing the deaths of nearly 800 people, the displacement of 540,000 people and the loss of 20% of GDP. Eleven years later, Mozambican Deputy Minister for the Coordination of Environmental Affairs, Ana Chichava, sounded the alarm. "Our projections for the future confirm that if nothing is done, about a million people will be displaced from coastal areas over the next thirty years. Looking beyond these figures, there will be human suffering on an unimaginable scale."

In support of the Climate Investment Funds, which provide accelerated funding procedures for emergency situations like these, in 2012 the African Development Bank invested US$35.2 million in support of populations threatened by flood, in the form of a $23.4 million loan under the African Development Fund and US$11.8 million under the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR). The purpose of this funding was to support agricultural production in the south of the country and improve the quality of life of some 8,200 farming families (a total of some 40,000 beneficiaries), while helping them tackle the impacts of climate disruption.  

Filomena Alfredo Xandlala is a market gardener in Chongoene district in southern Mozambique, a few kilometres inland from the ocean. Her community suffered terribly from the record floods of 2000, with 50 dead and more than 50,000 people displaced. That year, hundreds of families were left without food aid, due to the difficulties rescuers had in accessing areas badly hit by the floods. Filomena lost her entire rice crop and, seeing no way back, decided to leave agriculture for good. A difficult period followed when she only survived thanks to an emergency aid programme set up by the Government.

Ten years later, this mother with 18 children, and many grandchildren, is being taught by members of her community about the implementation of the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience project and how it is possible to get back into farming. There is one condition: to be trained in sustainable agriculture.

Climate-smart agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture is one of the elements of the programme launched in 2012 within the Baixo Limpopo Climate Resilience Pilot Project, which organises training in smart agriculture, enabling small farmers to learn how to adapt to climate change. The project also provides for the introduction of new climate-resistant seeds, the improvement of rural roads, the climate-resilient refurbishment of irrigation and drainage infrastructure, and facilities for the processing and storage of vegetables.

Thus, in 2013, Filomena and 479 other farmers from Chongoene enrolled in one of the training courses, which taught them how to manage their crops all year round, how to irrigate in the event of flooding, maintain water levels, combat weeds, and use fertilizer. Six months later, this proud grandmother had gained new skills. And now that she has returned to agriculture, she is convinced that her new knowledge will help her achieve better yields.

"This project taught us a lot about agriculture and we are keenly looking forward to better harvests. I am optimistic for the future," she said, with a smile on her lips.

Indeed, her optimism seems to echo the project's results on the ground: the refurbishment of irrigation and drainage infrastructure over a 2000-hectare cultivation area and the development of 1050 hectares of land enabled Mozambique to produce 754,287 tonnes of vegetables in 2016, half of it in the southern regions of the country. This was a commendable performance and a model of success that the African Development Bank wants to continue and expand to other regions. Accordingly, in August 2018, the Bank helped the Mozambican Government to raise $44 million in support of the horticultural sector.

This funding is intended to boost production and promote the storage and processing of vegetables in the Lower Limpopo irrigation system area. The Government's intention is to ensure the operation of the irrigation system and the management of water infrastructure and land and water resources for vegetable production throughout the year.

As part of this project, a vegetable-processing unit with a daily capacity of 20 to 25 tonnes, currently under construction, is due to come into operation in June 2019. The plant will buy vegetables from producers, which it will then wash, select, size, pack, and store. It is being built in Xai Xai; 400 of its 2114 square metres will be for offices and warehouses and it will help 8,000 growers enjoy new opportunities for the sale of their produce.

At long last, an outstanding mobilisation of all the country's development partners, including the African Development Bank, has gradually helped the country to mitigate the damage regularly caused in Mozambique by the effects of climate change.

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