Climate Resilience Project
Located in southeast Africa, Mozambique is home to 29.6 million people and almost 2500 kilometers of coastline. In February of 2000, a heavy rain began to fall that, in the coming months, would irreparably change millions of lives all across Mozambique. The unprecedented amount of rainfall caused all of the rivers that flow through Mozambique into the Indian Ocean to overflow, an event that has never happened in recorded history. Before the end of February, a massive cyclone made landfall in Beira and further inundated farms, businesses and homes in its path. Although the devastation aftermath reverberates into the present, organizations like the Baixo Limpopo Irrigation and Climate Resilience Project works to improve and resolve some of the long-lasting effects.

The 2000 Flood  

The damages and loss of life of the 2000 flood were dreadful. Approximately 800 people died, 650,000 were displaced and 4.5 million were affected. The farmland and those that depend on it were hit the hardest from the disaster. Irrigation systems across the country were severely compromised and almost 1,500 square kilometers of land was destroyed. The repair efforts cost the government of Mozambique a total of $450 million, and the national GDP forecast fell from 7 to 1.5 percent.

Thirteen short years later, the southern region of Mozambique would again have to endure extreme flooding. On all fronts, this flood was not as severe as the 2000 flood, but there were still devastating consequences. The number of fatalities reached 117, 186,000 people were displaced and almost 500,000 were affected. The repair efforts cost a total of $512 million, 30 percent of which was spent solely on the agricultural sector. Up to this day, the people of Mozambique are continuing to recover from the economic impacts of these natural disasters.

Agriculture in Mozambique

Mozambique’s economy relies heavily on the success of its agricultural industry. Over 70 percent of the people living in Mozambique are employed in agriculture and the industry accounts for over 20 percent of the country’s GDP. There are 3.2 million smallholder farms in Mozambique, but only 400 commercial farms and most of these farms are located in flood- and drought-prone areas. In order to better utilize the potential of the industry and reduce poverty, more of these smallholder farms need to transition away from subsistence farming and make the move toward profit-oriented models.

A lack of modern technology in the industry has caused the crop yield to remain stagnant in recent years, leading to food shortages and the stunted growth of children in rural areas. The market is also experiencing volatile pricing, likely as a result of erratic rainfall patterns and the occurrence of droughts.

The government has supported and developed programs to promote agrarian mechanization, the use of new technologies and the modernization of farming practices in an effort to build a more stable and resilient agriculture industry. One such program initiated by the Climate Investment Fund and the African Development Bank Group is the Baixo Limpopo Irrigation and Climate Resilience Project.

The Baixo Limpopo Irrigation and Climate Resilience Project

The Climate Resilience Project began in 2013 and sought to bring economic stability to thousands of farming families in southern Mozambique by investing heavily in modernization of key infrastructure. The floods left all of the irrigation systems that farmers depend on to protect their crops in horrible condition.

The project hoped to add extra drainage to combat flood waters, introduce higher standards for irrigation systems for both farms and roads and develop measures against sea level rise. In addition to the tangible improvements in infrastructure, another key component of the plan was to promote the transition away from smallholder farms toward a more resilient, market-based economy.

A total of $15 million was invested, and the program was aimed at addressing the needs of more than 8000 farming families. Through its five-year lifespan, the project improved over 2000 hectares of land for vegetable production and rehabilitated 30.3 km of roadways. The money invested was able to renovate storage and processing facilities for crops, purchase tractors and other machines for the farmers and build brand new pumping stations equipped with emergency generators in case of flooding.

The Climate Resilience Project’s Long-Lasting Impact 

Almost 500 farmers enrolled in the program and learned how to grow crops that are able to endure the erratic weather conditions in Mozambique. The average increase in income among these farmers is a staggering 150 percent.

Mozambique faces a great deal of uncertainty in the face of climate change. Eighteen years after an unprecedented natural disaster, the Climate Resilience Project has made considerable steps toward making the people of Mozambique more secure and in control of their future than they have ever been, but the coming years will undoubtedly test the strength of such progress.

– John Chapman
Photo: Flickr