Helping rural communities adapt to climate change in Chicualacuala district of Gaza province, Mozambique

 

Chicualacuala district is located 500 kms northwest of Maputo, (capital of Mozambique) and is recognized as one of the driest and most isolated districts in the country and one of the most problematic in terms of development challenges.

The effects of climate change are mainly being felt in the form of prolonged droughts, which when they break, usually result in extensive flooding making an already harsh environment even tougher for the 45,000 inhabitants of the district.

The Joint UN Programme on Environmental Mainstreaming and Adaptation to Climate Change financed through the MDG Achievement Fund chose Chicualacuala as the target district for its interventions as it could certainly be considered one of the neediest districts in the country.

Among their various activities designed to help rural communities to adapt to climate change and diversify their livelihoods, the UN partners, in coordination with the provincial and district government are assisting 2 farmers associations to establish irrigated vegetable gardens which are already providing a small income and better diet for 120 families (number steadily expanding).

Lurdes António Cambaco is a member of one of the farmer associations (village of Ndombe). 47 families are presently producing 12 hectares of vegetables and other crops and the number of families is increasing steadily. The harvests are for consumption and sale in local markets.

Lurdes is just 22 but already a widow, struggling to provide for herself and her two sons aged 5 and 1. She became a member of the farmer association because “of hunger”. She saw it as the only way to improve her diet and that of her children. She used to produce only rainfed crops, sometimes twice a year in a good rainfall year. But with the increasing droughts, rainfall is no longer sufficient to guarantee even one harvest per year so she joined the farmer association as a part of her own personal coping strategy.

In her own words “ some years back it rained at least sufficiently for me to produce food but times have changed, it rains little, we sow our seeds but we do not get a harvest because of heat and drought. With Joint Programme assistance in this irrigated field I manage to produce enough food for my family and also sell some products to be able to buy other necessities such as soap and sugar.

“Our community forest is being cut at an unsustainable rate for charcoal which we sell to buy food, soap and other products. Charcoal making is hard work for us women but we did not until recently have any option. These days, instead of cutting trees for charcoal we work in the irrigated field to get the money we require. We do not need to make charcoal which will help to conserve our forest”.

“The big challenge that we have here in Ndombe village is how to end hunger. We are trying to become as self-sufficient in food production as possible. We want to expand the cultivated area (currently 12 hectares), guarantee a more reliable water supply, develop markets for our produce and increase individual plot size to increase our incomes”.

“In terms of my future expectations and ambitions, I first need to guarantee an improved diet for my children, buy them clothes, school books, buy soap and washing powder so I can keep them and their clothes clean and, when necessary, pay hospital expenses”.

“When I have done that I would like to buy goats and perhaps cattle as an investment for my future and that of my Children. I would also like to build a brick house with a tin roof to replace the mud house with the grass roof in which I currently live”.

“I think our community here in Ndombe should be more united to make our voices heard in terms of development planning and strategies. Currently we are not consulted and out opinions are not valued”. In order to strengthen our voice, we need to get our farmer association officially registered. Then we can present our priorities in a more organised and coherent form which, through our community leaders would then be transmitted to the district government”.

The UNJP on climate change is working with hundreds of families like Lurdes Camboco and although it is still early days, the programme is already making a visible impact on livelihood diversification and adaptation to climate change.

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