3. Mozambique: Preparing for natural disasters (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)

| October 27, 2008

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Manuel Fanso only sees his family once a week. The other six days he spends fishing on the Zambezi River. He sells some of the fish by the river. The rest he takes to Mopeia, in Central Mozambique, where his wife, children, and mother live.

Mr. Fanso and his family used to live together on a small farm near the Zambezi River. Last year, the family farm was flooded. Though they had little rice to harvest, they were better off than some families, who lost all of their crops. Since then, the Mozambican government has resettled those who lived in flood-prone areas to safer ground. Mr. Fanso says his family will never build a house there again because the floods come too quickly to the area.

Floods have occurred in many parts of Africa over the past month, including Burundi, Kenya, Mali, and Rwanda, disrupting the lives and livelihoods of countless farmers. Other countries, including Cameroon and Chad, have been warned that floods may accompany the onset of their rainy season. Extreme weather events such as flooding are occurring more frequently as a result of climate change, forcing more and more farmers like Mr. Fanso to change their practices in order to cope.

Alexandre Tique is a meteorologist at Mozambique’s National Meteorological Institute. He says that statistics show an upward trend in natural disasters. Tropical cyclones and floods occur more often, but so do droughts. This can be disastrous for farmers, who may move closer to the river during dry periods, only to be hit by floods when the rains come.

Mr. Tique also notes that, since most Mozambicans live in sparsely-populated rural areas, warning people about impending natural disasters is a challenge. However, community groups are coming together to meet this challenge, and mitigate the loss of life and property.

Arlinda Cunah is preparing for the cyclone season in the village of Chilembende. Each day, she turns on her solar-powered radio and listens for flood or cyclone warnings. Ms. Cunah and other volunteers in her village have a plan in place if they do hear a warning. First, she calls her neighbours to tune into the radio and listen to the warnings. Then, she notifies the community leader, who keeps the warning flags, whistles, and a bicycle. The volunteers walk and cycle through the village with whistles and flags, until everyone has been warned. According to Ms. Cunah, the people already know what actions to take, as they have been educated in advance. For example, if a cyclone is coming, villagers know safe places to take cover.

For his part, Mr. Fanso knows that when the heavy rains come, he will likely have to leave the Zambezi River for one or two months. But when the flooding recedes, he will return to the river to make his living.