A snapshot from the first ASAP communications mission to Mozambique

Written by Clarissa Baldin

Maria Maxaili, widowed, aged 60. Her three children have all
moved to South Africa in search for better opportunities.
I’m just back from Mozambique, where I visited the Pro-poor Value Chain Development Project in the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors of Mozambique (PROSUL). Officially launched on 17 April 2013 in XaiXai, Gaza, PROSUL will work to improve yields, quality, prices and sustainability of production in the irrigated horticulture, cassava and red meat value chains. It will reach 19,550 beneficiaries in the southern Provinces of Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo.

This is already enough for the making of a special project, but there’s more: it is also the first IFAD-supported project to include funds from IFAD’s new Adaptation for Smallholder Programme (ASAP)

ASAP will provide USD 4.91 million to establish improved and climate-smart livelihoods for small farmers. In order to document the climate related issues faced by the smallholders of the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors, I visited 5 districts collecting photo, video and written materials. Here is a snapshot of what I found.

The Smallholder Association of 25 de Setembro, in the District of Chokwe, Gaza Province, was founded in 2007. Today it includes 29 members and covers an area of 50ha where they cultivate maize, beans, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage and onions. This season, however, unable to rely on rainfall and facing problems with their irrigation system, they planted only 30ha.

Ernesto Macuvel, Vice-President of the Association, told me that every time there is a flood, like the one earlier this year, the community is affected – the water pump is damaged, and the replacements have to be imported from the fabricant in South Africa. As the frequency and intensity of the floods increase, their capital erodes, until the point that they can no longer afford to fix the pump and loose the harvest. After every cycle, he says, his community becomes poorer.

The consequences are also felt by Maria Maxaili, aged 60. Her 3 children have all moved to South Africa in search of better opportunities. She told me she misses them, particularly because she doesn’t believe they will ever come back to Mozambique. She says that when she was young, rainfall levels were more uniform in the rainy season, and floods were rare. When I asked her if she had a message for heads of state at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Warsaw this November (19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC - COP19), she said she would ask them to undertake a study on the causes of the recurring floods and how to minimize their impacts on the crops.

Maria showed me her maxamba and demonstrated how she weeds the maize. It is precariously located, just a few yards from the river and very vulnerable to the floods – which will certainly be back soon. With challenges of her own, Maria had many reasons to not be concerned about me. And yet, she would walk right by my side fearing that I might fall along the slopes. In her eyes, I was the vulnerable one.

What I found in southern Mozambique was a big promise - with the right adaptation measures, this community has immense potential for increased production, prosperous livelihoods, and dynamic rural areas. I look forward to visiting Ernesto and Maria again next year, to see how PROSUL is being implemented and how IFAD’s work on climate change adaptation is making a difference in the livelihoods of all the other 27 members.