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Lessons learnt and recommendations

4.1 Introduction

The 2000 flood event presented a number of key lessons not only on how to coordinate an emergency better, but also on how necessary it is to integrate prevention, relief assistance, and rehabilitation into long-term risk reduction programmes. In Part 4 of this report these lessons are presented, followed by some recommendations based on what was observed in the field and, in some cases, drawn from reports and literature reviews about Mozambique and other regions around the world that face similar disaster risks.

4.2 Lessons learnt from the 2000 events

The 2000 floods and cyclones tested the Mozambican government capacity to respond efficiently; exposing its institutional weaknesses and limited capacity. At the onset of the event there were no clear programmes or plans for responding to the emergency - including preparedness, evacuation and response. Existing plans did not take account of an event of such magnitude nor the type of impacts that resulted. A main argument presented was that communities also did not anticipate an event of such magnitude, inhibiting appropriate responses, particularly to early warning.

The 2000 event did however represent an opportunity for the government to understand its institutional vulnerability expressed in:

- lack of institutional coordination to respond situations of extreme need;

- weak mechanisms of communication between different levels of the administration;

- lack of efficient channels and mechanisms to disseminate information on natural hazard management to communities that really need that information;

- centralisation of decision-making at national level and nonflexible mechanisms for information flow from bottom-up. As result, most of the decisions taken do not reflect the needs and expectations of the people on the ground;

- fragile and incompatible links between the different powers created in a context of new democratisation. At the local level there is no clear definition of roles between the traditional and administrative authorities; this sometimes results in conflict, which can have a negative effect on institutional coordination in disaster management.

The 2000 event provided the means to evaluate infrastructural vulnerability, especially as critical public infrastructures (roads, bridges, social infrastructures) are still in a state of disrepair, most of them destroyed during the recent civil war. Several million US dollars are reported to enter the country every year for development programmes and projects, but this is not reflected on the ground, probably due to an inefficient mechanism of monitoring the activities of private companies, NGOs or international agencies. High levels of corruption and misuse of funds also exacerbate this.

In other cases the government finds itself incapable of challenging donors’ imposition of conditions for the application of the funds provided. Donors in many cases decide what to give or to build, in which community or area, when and how, without coordinating with government authorities or even the local authorities of the beneficiary communities. As a result, in some cases their initiatives or projects fail to reach their goal. For example, in Búzi we knew that dozens of boreholes for water supply had been constructed by NGOs but they have no water because they were constructed in inappropriate zones where the water table is very deep. Those NGOs decided on their own where to build, without consulting the local authorities who know the region well.

A similar situation happened regarding the emergency assistance during the 2000 floods, where the CVM and INGC had been nominated to coordinate the reception and distribution of assistance. However, some organisations ignored these entities and their legitimate role, deciding, at their own discretion, which communities were in need. The result was that assistance was distributed outside of coordination with the Mozambican government. This happened, for example, in Chókwè District in the Limpopo River basin, specifically in the Chiaquelane accommodation centre. The government had to intervene to stop this process in this particular point, but we are sure it happened in some other points around the country.

The lesson here is that the government should strengthen local institutions and establish mechanisms for facilitating the emergence and maintenance of grassroots organisations with the capacity to become valid coordinating partners with international agencies in the case of an emergency. Internationally the Mozambican case was considered one of the most successful in terms of international coordination of assistance, but at local levels this was not always the case.

In terms of disaster prevention and mitigation, the Mozambique government recognised that strategies and programmes for addressing these issues are still far from reaching the necessary efficiency, and policies and programmes for addressing extreme poverty are still inadequate. The extent of the impact was due not only to the intensity and magnitude of the event, but also to the high levels of vulnerability within rural communities, compounded by HIV/Aids and chronic food insecurity.

4.3 Recommendations

The high levels of vulnerability within Mozambican rural communities present a challenge in reducing their risk to natural hazards or poorly managed natural resources (e.g. the Chicamba Dam). Prevention and mitigation strategies therefore need to focus closely on reducing vulnerability through sustainable development initiatives. In both Munamícua and Boca study sites, the role played by local authorities (traditional and administrative), local institutions and organisations (church based organisations, schools, etc.) in rescue and recovery during the time of crisis was significant. Informal social networks based on neighbourhood, kinship, friendship, and church ties were identified as important elements that replaced formal institutions in reducing the impact of the disaster in places where these institutions were limited or altogether absent. This role of the informal networks needs to be strengthened within local communities. The following paragraphs present some recommendations based on fieldwork experience. In each section, specific focus is given to the role of institutions, from a national to local level, with suggestions as to how they could be strengthened.

4.3.1 Emergency management of an extreme event Early warning and emergency planning

A new tendency in the last decade has been to decentralise early-warning mechanisms, to introduce emergency planning at the local level, allowing communities to contribute local knowledge. The following recommendations are presented as means for strengthening early warnings and emergency planning in Búzi:

- Development of local management plans involving the local authorities and the most influential people within the community. The participatory development of these plans is critical, as the local communities know when to anticipate extreme weather events such as drought, floods and cyclones. Similarly, they know which are the most at-risk areas. Local management plans should also reflect local knowledge to ensure appropriate local buy-in of the procedures presented.

- Promotion of the local community radio station in Búzi to disseminate early warnings. One example of this is the role played by the Búzi Community Radio station in the Búzi administrative headquarters in 2000; where people were informed in good time about the rising of the Búzi River, with some people moving to safer places recommended in the bulletins. People who could not imagine the intensity of the event were seriously affected, as they did not evacuate in time. The GTZ has an interesting project for radio dissemination in Búzi that should be put in place as soon as possible. Radio is an important means of early warning because using the local language to disseminate information gives more opportunities to the many illiterate people to understand what is happening regarding natural hazards in their areas and to find out what to do or where to go.

- Distribution of solar or wind-up radios, as the villagers often cannot afford to purchase batteries.

- Active involvement of GRC members to complement the information broadcast by the local radio to local communities, especially in remote locations along the Búzi catchment.

- Working with communities to inform them of the recurrence of extreme weather events, so that all warnings issued by the government are taken seriously. What exacerbated the disastrous impact of 2000 was that no one, including the government, could imagine the magnitude of the event.

- Promotion of national and provincial teams for monitoring, recording and evaluating indicators of the natural hazards and subsequent dissemination of information to potentially affected communities. The GTZ, through its Proder project, is financing assessment studies and informative posters for the dissemination of information, to improve communities’ knowledge of the nature and intensity of potential disasters and to improve prevention and preparedness mechanisms.

- Facilitation of environmental education programmes with the local community to increase their knowledge of natural hazards. This will increase the communities’ capacity to understand unusually extreme events.

- Design of evacuation plans with at-risk communities, specifying where they should evacuate to and where to get access to the necessary resources in case of emergency.

- Integration of the scientific understanding of natural hazards with local ‘conventional wisdom’ or traditional beliefs. Technological advancement of early warnings must not be used to undermine the traditional knowledge of local communities about disasters. Efforts should be made to integrate these two kinds of knowledge, taking the better aspects of the traditional knowledge into the modern system, to enhance community understanding of the causes of disasters and improve mechanisms for prevention, mitigation and response. Traditional authorities can work as channels of communication between technical experts and government entities, and rural communities. The advantage of this is that as traditional authorities are largely legitimised in their communities, the probability of conflict or rejection of information disseminated through them is very low. Evacuation, search and rescue

To avoid a situation similar to 2000, where the country had to depend on external forces for evacuation, search and rescue, ongoing training programmes for the youth resident in each vulnerable zone should be developed, providing them with the knowledge needed to conduct first aid in an emergency situation. The GTZ has initiated such a programme, but the number of people involved is still low. Other organisations should be encouraged to get involved in these initiatives, and if possible some tax relief should be given to organisations involved in these kinds of initiatives. Programmes such as these can reduce the vulnerability of communities at risk to small and medium scale recurrent events. Assessing the impact and distributing relief

In Mozambique, damage and needs assessments were undertaken largely by external experts, while the government and aid agencies took responsibility for providing aid and made all distribution decisions. In addition, many of the agencies, who mistrusted the local authorities, conducted their own assessments. As a result of this uncoordinated assessment procedure, relief was distributed haphazardly, and not all affected communities were assisted.

- Need for standardised assessment procedure. From the experience of 2000 it is clear that the local authorities (including Búzi district) have no methods for assessing impacts. Each state department in Búzi did an assessment of its own infrastructure or goods; for example, the education department was interested only in the number of schools affected. So it is necessary to establish a standardised assessment, which focuses not only on structural impacts such as loss of physical assets but on impact on livelihoods. This assessment should be conducted by the traditional authorities because they live close to the households affected, and they are themselves part of the affected people.

- Conduct pre-assessment and monitoring of food relief distribution by the local authorities to avoid community conflicts

- Supporting local support networks. The role played by local support networks is more important than just ‘simple relief’. Local networks are durable, more efficient and can guarantee longer-term food security than external simple relief, which normally lasts no longer than six mouths following an emergency. Developing local networks avoids dependency of local communities on external donors.

- Encourage partnerships between the Mozambican government and external agencies. Good relationships between these two entities should be built up permanently for better coordination in case of an emergency situation. This would overcome the external agencies’ mistrust of local authorities and promote collaborative work, thus avoiding haphazard assessment and distribution of relief.

- Design of emergency food aid interventions to support mitigation activities as well as simply providing immediate relief, for example river bank protection, soil and water conservation, rural infrastructure rehabilitation which would reduce exposure to impact of future risks (MAF et al., 1998). Recovery and rehabilitation

The recovery and rehabilitation phase is critical in reducing the long-term vulnerability of at-risk communities, when undertaken within a long-term time frame. The way in which post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation will be carried out determines the vulnerability or resilience of the local community to recurrent hydrometeorological hazards.

- Establishment of long-term rehabilitation processes involving all community members. Recovery programmes should not consist of simple clean ups and restoration of community status quo, but should be integrated with long-term rehabilitation programmes.

- Design of planning and recovery programmes that take into consideration local cognitive factors that will influence their effectiveness. To reduce levels of vulnerability and avoid perpetuating pre-disaster conditions, recovery planning should involve all members of civil society. It should take account of horizontal relationships to ensure that decision-making is not divorced from local level reality, including gender issues.

4.3.2 Reducing the vulnerability of at-risk communities

Mozambique is known to be one the most cyclone-prone countries in southern Africa. Natural events occur almost annually dramatically affecting the livelihoods of thousands or even millions of people. The negative impact of these natural events is not mainly due to the high intensity or large magnitude of these events, but because of the high level of vulnerability of the people. Unless social, economic and political conditions are improved, these people will remain vulnerable to recurrent natural events. Strengthening and diversifying community livelihoods

The livelihoods of more than 80% of the Mozambican population are based on agriculture. This sector is frequently seriously affected by natural hazards, especially droughts, cyclones and floods, which destroy the means of livelihood of local communities and impact severely on their food security. The situation is exacerbated by the limited capacity of local communities to diversify their livelihoods using the available natural resources. In order to strengthen and diversify community means of livelihood, the following are recommended

- Focus on extensive and diverse sustainable utilisation of the natural resource base (agriculture, livestock, wildlife, fishery and forest resources) and efficient utilisation of river basins for crop production to reduce chronic vulnerability (MAF et al., 1998).

- Focus on female-headed households whose livelihoods are agriculturally dependent. Observation during the fieldwork showed that the number of female-headed households in Búzi is high. Most of these women lost their husbands during the civil war or due to prolonged sickness, probably linked to HIV/Aids. Administrative as well as traditional authorities should support these households, which depend mostly on agriculture - not by giving food but by helping them improve their livelihood strategies, based on land resources. What makes the situation yet worse for these families is that their heads are illiterate, with limited possibilities of livelihood diversification.

- Encourage local seed exchanges between farmers from different communities because local seed has adapted to local soil and climate conditions and is thus more resilient. An example would be some fruit trees (e.g. banana, paw-paw) and sweet potatoes, which are considered of great importance to local communities, due to their high resistance to drought.

- Promoting local agrarian extension officers to help local communities improve agricultural production. The GTZ, in collaboration with the Búzi agricultural authorities, is promoting local agrarian extension officers, but in many cases they still require training before working in the filed.

- Encouragement of NGOs in implementing small projects for livestock production as a second means of livelihood. The advantage of this is that it introduces communities into the cash market, through the sale of chickens or goats. With cash-based income during crises, households can purchase food, replace lost assets or pay medical bills. This in turn decreases a community’s dependency on external food aid and will incidentally support the growth of local markets during and after crises. Strengthening the coordination role of local institutions in reducing the vulnerability of at-risk communities

Examples from different parts of the world show that communities with strong institutional coordination are likely to be less vulnerable than those with weak institutional coordination. More than ever it is clear that what turns a naturally-occurring hazard into a disaster is not the natural event itself, but the social context, the level of coordination between the different institutions that exist to reduce the effects of hazards.

- Increased coordination between government institutions at national, provincial, district and local levels should be strengthened.

The information exchange between these different levels is very important for ensuring better coordination and more informed decision-making. They can also help international agencies or organisations because they will be informed as to what is happening, where, how many people are involved and which local structures can be used as focal points.

- Permanent operation of disaster committees at each level of government.

These committees should integrate at least one specialist in natural hazards, who would facilitate the understanding of natural hazards and design mechanisms to ensure good communication between government authorities and local communities, especially those related to early warning;

- Strengthen coordination between Mozambique and other southern African countries.

Cooperation should be strengthened, especially as regards water management information, to avoid situations like that of 2000, where excessive volumes of water were released from Zimbabwe without the Mozambican authorities being notified.

- Expansion of the database identifying all institutions and organisations working on disaster management at the local level.

The UN has been actively involved in helping the government create such a database, and in information sharing between organisations working on disaster management, but more work needs to be done. Administrative or traditional authorities at local level should be involved to ensure adequate coverage of the country, especially the rural areas.

- Establishment of communication mechanisms and information exchange among local institutions to ensure greater coordination.

A set of common standards should be developed for assessing performance towards the shared goal of risk reduction. There should be regularly scheduled reviews of existing conditions, where feedback from all participants would help in the regular reassessment of contingency plans.

- Strengthening of initiatives such as the GRC, by the CVM and GTZ.

The Red Cross and GTZ should empower local communities to take over actions that until now they have carried out. The advantage of involving local community leaders is that they are known locally and uphold the same values as the community; so the probability of having a message accepted is higher than if it had been come from somebody outside the community;

- Strengthen disaster committees to support communities in managing their own risk.

This could include support for traditional coping strategies based on local resources (for example traditional boats). This would be important since the Mozambican context is characterised by a weak capacity of governmental institutions in risk reduction.

- Strengthening the organisational capacity of local organisations.

This can be achieved through increasing communities’ resilience and resistance to hazards through sharing food, working animals, farm tools and other resources. Decision-making ability and know-how in managing community-wide activities, organising evacuations and managing emergency responses also need to be strengthened (Heijmans & Victoria, 2001).

- The government should take advantage of collaboration with NGOs and other agencies that already understand the importance of local organisation.

In Búzi, for example, the GTZ is one of the NGOs that have been working on creating new community-based organisations and strengthening those already existing (e.g. disaster committees composed of local villagers trained by the GTZ and CVM). Integrating disaster management in sectoral policies

There are two policy frameworks that have the potential to reduce exposure to risk and increase the coping ability or resilience of households. The first is the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PARPA), which deals, among other things, with creating a disaster safety net to cope with natural hazards, and the second is the Disaster Management Policy, which seeks to ensure that disaster prevention, mitigation and response are integrated into sectoral policies and programmes. Although integrated in some sectoral policies (for example, the land and environment laws) these are still only weakly enforced.

- Increased sectoral engagement between government departments on disaster risk management.

- Integration of disaster risk reduction principles into government programmes. For example, the PARPA should focus on disaster reduction as its main target before becoming involved in developmental programmes. The impact of the 2000 floods should be taken as an example, to show that if developmental programmes do not take disaster risk into consideration they may fail. Promoting multidisciplinary research into vulnerability reduction

In the past few years some progress has been made in Mozambique regarding vulnerability assessment (see for example MAF et al., 1998) and hazard risk assessment (see CIG-UCM, 2003). These assessments represent a positive attempt to understand the conditions that make communities more vulnerable to natural hazards, but their focus is still mostly one-dimensional.

- Adoption of a multi-disciplinary approach to assess at-risk communities.

This should involve assessing the economic capacity of communities or households to resist the impact of a hazard event, and their ability to recover from it (asset levels, mechanisms of access to natural resources, access to credit), the resistance of its physical structures (mainly housing) and infrastructures when an event occurs, the levels of social cohesion (informal social networks) and organisation (formal and informal), and cultural understanding (Few, 2003).

- Encouragement of government and local institutions to develop an interdisciplinary "vulnerability index’.

This would provide a reliable measure of the differences between communities exposed to similar ranges of hazards (Comfort et al., 1999).

- Local authorities should work on a long-term basis to persuade local communities that extreme events like the 2000 can occur again.

All warnings issued by government should be taken seriously. The problem of how to make people understand the probability of recurrence of extreme events is an issue of global concern.

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