Climate Change Adaptation in Mozambique
Southern Africa is considered to be one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impacts of climate change. In particular, semiarid areas characterized by marginal rainfall amounts restricting rainfed crop yields, highly seasonal rainfall with long dry seasons, unpredictable rainfall in the growth season, and scarcity of potable water for humans and livestock, among others. As an additional stressor, climate change will impact most strongly on those who are already food-insecure, subject to existing high levels of climate variability and stress, and unable to cope with, or adapt to, the added pressure.
Within southern Africa, Mozambique is one of the poorest countries with a massive developmental backlog. A prolonged civil war coupled with large-scale emigration set the country back severely until the late 1990s. Poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition are pervasive, and combined with disease pressures such as malaria and HIV/AIDS are placing great strain on households and their ability to not only sustain themselves, but also to deal with, and recover from, climate-related and other hazards.
Mozambique is highly exposed to harmful climatic events including droughts, massive floods, and cyclones. The impacts of climate hazards on the population and infrastructure are compounded by the widespread deep poverty and lack of resilience. The interior regions of southern Mozambique, such as parts of the Gaza Province have a long dry season (rainfall that ranges from 500 to 600 mm annually), suffer from deep poverty (62.5 % in 2010), lack of access to water, limited livelihood opportunities with heavy reliance on subsistence farming, and exposure to high temperatures, severe droughts and occasional floods and cyclones. The natural resource base is under significant pressure from localized overgrazing, wildfires and rapid deforestation. The implications of this for Mozambique's small-scale and subsistence farmers, who rely almost entirely on rainfall for crops, livestock and other production purposes, need to be thoughtfully assessed and used as a basis for supportive actions and strengthening of their adaptive capacity.
The UN Joint Programme is located in the inland arid and semi-arid areas of the Chicualacuala District (Gaza province), and implementation activities were carried out in two out of the three Administrative Posts, namely Eduardo Mondlane and Mapai. Although the area is traversed by the Limpopo River, it suffers from profound structural water poverty and very limited livelihood options as a consequence. The Limpopo River originates on the southern African plateau in eastern Botswana, and enters Mozambique at Pafuri, in the Chicualacuala District. From here it flows south-eastwards and into the Indian Ocean northeast of Maputo. Rainfall is less than 500 mm on average, the rainfall season between December and March is short and erratic, and temperatures are high (annual mean exceeding 24 °C) with extreme summer heat common.
The local population, of about 40 000 people is predominantly subsistence farmers with few other sources of food and income, thus relying heavily on the natural forests when crops fail and income from livestock is reduced. The risks of crop failure and variability of production are high owing to the erratic rainfall season patterns. Croplands are established both along the alluvial soils of the flood plains (to maximize on water availability, but prone to flooding) and at higher elevation on limestone-derived soils (not so flood prone, but with little access to water). Both are subject to high risks but the latter suffer more under drought conditions. Livestock are also affected, with both droughts and floods causing significant mortality and loss of production. This district is one of the poorest and most marginalized areas of the south, and indeed of the country.