From December 1999 to March 2000, Mozambique recorded the highest rainfall rates since 1951. They were associated with twelve meteorological systems, and triggered massive flooding in the southern and central regions of the country, with disastrous consequences, including human, physical and economic losses. This event, reported as a flood event, with more people affected by flooding than directly by the rain, had a considerable affect on the livelihoods of over a million people. The heavy rains in other southern African countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland, caused in part by the cyclones Connie and Eline, were precursors to the flooding in Mozambique. Neighbouring countries were forced to open their dams, resulting in excessive volumes of water entering the Mozambique catchment areas.
The Búzi catchment in central Mozambique was one of those affected by waters released from the Chicamba Dam, causing rising levels in the Búzi River, with consequent flooding. This helps explain why floods in that area occurred some days after the cyclones had passed. Most communities in Búzi Province were declared disaster-affected.
With limited resources to respond to such an event, the Mozambique government was forced to seek assistance from the international community. They launched two international appeals, which resulted in aid being supplied for both evacuation and rehabilitation.
This study aims at understanding the role of local institutions and organisations in reducing peoples vulnerability to natural hazards. It was based in Búzi District, where two villages, namely Munamícua and Boca, were selected for the fieldwork. Both sites still reflect the impact of the events of 2000 in the highly vulnerable livelihoods of their households. The research methodology involved multidisciplinary methods and techniques. Data was gathered from a number of institutions before the fieldwork was conducted.
The 2000 floods: Early warning, emergency response and recovery in Búzi
The uncharacteristic nature of the 2000 flooding event had serious implications for the early-warning system mechanisms, since riverine communities did not respond appropriately. The flooding in the Búzi catchment, triggered by the Búzi River inundation, was uncharacteristically higher than normal cyclone-triggered flooding. The Búzi administrative authorities were alerted to the rapidly rising river water by the Chibabava administrative authorities in the Búzi upper stream. Communities surrounding the Búzi headquarters were warned, but warnings failed to the reach remote zones of the district on time. However even the alerted communities did not take the warning seriously because the rain had stopped some days before, and as a result no measures were taken to reduce the impact of what was later reported as one of the most intense floods in the communities history.
In Búzi no formal rescue was provided at the beginning of the flooding, so that by the time rescue measures were provided by official authorities or external agencies, households had already evacuated themselves to safer locations. Both case studies show the prevalence and importance of informal social networks, local institutions and local authorities (traditional and administrative) and locally-based organisations (e.g. churches) for disaster mitigation, response and recovery, using local natural resources.
The limited capacity of the national government to respond to the emergency was clear from the outset. Many of the emergency relief organisations provided immediate assistance that lasted almost six months and satisfied only immediate needs. Emergency aid relief consisted mainly of food, clothing, medicines and - in a few cases - money. This assistance was provided after a rapid needs assessment, conducted by the donors and the administrative authorities. The relief distribution encountered several problems because of the limited and non-standardised needs assessment, together with inefficient coordination of distribution. This meant that there was no coverage of many places, especially in the more remote areas.
After the immediate emergency situation was over most of these organisations disappeared, with only a few left, running reconstruction programmes for affected households. Unfortunately these were far from sufficient for the needs of the villagers, considering the level of destruction suffered. Most of the organisations assisted the communities for less than six months after the floods - the only organisations still working in the Búzi basin were those whose main activities were related to disaster risk management, such as the GTZ, CVM and some organisations working on food and seeds distribution (CCM, ESMABAMA).
The study in the two villages highlighted the critical importance of both traditional authorities and informal social networks in mitigating the impact of recurrent disasters. Some problems did, however, arise because of corruption and nepotism between traditional authorities, as well as due to internal conflicts in the local traditional structures. This affected local communities after the 2000 floods because traditional authorities participated in the identification and assessment of flood-ravaged households within their area of jurisdiction.
In order to strengthen local capacity for reducing the peoples vulnerability to natural hazards through efficient early warning and through adequate response and recovery action, the study presents the following specific recommendations:
Early warning and emergency planning
a) Development of local management plans involving the local authorities and the most influential people within the community;
b) Promotion of the local community radio station in Búzi to disseminate early warnings;
c) Distribution of solar or wind-up radios, as villagers often cannot afford batteries;
d) Active involvement of GRC members to complement the information broadcast from local radio to local communities, especially in remote locations along the Búzi catchment;
e) Working with communities to inform them of the recurrence of extreme weather events, so that all warnings issued by government are taken seriously;
f) Promotion of national and provincial teams for monitoring, recording and evaluating indicators of natural hazards, and subsequently disseminating information to potentially affected communities;
g) Facilitation of environmental education programmes within local communities, to increase their knowledge of natural hazards, and especially to increase their capacity to understand uncharacteristically extreme events;
h) Design of evacuation plans with at-risk communities, specifying locations to which they should evacuate in case of emergency, and where to access necessary resources;
i) Integration of the scientific understanding of natural hazards with local "conventional wisdom" or traditional beliefs.
Designing of evacuation, search and rescue plans
a) Development, for the youth in all vulnerable zones, of ongoing training programmes in emergency first aid and in evacuation and search-and-rescue procedures.
Impact assessment and relief distribution
a) Standardisation of assessment procedures;
b) Pre-assessment and monitoring of food relief distribution by the local authorities to avoid community conflicts;
c) Encouragement of partnerships between the Mozambican government and external agencies to overcome the external agencies mistrust of local authorities, and promotion of collaborative work to avoid haphazard assessment and distribution of relief;
d) Design of emergency food aid interventions, not only to provide immediate relief, but also to support mitigation activities;
Recovery and rehabilitation
a) Establishment of long-term rehabilitation processes involving all community members;
b) Design of planning and recovery programmes which take into account local cognitive factors that will influence their effectiveness;
c) Support local informal support networks.
Reducing the vulnerability of at-risk communities by strengthening and diversifying community livelihoods
a) Focus on extensive and diverse sustainable utilisation of the natural resource base (agriculture, livestock, wildlife, fishery, forestry) and efficient utilisation of river basins for crop production;
b) Focus on female-headed households whose livelihoods are agriculturally dependent;
c) Encouragement of local seed exchange between farmers from different communities (local seed is more resilient as is has adapted to local soil and climate conditions);
d) Promoting local agrarian extension officers to help communities improve agricultural production;
e) Encouragement of NGOs in implementing small projects for livestock production as a second means of livelihood.
Strengthening the coordination role of local institutions to reduce the vulnerability of at-risk communities
a) Increased coordination between government institutions at national, provincial, district and local levels;
b) Permanent operation of disaster committees at each level of government;
c) Strengthening coordination between the Mozambican government and other southern Africa countries, especially in water management;
d) Setting up a database of all institutions and organisations working on disaster management at local level;
e) Establishment of communication mechanisms among local institutions to ensure better coordination;
f) Strengthening of initiatives such as the GRC (Committee for Risk Management) set up by the Red Cross and GTZ;
g) Strengthening the organisational capacity of local organisations;
h) Government collaboration with NGOs and other agencies that have already understood the importance of local organisation.
Need for integration of disaster management in the sectoral policies
a) Increased sectoral engagement between government departments on disaster risk management;
b) Integration of disaster risk reduction principles into government programmes;
Promoting multidisciplinary research into vulnerability reduction
a) Adoption of a multi-disciplinary approach to assess communities at-risk;
b) Encouragement of government and local institutions to development an interdisciplinary "vulnerability index";
c) Work by local authorities on a long-term basis to persuade communities that extreme events like the 2000 floods can occur again.
 A German government-owned
corporation for international cooperation.|
 The Mozambican Red Cross.
 The Mozambique Christian Council (Protestant).
 A Catholic charity organisation working in four missions of southern Sofala (Estaquinha, Machanga, Barada and Mangunde).