Mozambique: the next Atlantis?

Guest post by
15 September 2011

Mozambique is a country plagued with a history of floods and poverty. Lying on the south east coast of Africa, its coastline spans over 2700km with its lowest point level to the Indian Ocean. So it needs to be prepared for sea-level rises caused by climate change.

Mozambique has been receiving training and support from the Netherlands (another country highly susceptible to the risk of sea-level rise) on how to adapt to the effects of climate change through the Netherlands Climate Assistance Programme (NCAP). The programme has been training a team in Mozambique on developing strategies so it’s prepared and ready to respond when a disaster caused by the effects of climate change – like flash flooding – strikes.

The average rainfall in Mozambique is between 800-900mm per year. But in some areas this has been known to reach 2000 mm or more. The wettest time of year when most flooding occurs is between December and February. A catastrophic flood during the rainy season in 2000/2001, when an estimated 500 mm of rainfall fell each month, displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed large areas of agricultural land.

Mozambicans vulnerable to climactic vagaries caused by climate change

Despite the strong growth of its economy, over 60% of the 21 million people in Mozambique live below the poverty line, eking out a living from agriculture and fishing. But this dependence on natural resources to support themselves and their families leaves them vulnerable to the climatic vagaries caused by climate change. They also face the threat of the spread of disease from future floods.

Faces double whammy of climate change and reliance on imported food stuffs

Mozambique faces a double whammy; not only is it being confronted by the primary effects of climate change, it also faces the secondary effects happening elsewhere – like Russia. The country relies heavily on imported wheat, with 60% of its wheat coming from Russia making Mozambique’s food security vulnerable to market and climactic shocks. For example, during the 2010 droughts in Russia, 20% of food crops were lost causing food prices to soar which resulted in riots and civil disorder throughout Mozambique.

Early warning systems

The Mozambique Government’s National Disaster Management Institute (INGC) has been attempting to combat the risks posed by climate change by setting up regional early warning systems. This is done through delegations which observe events in all the river basins prone to flooding to improve the anticipation of future floods and management of the evacuation procedures and flood defences.

Data provided by these delegations then feeds into a potential risk assessment carried out by Mozambique’s National Contingency Plan annually in October. This data is assessed by non-governmental organisations, the UNDP and other agencies and then forwarded onto the INGC, which analyses the findings and, if necessary, suggests measures for the NCAP to implement. These measures are based upon the evolving challenges being faced and are used to reduce the impact of climate change on communities.

NGOs and aid agencies are also helping. For example, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has been training local fisherman in search and rescue and evacuation procedures for moving communities to safer areas in the event of a future flood. They are also effectively providing a local coastguard service for the most remote communities.

Mozambique has demonstrated a determination to adapt to climate change and protect the population. It is hoped that that this work can serve as a useful example to other vulnerable, developing countries of how to develop a flexible and evolving defence against the threats of climate change.

This blog was written by Adam Dunderdale, an undergraduate student at the Open University studying government responses to climate change vulnerability in coastal cities. He is currently on a research based placement in the climate change group with IIED.

 

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