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The natural disaster in southern Africa, which struck in mid-March 2019, left a trail of destruction in its wake and triggered devastating storm surges and flooding. In Mozambique alone, Cyclone Idai killed more than 600 people as it battered the country with wind speeds of up to 200 km/h and destroyed everything: houses, roads, fields. 500,000 people lost their homes.
In the Manica region, half a million hectares of agricultural land were destroyed just before the harvest. The fact that most people depend on smallholder farms has led to severe food insecurity.
Over a year after the disaster, many were still struggling to get their lives back on track. In the Dombe region in Manica, where floods partially or completely destroyed 28 communities, many were forced to move to higher lands and are still unable to ensure their food supply: the time window for sowing was too short, access to new arable land was too poor. In addition, the wet conditions attracted pests that damaged many crops.
Caritas Switzerland responded immediately after the disaster and distributed food, tents, cooking utensils, clothing, school materials and agricultural tools. As a result, its relief effort reached 3500 people.
Technical assistance and market access
In the second phase, until September 2021, Caritas Switzerland and Caritas Chimoio helped some 1600 people in the Dombe region to rebuild secure and sustainable livelihoods. Caritas experts helped the communities to draw up long-term land-use plans. Farmers are now planting in higher-lying areas where the fields are safe from flooding. Caritas taught the farmers sustainable farming methods. It distributed local seeds and offering technical support. It also funded tractors to remove the thick layer of clay from the fields along the river and to prepare them for planting.
For a long time, farmers have had insufficient access to local markets. High-margin middlemen have eroded their income. Caritas helped farmers to form groups that can negotiate better supply and purchase conditions in community markets. This enables them to generate more income and secure their livelihoods in the long term.
We are currently planning a follow-up project as of January 2022.
Cheia Vanilla was born on 15 March 2019 – on the evening when Cyclone Idai swept across her home in Mozambique. Her father Fernando had just cut the umbilical cord with a piece of reed when the water in the hut rose rapidly. Fernando and his wife Gloria immediately had to scramble to safety. In the floods, Gloria lost her footing and just managed to lift the baby up. Fernando – who was already in the branches of a mango tree – succeeded in catching the girl in time and pull Gloria out of the water. Fernando and Gloria called their child ‘Cheia’, because during the birth, everything was ‘cheia de agua’ – ‘full of water’.