“Will the outcome of this conversation be like seeds thrown in dry sand, or like seeds planted in moist soil”?
These were the closing words from a villager in rural Gaza province, Mozambique, as we left his village.
It’s a pertinent question here in the Limpopo river basin, an area prone to cyclical disasters including floods, cyclones and drought.
Assessing people’s needs
I am here to assess needs following cyclone Dando, which hit Mozambique in January this year.
We are focusing on three districts of Gaza province (Chibuto, Guija and Mabalane) which were most severely hit.
Our aim is to understand how people have been affected by the cyclone and floods, and to evaluate the most appropriate way of meeting their needs.
Ideally we want to look at the capacity of the local market to provide for people’s needs so that we can help them directly through cash transfers.
The impact of the cyclone is not devastating to the naked eye, but in every community we visited, people told us that up to 100% of their crops had been destroyed – a disaster which will affect them for up to a year.
Families are already reducing their meal sizes by 80%, whilst trying to salvage what is left of their crops, wading in water waist high.
Children are dropping out of school because their parents can’t afford the fees; cholera, malaria and diarrhoea are sky high due to the stagnant water.
Injecting cash into the local economy
Access to rural communities is difficult here, and many roads have been blocked off by the floods. But people are resourceful, and most of the food they now need to buy is available locally, at stable prices.
And although they may not have the cash to purchase this food, 70% of them have mobile phones – another sign of the potential of these communities.
We now need to work hard to find the political will and the funding to support these families and their children, enabling them to buy the food they need locally, supporting the local economy, and to sow their own seeds for recovery.