How climate change is hurting farmers in Mozambique

Rosa Fobra, a farmer in Mozambique who has been hard hit by the impacts of climate change

Farmers like Rosa face unpredictable weather, inconsistent harvests, intense heat, and killer cyclones.

Rosa Fobra, 65, lives with four of her seven children in Munhava Matope, one of the poorest and most densely populated neighbourhoods surrounding the city of Beira in Mozambique. Rosa relies on farming to feed her family and put her children through school. She says:

I managed to afford an education for all seven of my children. I only relied on myself.

In March, Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique and other parts of southern Africa. It was among the worst storms on record ever to hit the region, killing hundreds, displacing millions, and destroying local farms and infrastructure. Rosa says:

When we were expecting to harvest, the cyclone came and destroyed everything.

Cyclone Idai devastated the season’s crops, but shifting weather patterns and other signs of a changing climate were already affecting Rosa’s harvests. She says:

Starting about five to six years ago, the sun during the winter became more intense, killing the crops before they grow.

We used to follow the natural patterns in our farming. The seasons were regular. It was easier to plan for the harvest.

Now it’s not possible to predict the rainy season anymore. When we are expecting rain it would not rain. Yet when we do not expect rain, it could rain heavily and destroy our crops.

The cyclone was the most destructive storm, but the weather in general in the last five or six years has been very bad for farming.

Portrait of Rosa, a farmer in Mozambique

Years of unpredictable weather and inconsistent harvests due to the impact of climate change, combined with the physical toll farming takes on Rosa at age 65, are threatening her and her family’s survival. She says:

In the past we would store a full warehouse with the harvest of one season. Now we can barely fill up to five or six bags of rice and corn. 

I worry about not having enough food to eat. I’m afraid of starving.

In the past the corn I harvested was enough to eat and sell to cover our needs, such as clothes. But now we do not even have enough to eat.

Kevin Dunbar, director of global impact and programmes for CARE Canada, says:  

Research has shown that changes to the world’s temperature, as well as ocean warming, are responsible for an increase in the severity of tropical cyclones. These storms are having a devastating impact on those countries least responsible for climate change, and least equipped to handle the strain or bounce back from disasters.

According to a 2016 Irish Aid report (PDF), “Mozambique is one of Africa’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. … Climate-related hazards such as droughts, floods and cyclones are occurring with increasing frequency, which is having a cumulative and devastating impact on the population.”

Rosa buys bananas from the fields and tries to sell them at the market, but it’s not enough, especially after Cyclone Idai. She says:

After the cyclone we received some buckets and pots from CARE and tarps from another organisation to fix the roof. [But] I still have many needs. I don’t have a bathroom or cooking utensils. 

I’m struggling to get food after the cyclone destroyed everything. I haven’t had anything for breakfast since then. It gets cold at night during the winter days now, but I don’t have anything to cover myself.

Rosa tries to focus on what she can do to keep from losing hope. She says:

I will continue farming and whatever I can harvest I will bring it home for my family.

Six months after Cyclone Idai destroyed crops that would have fed millions, 1.6 million are in need of food aid, and about 67,500 children under 5 need treatment for malnutrition – numbers that will likely only increase without necessary emergency support. Read more in our media release Cyclone Idai 6 months on: CARE issues dire warnings as studies show 41 million face hunger in southern Africa

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