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How Development Marketplace finalist helps climate-proof struggling farmers in Mozambique

Christian Steiner's picture

Mozambique’s weak socio-economic infrastructure and geographic location make the country particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rain-fed agriculture is the main livelihood for subsistence farmers in this southeastern Africa country.  But the resources farmers depend on are severely affected by the climate hazards of drought, flooding, and epidemic disease, and the outlook is for even more adverse impact.  Moreover, the Government of Mozambique currently has neither the capacity nor the financial resources for an integrated adaptation strategy.

Helvetas (Swiss Association for International Cooperation), which has promoted rural development in rural Mozambique for more than 30 years, is working to close those gaps through activities concentrated in rural areas in the Northern Provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula. (Photo above shows Zero Emission Fridge seed storage silo that was Development Marketplace 2009 finalist and which subsequently won $2 million funding from European Commission Food Facility.) The Food Security and Value Chain (SAAN) project aims to contribute to increased livelihoods of semi-subsistence farmers and increased income from cash crop sales.  To achieve its goals, SAAN promotes organizational and entrepreneurial capacity for improved productivity, post-harvest management, and processing and commercialization of agricultural produce.

Climate proofing of the Helvetas Mozambique Food Security and Value Chain (SAAN) project should decrease the vulnerability of farming families and increase their adaptation capacity. A Vulnerability Assessment and Evaluation of Adaptation Capacity (CVCA) in Cabo Delgado Province improved understanding of links between climate related risks, people’s livelihood, and project activities.

Community consultation revealed that natural and financial resources, especially soil and agricultural products are most threatened by climate hazards, while a wide spectrum of livelihood resources is important for coping and climate change adaptation.

Human well being in the project area is mainly affected by water and food scarcity and epidemic diseases. Drought, prolonged and/or heavy rain, floods, and uncontrolled fire affect soil quality and agricultural production severely. Local livelihood adaptation strategies -- which are being introduced not only in Mozambique but also other Sub-Saharan countires, include:


  • Diversification of livelihood activities.
  • Adjustments in farming operations.
  • Income-generation projects.
  • Moving towards off- or non-farm livelihood incomes.


According to the results of the analysis the SAAN project and the overall Helvetas project activities considerably improve  small-scale farmers’ climate resilience and adaptive capacity by strengthening important likelihood resources, especially natural and financial resources, while reducing limitations and barriers for current coping strategies. Local seed production, a well-established distribution system, and improved storage facilities such as the Zero Emission Fridge for Rural Africa (finalist proposal at the 2009 World Bank Development Marketplace), for example, can be used to disseminate early maturing and/or drought tolerant cultures and varieties.

Future Helvetas projects should ensure availability of livelihood resources most affected by climate hazards and crucial for coping and adaptation. Those projects will include rainwater harvesting and small irrigation systems, agro forestry, and clean energy production and energy efficiency. A few rainwater harvesting systems already exist in the area, demonstrating the viability of this technology.