Mapping gravel roads in flood-prone areas amidst talk of guerrilla ambushes was not what I had imagined when I signed up as a climate change specialist for the World Bank. But if my first trip to the Zambezia and Nampula provinces in northern Mozambique is any indication of what life as a World Banker is going to be – my teenage Indiana Jones fantasies may well come true!
It all started innocently enough when I was hired to support a project in Mozambique focused on improving the conditions of feeder roads to foster agricultural production. The northern provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are major agricultural producers for the country, but also highly flood-prone. The Zambezi, Ligonha and Molocue rivers flood almost every rainy season, rendering significant elements of the road network impassable, sometimes for months. A changing climate could increase the severity and frequency of extreme rainfall – further exacerbating flood risks. Our goal was to identify elements of the unmapped, “unclassified” feeder network which could be improved to provide network redundancy, and thus improve road system resilience to flooding. It quickly became clear that the first step in evaluating an unmapped network is to map it, so I spent the last two weeks in Mozambique working with the government to do just that.