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Irrigating Mozambique’s vulnerable south

Climate-smart solutions

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Climate resilience

A climate-smart agriculture initiative is boosting the productivity and food security of Mozambique’s smallholders by providing climate resilient farming infrastructure.

Smallholders in Mozambique are bolstering their climate resilience with the establishment of irrigation and storage infrastructure in the country’s arid south. Launched in 2013, the Baixo Limpopo Climate Resilience Pilot Project (BLCRPP) seeks to improve the productivity of the country’s farmers by providing access to water year-round, while also helping them to mitigate and adapt to adverse climate change impacts.

In Gaza province, around 8,000 farmers have so far gained access to irrigation and improved drainage through BLCRPP’s infrastructural development in the region. Just over 1,000 ha of land in the Magula East region of Gaza province has been equipped with irrigation pipelines, drawing water from the Limpopo River through a pumping station situated in Magula. As a result, farmers in the area have seen production levels increase by up to 75%. To ensure that the irrigation infrastructure can withstand flooding, and to prevent water seepage, the irrigation canals have been lined with flexible plastic sheets covered by concrete. A backup generator has also been installed at nearby Umbape, allowing drainage pumps to continue operating during electricity blackouts.

Farmers are also benefitting from significant infrastructural developments beyond the farm. Following the devastating floods in 2000 – when insufficient road and drainage systems saw many rural communities cut off entirely, and around 450,000 people displaced – the BLCRPP has improved the surface and drainage capacity of 45 km of road in Gaza province. The upgraded road surface gives farmers better access to larger urban markets, while also improving accessibility in the event of floods or other emergencies. Better drainage along the roads, meanwhile, helps to reduce soil erosion previously caused by surface runoff.

The project is also working to improve climate resilience at the farm-level, training farmers directly in climate-smart agricultural practices. Filomena Zandlala, a rice farmer from Chongoene district, has received training in production best practices, such as how to maintain optimal water levels for crops year-round, and the effective use of fertilisers – as well as post-harvest practices – including cleaning, sorting and drying of produce. “This project has taught us a lot about agriculture and we are looking forward to better harvests,” she says.

By 2016, 3 years into the project’s implementation, Mozambique produced around 800,000 t of vegetables – up from 550,000 t in 2012, and half of this in the country’s southern regions. To help ensure that this level of production can be sustained, 5,000 local farmers have also received training in the maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure. The recent construction of a cold-storage and agri-processing facility in the capital city of Gaza province, Xa-Xai, will also help to significantly reduce post-harvest losses.

“The African Development Bank’s climate-smart resilience financing is helping to lift Mozambicans out of poverty, and dramatically improve livelihoods,” explains Wael Soliman, the project’s principal hydrologist. Co-funded by the Bank and the Strategic Climate Fund (SCF), the project forms part of SCF’s broader aim to bring climate resilience initiatives into the policy mainstream in developing countries. By drawing on past experience – particularly the floods of 2000, which destroyed previous irrigation infrastructure – the BLCRPP aims to bolster climate resilience at every point along the agricultural value chain, and to ensure that this resilience can be sustained.

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