Mozambique: productive farming after Cyclone Idai thanks to climate-friendly farming methods

In mid-March 2019, the seventh tropical cyclone of the season hit Sofala Province in central Mozambique. Cyclone Idai caused floods with its relentless torrential downpour, affecting nearly 2 million people. A food security project implemented by Swisscontact in Mozambique helped farmers mitigate the catastrophic effects of the floods, thanks to innovative agricultural practices.

“Resilience” is understood as the ability to overcome crises and come out of them stronger than before. Resilience is now attainable in Mozambique thanks to the “Food Security through Climate Adaptation and Resilience” programme (FAR).

In collaboration with the International Fertiliser Development Center (IFDC), farmers are learning about climate-friendly agricultural practices. Training encompasses the application of improved agricultural means of production such as seeds and fertilisers. Smallholder farmers can increase their resilience in dealing with unforeseen weather events, raising their productivity within the rice and vegetable value chains.

Resilience through knowledge and optimal seed material

Castigo and Helena are smallholder farmers from Buzi region who have implemented the recommended climate-friendly practices. Initially, Castigo was hesitant to use new seed material and to apply only a small amount of fertiliser to his fields. “What will happen to the harvest if we do everything differently?” he asked himself. Despite their doubts, Castigo and Helena decided to participate in the FAR programme.

They planted improved rice varieties, as recommended by the FAR programme, that performs well in the harsh climate, applying only the minimum amount of fertiliser required to stimulate root growth, thereby strengthening plants in the ground as a way to counteract the effects of flooding.

Buzi was one of the coastal regions hardest hit by the cyclone and rice fields remained flooded for more than a week. Thanks to these environmentally friendly practices, Castigo and Helena only suffered minor damages compared to those families that were not supported by the programme.

Despite Cyclone Idai, Castigo and Helena are smiling

Castigo und Helena has reason to be happy: “Next year I plan to increase my planting area to at least 1.5 hectares,” says Castigo with much optimism. “Despite the extensive flooding we survived, I was able to set aside seed for next year and store some grains to eat for a few months,” adds Helena.

The improved rice varieties that Castigo and Helena planted are particularly resilient, thanks to their tillering systems. They form many grain-bearing shoots; so-called tillers. When the cyclone hit, only the main tillers died from the flooding. A month later, the plants began to recover and once the water table decreased, the tillers began to grow back.

The FAR project is a five-year programme implemented by Swisscontact and financed by the Embassy of Sweden.