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Seeds of Climate Resilience in Mozambique

Originally published by Food Tank on 04/18/2017

U.S. President Donald Trump may still deny the harsh realities of climate change, but no one in southern Mozambique has any doubts. They don’t have much food either.

The drought of the previous two years broke last October, but with a vengeance. While much of the country received more normal rains, the southern part of Mozambique got intense storms. The first, with thunder, lightning, and hail, hit in October just as farmers were bringing in the last of their irrigated winter crops and beginning to plant maize and other rainy season crops for the coming summer. The second hit in late March, taking down trees, maize, and other crops in the community of Bobole, again flooding one of the area’s more productive associations in the lowlands along the river.

They have irrigation from a rehabilitated colonial system of drainage ditches, which allows a second growing season to supplement the summer rainy season. The system wasn’t well maintained and blockages caused the floodwaters to overflow the banks of the ditches into farmers’ fields. Even their nicely cultivated raised beds, constructed to keep waters from directly covering crops, succumbed to the rush of water.

They lost a lot of maize, the native yellow variety they had purified through careful selection under the direction of Brazilian volunteers brought in by UNAC, the Mozambican national farmers union. When I was there last year, I saw the women who run these associations using yellow maize seed from their community seed bank to grow out enough seed under irrigation so farmers who lost their maize in last year’s drought would have something to plant when the rains came. Now, at least in the lowland areas, much of that maize was lost.