Tete, the western-most province of Mozambique, situated along the Zambezia river, has faced several challenges in the recent past that affect local communities. Foremost of these challenges began to affect the Nkondezi area of the Moatize district in late 2018 with the return of thousands of residents, who had fled in 2016 due to tensions from past conflict, and had been refugees in Malawi.
One day in 2016 when the conflicts were happening, my son was taken by armed men who required him to carry food cargo they had bought. After keeping him for the whole day without giving him any food, they finally released him. But we were very afraid that this would happen again and we would not have the same luck. So we took off to Malawi (in 2016), me, my husband and my six kids. We came back in 2018 and our house had collapsed, so we had to restart from scratch. There are no jobs around, no food, no way to get food and we did not have any means-moreover with the heavy rains and flooding the produce was very low. This is the very first assistance we have received since we came back and I'm very grateful for it. - Maria (fictional name), 44 years old
Response to the Mozambican returnee populations need for support brought about a seed kit distribution project funded by the European Union Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid - ECHO. The aim of the project has been to support vulnerable returnee and host community families in areas of return by restoring food availability and improving food security thereby alleviating pressure on available resources and diminishing community tensions surrounding resources and food. The project began in February 2019 and covered 14 communities of Tete province's Moatize district.
Additional challenges arose in March 2019, in Sofala province and Tete province when heavy rains and extensive flooding arrived preceding and during landfall of Cyclone Idai. Areas along the Zambezi River were particularly affected, especially Doa and Mutarara districts in the south-east of Tete province.
Extensive flooding caused temporary displacement of hundreds of families. Humanitarian assistance was arranged and families were temporarily sheltered in locally set up camps.
IOM staff, with support from ECHO, mobilized to expand the seed distribution project to assist families affected by Cyclone Idai floods in Doa and Mutarara districts. The aim was to promote income generation through agricultural activities, and to support farmers affected by the flood and the previous drought, as the change in conditions had prevented them from reaching desired production and sales levels.
IOM staff Justino Junior said: "The project aim is for communities to be food secure and have an alternative source of income through agriculture-related activities. IOM aims for families to produce sufficient food supply for the lean season, and foster the development of alternative income generating activities in agriculture."
Government partners were the District Services for Economic Activities (SDAE) and the Government of Mozambique Disaster Management Agency (INGC). SDAE, FAO, and IOM together designed appropriate contents for a kit of seeds and tools to distribute to beneficiaries, and coordinated with the communities and with local and provincial level government, to ensure kit contents were adapted to local context.
The kits included farming tools: four hoes with handles, one machete, one axe, one watering can and vegetable seeds. The seeds included: maize (10kg), beans (5kg), pumpkin (50g), red onion (30g), tomato (10g), okra (10g), cabbage (10g), pepper (10g), kale (10g), and cucumber (10g). IOM purchased treated seeds, specially coated to conserve seeds and provide protection from insects.
Reaching communities across three districts with seed kits posed access challenges, including blocked roads, and a fallen bridge - necessitating an alternative route to reach project areas when travelling from the city of Tete.
Community selection was closely coordinated with local government and local leadership to explain the project activities and ensure community understanding and participation.
Prior to each distribution, IOM with SDAE organized short guidance sessions on good agricultural practices to raise awareness on proper handling of the treated seeds and techniques for higher crop productivity. These sessions contribute to increased food security to promote stabilization of returning populations.
District government representatives and local leaders later carried out beneficiary selection, which aimed to assist the most vulnerable families. These included those who returned from Malawi (in Moatize), and in all project locations focused on the elderly, orphaned children, single mothers, and the chronically ill.
Local leadership assisted in the confirmation of beneficiary lists offering knowledge of community members fitting the vulnerability criteria established by IOM.
Sessions and distributions were conducted together with the District Governments of Moatize, Doa and Mutarara, and INGC and Tete Provincial Department of Agriculture and Food Security. Program staff instructed beneficiaries not to eat the seeds, but to plant them.
As soon as received, many recipients quickly planted the seeds in their farming plots, locally called "machambas", which are often intended to provide for a family's food needs. Planting and agriculture are facilitated by favourable soil conditions in these areas of Tete province.
Overall the project assisted 4,333 families, for a total of 22,548 persons. In Moatize district (Nkondezi locality) the total number of beneficiaries, which included returnees and host communities was 8,912 persons (seed kits distributed to 2,160 families in 14 communities).
The total number of beneficiaries for flood-affected communities in Doa district (503 families in six communities) and Mutarara district (1,670 families in five communities) was 13,636 persons, through the distribution of 2,173 seeds and tool kits. These distributions took place in June 2019.
During the final monitoring visits to seed kit recipients in northern Moatize Nkondezi area, IOM staff visited beneficiaries' machambas to assess the conditions of their fields, and provide additional advice when needed.
The interviews demonstrated that most families followed the guidance received on agricultural practices. Many beneficiaries reported significant agricultural output, and were hopeful of a boost to their household income with the sale of the produce.
"We are very thankful for the seeds. One part of what we produce here will help put food on our table and the other we will sell at the local market to help us fix our house and send our nephews to school", says one of the beneficiaries and his wife, smiling at the camera.
Manuel said, "I received eight different kinds of vegetables, and also beans and corn. I sowed the beans, tomatoes and onions, but needed to wait to sow the other crops until the water levels decrease following rains and flood. The difficulty in sowing is due to the lack of funds to hire labour. But after sowing, I expect a great harvest because the sowing area is huge. Part of the crop will be for sale at the fair and a portion will be for my family to eat.
A staff member wrote a post to honor women who received seed kits:
Dressed in their colourful capulanas, women come, single or married, with babies on their back or children by the hand - at times in their tummies - alone or with another women to help them carry the seeds and tool kits back home.
Women unwrap one of the capulana layers to pack everything inside, tie it all in a double-crossed knot and carry the 20kg package on their heads. They whisper a thank you as the staff helps lift the pack to balance it on their head then shyly smile before heading back home.
For many families, women are the main end users of the seeds and farming tools kits provided by IOM; they are ploughing the soil, sowing the seeds and caring for the crops to put food on the table.
We praise the strength of the women from the community of Cabango, in Moatize district, #Tete province, where IOM has been distributing 300 seeds and farming toolkits with funds from @eu_echo - thank you for your support!
In order to enhance protection measures, IOM will continue to work on behalf of displaced men and women and help provide a channel to report fraudulent activities or sexual exploitation they may face before, during or post-distributions.
In every district a representative of the District Economic Activities Service (SDAE), part of the Government of Mozambique was involved in this project.
Mr. Gerónimo Constantino Alaue, SDAE Director for Dôa district, Tete Provice, who focuses on agricultre said:
“In Doa district during Cyclone Idai the rainfall that is normally received over six-months poured down in just three weeks. Floods submerged crops; over 700 hectares of cropland was lost, along with livestock. Many homes were destroyed and people were evacuated to safe areas. Food security was greatly reduced.
With the help of ECHO this project distributed seed kits to hundreds of vulnerable families who were affected by the floods. Each family received seeds, an ax and a machete. After we received the seeds many people recovered their machambas (planting areas). The land was nice and wet for planting. They produced corn, beans, tomato, and other vegetables, which grew well and had good production. The situation improved a lot; the families began to feed themselves. The production of corn in the area equaled 30 tones.
One part of the harvest provided food for families to eat. Many families also sold a portion of their crop to buy sugar, salt, oil, and clothes and other things to improve their living conditions. They also used the money to matriculate their children in school. Some families were able to save the good seeds to develop the next crop.
We had good coordination in this project between IOM, SDAE and INGC. IOM came to help and we came to support the families who were affected. The project guaranteed food, and it continues to help us because the people are getting used to producing. We were happy that ECHO helped our district.”
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This project, "Life-saving seed distribution to conflict-affected returnees and host communities and flood affected communities in Tete, Mozambique", was supported by ECHO.