3 Questions with Maria Olanda Bata: Withstanding Storms in Mozambique

Maria Olanda Bata is the chief of party of the USAID Mozambique Coastal Cities Adaptation Project (CCAP) and a food security, early warning, and disaster risk reduction specialist. CCAP works with vulnerable coastal cities in Mozambique to improve their resilience to climate variations and extreme weather.

What are the biggest risks if cities in Mozambique do not become more resilient?

It would be a catastrophe. Right now, we’re starting to see the impact of extreme climate events, and we know they will get worse. Even minor-seeming weather events can cause significant problems. For example, it rained lot in the city of Pemba in 2015 and the city stopped functioning completely. A bridge collapsed, streets shut down, and there were mudslides that destroyed houses. Flights were cancelled and the city had difficulty providing clean water. The area of Mozambique in which we work is also prone to cyclones, which have been increasing in intensity. A recent cyclone in March was a category 3, and scientific evidence shows that this kind of extreme weather will become more frequent and intense over time. It’s time for us to be prepared to live with these kinds of extreme events because they’re here to stay. If we don’t adapt, we may see much more serious effects.

Making cities more resilient can involve a trade-off between the desire to plan for long-term adaptation and the need to focus on more immediate threats. How have you navigated that trade-off?

The nature of this work is two-fold, and there are competing priorities. It’s true that adaptation necessitates long-term interventions, but communities also have immediate needs in terms of survival. For example, it’s difficult to tell a person that he cannot build his house in a zone that’s at risk for flooding, but if he’s already had to move from a war-affected zone and this is where he was able to build his house, it may not be easy for him to relocate.

It’s important to understand the poverty level in the area — we’re working with very poor people in an economy that isn’t as stable as one would hope. For example, we encourage mangrove restoration because it prevents erosion, but people cut down mangroves for fuel. The project can run an education campaign to inform the community of the benefits of conserving mangroves but unless I present an alternative to people, the education campaign won’t be effective.

In some cases, though, we are able to respond to these immediate problems in addition to long-term issues. For example, CCAP equips communities to respond to emergencies as a risk reduction intervention. We’ve helped communities establish local disaster committees, which are on the ground and can organize the community when a disaster strikes, and we’ve partnered with the Red Cross to train volunteers as first responders. We also provided them with disaster preparedness kits that have warning flags, stretchers, shovels, flashlights, and other useful tools.

 Despite these challenges, the mindset of the municipalities we work with is organized around long-term impact. I admire these municipal decision-makers because they have both the vision for long-term change but can also recognize where their city is at now. The mayor of Pemba remarked recently that some simple changes can make a big difference in the long term, like organizing city zoning through the cadaster with risk reduction in mind. It’s not a huge investment, but vulnerability mapping is a tool they didn’t have before that has now resulted in new practices. Just bringing knowledge combined with tools that aren’t very expensive can make a positive impact.

One pressing issue in Mozambique and many other countries around the world is that infrastructure is not built to stand up to natural disasters. What role can development projects play in encouraging better housing construction?

We are working  with UN-Habitat to improve resilient housing in Mozambique, and the model has the potential to be scaled up. We started with an assessment of the types of housing infrastructure that exist in the cities of Pemba and Quelimane, which revealed construction deficits in terms of sturdiness. After the assessment, we worked with UN-Habitat, the municipality, and the local community to come up with a design prototype through a stakeholder consultation process. We prototyped designs for one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom homes, and the designs specify how to place the roof, tie the poles, and build the platform so that the house is sturdy, and also incorporate a rainwater harvesting system and adequate sanitation facilities. The materials used are locally available. The design is a bit more expensive to construct than a standard house, but it’s worth it in the long run. Because the resilient house is sturdier, families won’t have to invest each year to put on a new roof because their house is less likely to be damaged by a cyclone or high winds.

The prototypes were accepted by all parties involved, and UN-Habitat and CCAP have trained local master builders to take the lead on construction. As the next step, we plan to work with UN-Habitat to develop manuals and instructional videos to share with a larger audience beyond Pemba and Quelimane. CCAP was designed to test and evaluate techniques in Pemba and Quelimane with the goal of expanding to other cities, and that’s what we plan to do with resilient housing. We’ll work with the Ministry of Public Works, Housing and Water Resources and the Fundo Para o Fomento de Habitação (Fund for Housing Development) to help them promote these techniques nationally, and the Ministry of Fisheries has already approached CCAP and expressed interest in constructing similar houses for fishing communities along coastal districts in northern Mozambique.

Read more about the Mozambique Coastal Cities Adaptation Project (CCAP).

Leave a Comment

New Report Synthesizes Evidence on Climate Risks to Health in Africa

This blog post originally appeared on Climatelinks. Thanks to aggressive interventions in recent decades, remarkable progress has been made across sub-Saharan Africa in reducing child mortality, malaria deaths, and stunting rates, and improving overall health. But these gains may be lost as climate and weather variability put more people at risk of infection and death from climate-sensitive diseases. In East Africa alone, for example, malaria infection rates are expected to rise with 45 to 65...

Read More »

Building a Stronger Business Case for Resiliency Planning in Asia

The landmark 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) Paris Agreement recognized the need for a multi-pronged approach to reach the ambitious development goals set by 195 countries, 34 of which are in Asia. With one-third of the world’s total population, Asia is increasingly vulnerable to climate change due to its low-lying, heavily populated coastlines and dependency on agricultural exports. The global economic loss in the Asian markets attributed to natural disasters is astounding. In 2016,...

Read More »

Can Ocean Temperature Changes Forecast Malaria Transmission in Southern Africa?

This blog post originally appeared on ClimateLinks. In backpacking across Africa as a recent college graduate, James Colborn felt drawn to the place and the people and wanted to do more than just travel around as a tourist. Soon after, he found his calling in global health. Today, Colborn has a Ph.D. in parasitology and years of experience working on malaria in sub-Saharan Africa with organizations ranging from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Clinton Health...

Read More »

How a Small City Can Take on the Big Challenge of Conservation Financing

By Jana Franke-Everett and Anselmo Cabrera Negros, the fourth-largest island in the Philippines, is best known for sugar and grilled chicken. However, the charcoal that fuels restaurant owners’ income challenges the source of livelihood for rice and sugar farmers. What is the link between a tasty grilled chicken and a cup of rice? Well, the demand for charcoal puts pressure on the island’s remaining natural forest that protects the watersheds because the forests in the uplands are a common source...

Read More »

Is “Secure Enough” Good Enough for Land Tenure? A Case Study from Rwanda

By Michael Brown and Ailey Kaiser Hughes What is “secure enough” tenure? The concept of “secure enough” tenure has been discussed in the context of humanitarian and post-disaster programming and increasingly through donor initiatives. In our new paper, we adopt the following definition of secure enough tenure, established by USAID: “[T]he benchmark of tenure security [is] when rights to land and natural resources are not arbitrarily contested by the state, private entities, or others and that...

Read More »

Climate Information Services: Distilling Data into Informed Decision-Making

Climate information services (CIS) is the new acronym on the block in the global environment and climate resilience community. The Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) is the leading international advocate and authority on CIS. It was established in 2009 as a result of a U.N. initiative to support integrated international efforts for the development and uptake of CIS in support of decision-making. GFCS emphasizes that “climate is what you expect, and weather is what you get,” and defines...

Read More »

Local Government: A Channel for Action on Climate Adaptation

This blog post originally appeared on Climatelinks. New research in Mali highlights a promising opportunity for action on climate change adaptation: local government development planning. Tim Finan and Mamadou Baro of the University of Arizona presented results of a study supported by USAID’s Adaptation, Thought Leadership, and Assessments (ATLAS) project on January 12 at USAID’s monthly Adaptation Community Meeting. The study explored ways in which Mali’s 25-year-old decentralized...

Read More »

Bringing the Power of Google to Scientists in the Lower Mekong

This blog post was contributed by SERVIR, a joint initiative by NASA and USAID, and was originally posted on www.servirglobal.net. Landscapes on Earth are changing at unprecedented levels. For scientists, practitioners, and environmental decision makers, tracking these changes efficiently and accurately is critical to protecting lives and livelihoods. While there are many ways to learn about the dynamic nature of the Earth, satellite technology provides a unique perspective in observing our land,...

Read More »

Bringing Climate Science into Development Planning

This blog post is adapted from a post that originally appeared on Climatelinks. Climate science is a complex field, and communicating that science and its implications for development programming in a way that is clear, but does not oversimplify, is a persistent challenge. Yet bridging the gap between research and implementation is vital for development practitioners to understand the variables that projected climate changes may introduce into their planning across sectors, and for them to manage...

Read More »

In Focus: The Calm Before the Storm

Before a natural disaster hits in the United States, most Americans learn about incoming dangerous weather events through mobile phone weather apps, weather websites, radios, and televisions. But in many developing countries, people are often unprepared when a storm hits. The consequences can be dire. In a country that is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, damages caused by flooding are expected to cost Mozambique approximately $45 million by 2030, and caused more than 2,000 deaths...

Read More »

A Paradigm Shift is Necessary for REDD+ to Be Sustainable

In 2013 I wrote a book called Redeeming REDD: Policies, Incentives, and Social Feasibility for Avoided Deforestation, published by Earthscan. In the book I argue that reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD, and the latest variant known as REDD+), needs a suite of enabling conditions, independent of market viability as well as measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) systems in order to be redeemed as an effective approach. REDD projects, it was hoped, would feed...

Read More »

Wildlife and Plant Trafficking – Is Prohibition the Only Answer?

A few weeks after the CITES COP17, which took place earlier this month in Johannesburg, I am left wondering: What impact will the increased prohibitions on the international trade of endangered animal and plant products have? And how will the rural African communities I work with, who deal with dangerous wild animals, see the agreements? The key question for any assessment of CITES is whether prohibition is the answer to the problem of illegal trade in endangered species. It looked to me like...

Read More »

Diffusing Land-Use Conflict with Science and Transparency

The challenge of equitable and efficient land allocation Land-use decision making forces politicians and land managers to grapple with choices that pit one interest group against another, and every decision seems destined to create conflict. But what if potential land uses could be ranked and supported by science? Are there win-win scenarios out there, waiting to be discovered? In the Okavango River Basin, one approach is doing just that. The Land-Use Conflict Identification Strategy, or LUCIS, is...

Read More »

Meet 3 Animals that Tell Us About the Health of the Philippines' Forests

Some animals that depend on the forest tell us a great deal about the health of their environment and the effectiveness of efforts to preserve it. In the Philippines, environmentalists and government officials are using a new system called the LAWIN Forest and Biodiversity Protection System to monitor the state of forests in an unprecedented way – among other things, collecting data on the presence of forest-dependent species.  The Philippines' vanishing forests Like many developing countries, the...

Read More »

3 Questions with Mozambican Mayors: Local Perspectives on Climate Change Resilience

Manuel de Araujo, Tagir Carimo, and Rui Chong Saw are the mayors of Quelimane, Pemba, and Nacala — three coastal cities in Mozambique that are struggling with the effects of climate change. The mayors are collaborating with USAID/Mozambique’s Coastal City Adaptation Project, a five-year project aiming to increase the cities’ capacity to effectively respond to the impacts of climate change.  Do you feel that climate change is impacting your city? If so, what is the day-to-day impact? Tagir Carimo:...

Read More »

5 Considerations for Measuring Resilience

Mainstreaming resilience has catapulted to the top of the development agenda in recent years. It is now an integral part of climate change strategies at the local, national, and international level. Resilience, once a secondary outcome, has become a principal objective in designing and measuring the results of both climate adaptation and mitigation in addition to poverty reduction programming. The recent Adaptation Futures Conference in May, which featured several sessions on measuring...

Read More »

What the Paris Agreement Means for the Sustainable Development Goals

The signing of the Paris Climate Agreement today, on Earth Day, represents a global consensus that climate change has, and will continue, to fundamentally alter our natural systems and challenge our way of life unless we take collective and measured steps towards a carbon neutral path. Significantly, it comes on the heels of another monumental international agreement that recognizes the importance of climate change – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Climate change and poverty are...

Read More »

Benefiting Equally from Land – Reaching Women Before It’s Too Late

The timing, approach, and pace of land reform and collective farm restructuring throughout the former Soviet republics has varied dramatically – and in many places is still ongoing. Whether government chose to privatize land, guarantee land use rights, or keep the status quo of state ownership, land and access to it remains critical for millions of citizens who rely on the land for their livelihoods. Land challenges faced by those throughout Europe and Eurasia is very similar to tens of millions...

Read More »

This Land is My Land: Securing Land Rights for Vulnerable Groups Through Responsible Governance

This week, hundreds of the world’s leading land rights scholars, practitioners, and governors will convene in our nation’s capital for the World Bank Land and Poverty Conference. The theme of this year’s conference is “Scaling up Responsible Land Governance,” and conference-goers will join forces to develop clear pathways for “working at scale, mainstreaming innovations, and sustaining investments in land governance.” This month also marks another significant event in land rights history, as more...

Read More »