Maputo - The government and humanitarian organisations face a race against time to revive the farming, fisheries and livestock sectors that have borne the brunt of the Cyclone Idai ravaging Mozambique in recent weeks.
According to experts, for a country where some 80% of the 29 million population is reliant on agriculture, it would be critical to save the remaining animals, rehabilitate damaged land and reboot food production when waters recede.
The violent storms destroyed vast cropland of the staple maize and sorghum on the eve of the April-May harvest and ruined much of the crops - including cassava and beans - when homes were destroyed. Nearly 500,000 hectares were flooded.
There was extensive damage to damage to irrigation, wells and animal watering holes.
United Nation Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) projects most of the losses will be from the Manica and Sofala provinces. These regions account for a quarter of Mozambique’s cereal output.
Hundreds of livestock were lost to the floods.
Fishers also lost their assets and infrastructure, particularly in Beira, the port city worst affected by the floods and is the main port for importing wheat and rice.
FAO has requested an initial US$19 million (R270 million) to assist farmers resume food production, help fishing communities and support livestock owners over the next three months.
This is ahead of the main agricultural season that begins September.
“When the floodwaters recede, it will be crucial that the government, FAO and their partners get in fast,” said Olman Serrano, FAO's representative in Mozambique.
Serrano is also the coordinator of the organisation’s response to the crisis in the country.
“Once we have established how and how much land can be rehabilitated, we will procure and distribute seeds as a matter of urgency so that farmers can plant for the secondary agricultural season, which is starting now, in April,” the FAO envoy said.
Disaster-prone Mozambique was among three countries –alongside neighbouring Malawi and Zimbabwe – devastated by Cyclone Idai.
The official death toll in Mozambique rose to 518 as of April 1.
Daniele Donati, Deputy Director of FAO's Emergency and Resilience division, said climate change contributed to understanding the extreme nature of the cyclone, as well as to the approach towards humanitarian relief.
“It calls on us all to expand the concept of life-saving interventions to include livelihoods protection. Normalizing livelihoods is a first-order priority,” Donati said. – CAJ News