Impact of local communities’ resilience strategies on the occurrence of natural disasters: Practical experiences in Mozambique

SOFIA VASCO, ALBERTO ABDUL LATIFO LOIOLA, MIGUEL NATHA

Introduction

The cyclical occurrence of natural disasters in Mozambique has been a serious problem for local communities. This is due in part to the geographic location downstream of the country, that is, hydrographic dams receive an enormous amount of water from neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The water retention capacity of the Mozambican dams is inefficient, which contributes to periodic flooding (Estratégia Nacional de Gestão de Recursos Hídricos, 2007).

The neighbourhood of Cariaco is located in the outskirts of the city of Pemba, with more than 47.000 inhabitants (most populous part of the city). It is situated on a steep slope, close to the sea and unsuitable for housing construction (Xavier, 2013).

Cariaco is characterized by disorderly housing and inappropriate places, in addition to the inoperability of space management plans at the level of municipal authorities. In addition, the lack of spaces for the construction of infrastructures to manage the heavy currents of the water from the rains has caused, among other damages, floods in housing areas thus making it difficult to access public roads, communications with surrounding neighborhoods and diseases (caused by poor management of rubbish, failure to meet hygienic standards and inability to treat well water with recommended chemicals) like cholera and malaria (Wazir, 2015)

This contribution aims to assess the impact of local community resilience strategies on the occurrence of natural calamities and, more specifically, to describe and demonstrate the resilience strategies of local communities in the fight against natural calamities.

This paper adopted a qualitative method (Canastra, Haanstra & Vilanculos, 2015) where a non-participant observation was favored as the researchers met with the local community to assess the response capacities of local communities in the event of occurrences of natural disasters. The in-depth interview (through individualized unstructured interviews) was chosen as data collection techniques (Triviños, 1987).

The people’s responses to damage caused by rainfall

In this section, we sought to know what damages were caused by the fall of rainfall in the areas of residence.

Part of the interviewed participants interviewed described in the following terms:

[…] the water has brought a lot of trash to our house. When the rain falls with great intensity, water enters the yard, spoils material goods, soils indoors with the mud, and when it enters the house brings waterborne diseases, litter and animal. […]. Therefore, we use our own means to avoid diseases like diarrhea that are brought by the black waters that leave the dirty sites. […]

[…] whenever the water came from that side ran there. So this water has already made a detour here and entered the yard and did much damage […] the kind of damage that the water has already done is to enter inside and the children who slept under the mattresses, already that day the children did not sleep because of the rainwater.

There was a lot of water here, if it would arrives that far, all the houses would have fallen. When we built the houses, we built with the fence, but everything went with the rain water. […]

Local strategies for preventing the effects of disasters and intervention measures

In this section, the study sought to identify and understand the strategies used by residents to prevent the effects of calamities, in the case of more specific rainfall.

The participants answered the following:

[…] I usually put sacks of sand and stones to defend myself against the currents of rain that have invaded my residence annually. Use of sacks containing sand and stone […] is a good strategy because it helps to prevent and combat natural calamities.

We take our bags, fill them with sand and stone. […] in this place, water has opened a big hole and people have started to leave trash to prevent the rain from damaging their homes. […] If you have the conditions, you can pick up blocks and a little cement to build a bat, so that when the water comes it can follow the course without destroying anything.

Vasco_Picture 1[…] here we put the tires through the water that comes from that side.[…] tires, sand, sacks, coconut shells and garbage minimize the impact of rainwater […] It  helps a lot because the water does not come indoors and also protect us from the soil erosion.

 

[…] We put sacks and tires to avoid the current of the waters when the rain fall. Sometimes we put trunks and planting trees […] and sometimes garbage (rubbish) has been piled up as they will come at the entrance to avoid such catastrophes, but the force of the waters ends up removing everything. It does not solve the problem. […]

 

Vasco_Picture 2[…] after having put the tires in, the water no longer enters the house, but part of the land of the yard is at risk due to erosion caused by the current of the waters.

These measures usually minimize what the impact would be. Because if they were not doing it, it would be worse. Life is better today, because when it rains the water does not cause damage as before […].

The multiple facets of the problem: Toward an integrated intervention

From the results obtained, it has been observed that, in part, the rains have negatively affected the residents of the studied neighborhood where there have been cases of landslides, destruction of fences and also erosion of soil endangering the houses, which end up being destroyed. Some factors compete for this situation, such as: disordered buildings that do not comply with the norms prescribed in the urban management plan; high levels of poverty that prevent residents from acquiring spaces in safe and conducive housing construction areas; the absence of education campaigns on land use planning and the use of effective alternatives for disaster prevention; poor land planning that did not include the construction of ditches for the drainage of rainwater (Lálá & Capela, 2016; Xavier, 2013).

The use of local alternatives and experiences by the citizens, which include mostly rudimentary materials, reflect the incapacity of the municipal authorities to be able to respond to these situations. Although they could minimize the problem in the short term, these haphazard practices become unsustainable in the long term.

The cities of Pemba, Nacala-Porto and Quelimane are benefiting from MZM 15000000 million (corresponding to US $ 236,50372) in financial assistance from the American Agency for International Development (USAID) for the implementation of the Coastal Cities Adaptation Program for Climate Change. Such financial assistance will supply the urban planning with resources for adapting to the effects of climate change, e.g. the construction of the first model resilient houses to withstand natural disasters. This will help the municipal managers to materialize their vision of transforming the city into a safe zone for living (USAID, 2014; USAID, 2015; Issa, 2016).

Conclusion

This article aimed to assess the resilience strategies of local communities in the face of the occurrence of natural calamities. The Cariaco neighborhood is located in the outskirts of the city of Pemba. Due to poor land use, the district of Cariaco has marks of destruction caused by the fall of rains that has affected in particular the residential areas.

The impact of damage is most visible on infrastructure, with emphasis on the destruction of houses and fences, in some cases, the water even invades the interior of the houses. The lack of solid infrastructures that allow for the drainage of rainwater is one of the factors that contributes to the prevalence of these scenarios.

Confronted with the inability of government authorities to respond to these problems, people have resorted to solutions based on local, rudimentary and low cost means. However, despite being able to minimize the problem, these measures prove unsustainable in the long run. A more integrated intervention by the municipal authorities, which favours sustainable measures of territorial planning, is required. Infrastructures such as drainage ditches that allow the flow of water should be a priority in order to cope with the floods caused by the fall of rainfall.

Meet the authors

Sofia Ahamad de Jany Vasco holds a Master in Accounting and Auditing. Lecturer and  coordinator of master’s courses  at Universidade Católica de Moçambique. She is a doctoral student in Communication Sciences (Marketing) at Universidade Católica Portuguesa.

Alberto Abdul Latifo Loiola holds a Master in Education and Development (Universidade Tecnica de Moçambique). He is a consultant (AVSI and Adelphi), lecturer and member of the Research Department at the Faculty of Tourism Management and Informatics (UCM).

Miguel Natha holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration (Universidade Eduardo Mondlane – Mozambique). He is a lecturer at Universidade Católica de Moçambique. His areas of interest are Public Policies, Civil Society, Decentralization and Public Sector Reforms.

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