Smallholders Resilience to Extreme Weather Events in Chókwè district, Southern Mozambique
Extreme weather events (EWEs) have been referred to as rare and severe events within a specific area and time. They have been said to exert a significant toll on rain-fed agriculture, which is the main farming system by the smallholders in Mozambique. This study used the smallholder’s perspective of EWEs to understand their resilience. Through discussions with the smallholders, the study identified risks and vulnerabilities posed by EWEs; and assessed capacities of smallholders to respond. In addition the study discussed the coping strategies which the smallholders were using. The coping strategies were contrasted with context factors and established evidence to identify the ones which would contribute to the improvement of smallholder’s resilience.
The findings of this study indicate that the EWEs occurring in Chókwè district include drought, heavy rains, floods, and strong winds. These were reported to occur more frequently and with increased magnitude. Some of the major impacts include total crop losses and reduced yields. The smallholders have employed various coping strategies to respond to the impacts. These include delayed planting, crop replacement and diversification, growing drought tolerant crop varieties, multiple field location and irrigation. Though all the mentioned strategies have potential to improve resilience this did not happen in Chókwè district. The study found that this was due to a number of constraints which include lack of access to resources such as efficient technology, land, and credit. In addition the smallholders also lack access to insurance.
This study has shown that resilience of smallholder farmers to the risks posed by EWEs in Chókwè district is about reversing the lopsided balance between vulnerabilities and capacities. Currently the vulnerabilities out-weigh the capacities to withstand and recover from impacts that happened in past; as well as the risks anticipated in the future.
Therefore, improving resilience of the smallholder farmers should be a combination of inextricably linked aspects. The gap in locally relevant information about EWEs should be addressed to reduce the uncertainty surrounding the anticipation of their occurrence. This should be complemented by reduction of asset and technology vulnerabilities. The latter is important because coping capacities are not necessarily absent, but just inadequate due to resource limitations. In addition smallholder farmers need to have access to risk transfer mechanisms such as insurance because the probable losses as a result of impacts of EWEs cannot be completely eliminated. Essentially, what is required is to approach all aspects as components of a system of interrelated parts. Resolving one will not translate into resilience unless the other aspects are also improved.