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MOZAMBIQUE: Women at Forefront of Resisting Climate Change

Stanley Kwenda

JOHANNESBURG, Jul 7 2010 (IPS) - The Mozambican government has adopted various policies to address the effects of climate change, with special attention to women as studies show that they are more adversely affected by this phenomenon.

The south-east African country, with its coastline of 2,700 km stretching along the Indian Ocean, has increasingly been subjected to environmental disasters over the past decade.

The government’s policies aim to reduce the number of victims and the loss of property; developing a culture of disaster prevention; and developing the means to mitigate and prevent disasters. It also aims to boost environmental management. The policies have a particular gender focus.

One such policy is the ministry for coordination of the environment’s national adaptation programme of action (NAPA), developed as part of the United Nations (UN) initiative to assist least developed countries in coping with climate change.

Projects are prioritised that will assist Mozambique in buffering itself against adverse environmental effects. These projects are recommended for funding under the Global Environment Facility of the UN.

“Most women, about 73 percent, work the land in Mozambique and are therefore hard hit by the effects of climate change,” according to William Antonio Ndlovu, programme officer with the Maputo-based Diakonia Mozambique, in an interview with IPS. He stressed that more should be done to assist women.

Diakonia Mozambique is a Christian development organisation working towards sustainable improvement in the living conditions of vulnerable people.

Julio Fernando of the Christian Council of Mozambique told IPS that the effects of climate change represent a growing threat to livelihoods in his country. “Many Mozambicans are at risk but women are affected more. This is mainly because of poor responsive measures,” said Fernando.

The Christian Council of Mozambique is part of a network of faith-based organisations working on socio-economic issues, among others.

Research by the Cape Town-based office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Southern Africa confirms that “women and men are differently impacted upon by climate changes due to current power relations and their differentiated roles in these communities,” as Dr. Natasha Ribeiro, researcher of the study, put it in the report, titled “Gender and Climate Change: Mozambique Case Study”.

The foundation is associated with the German Green Party.

The reasons are that, “women have access to but not control over natural resources and other property rights. Additionally, women do most of the reproductive and part of the productive work, while men are only responsible for productive work”.

The study, published earlier in 2010, was conducted in the Gaza province located in the south of the country. It focused on the Mapai Ngale, a community vulnerable to droughts, and Magondzwene, vulnerable to floods since the year 2000.

It was found that droughts, strong winds and environmental degradation have caused women and men to spend more time working in agriculture to gain the same or lower yields than in previous years.

According to the report, communities are forced to change their way of life with women taking up more productive work as successive droughts over the past eight years caused men to look for jobs elsewhere. Women now work in alcohol brewing and selling as well as in fisheries.

This results in an increased burden on women who still look after the children, do domestic work and care for people living with AIDS and tuberculosis. Men still do not engage in reproductive work.

Men’s migration has enhanced women’s participation in decision-making structures as they are drawn into such structures to fill the gaps left by the migrating men.

Adaptation also involves finding alternative food sources and cultivating dry season’s vegetables, such as pumpkin, lettuce and tomatoes, all year round.

The study recommends that, due to women’s key role in communities, they always be considered as the priority group in any activity planned to ameliorate the effects of climate change. Special attention should be paid to women’s representation in decision-making structures and to capacity building in agriculture as women predominate in this sector.

A CARE International report on climate change similarly concluded in 2006 that climate change has the most impact on women in countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia. “As the main natural resource managers, the adverse effects of climate change are likely to be felt disproportionately by women,” the CARE report concluded. CARE is an international relief organisation.

According to a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) developed by the Mozambican government in 2006, the country is unlikely to meet the millennium development goals (MDGs) due to the effects of climate change. This is further made worse by the extreme poverty that already exists in Mozambique.

The country has also tried to integrate climate concerns in its Agenda 2025 programme, essentially a development programme that the government of Mozambique aims to actualise by the year 2025.

It also developed a gender strategy for the agrarian sector. The strategy aims at creating equal access to resources and opportunities between men and women. In addition it urges the implementation of programmes for diversification of subsistence crops and access to improved technologies, including agro-processing, in response to climate change.

The Böll study praises NAPA and the agrarian strategy as solid instruments but say that they still need to be implemented.

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