The River Búzi in Mozambique bursts its banks with increasingly regularity – a consequence of climate change. Cussara José Chicamba is the man who prepares the riverside village communities for the worst-case scenario.
Over the past ten years, 670 volunteer disaster risk management committees have been set up; today they have more than 8,000 trained helpers. On behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ is supporting its partners in Mozambique to adapt to climate change.
What do the people in these village communities live off?
In my village most people live off the land; nearly everyone’s fields are located directly at the riverside. We also fish in the river. Everything we do helps sustain our livelihoods.
What is it like to live by the river?
We are at the mercy of the River Búzi’s moods – it provides for us, but it harms us, too. It gives us fish to eat and water for our plants. But when the rains are heavy, it can overflow its banks, wiping out our crops and with them, our livelihoods. The floods can catch us unaware at night when we are in our beds, which is why we have to be very vigilant.
Has a disaster already occurred?
In 2000 we had a flood we weren’t expecting. Hundreds of people drowned and thousands of homes were swept away, as were animals and entire fields. This affected me really badly. I saw the water rise and I saw the devastation that it caused but I was unable to do anything about it. Seven years on, when we were hit by a cyclone, the early-warning system paid off. All of the inhabitants in the region were able to get to safety in time and we had enough supplies of food and drinking water.
How do you protect yourself and others today?
As a volunteer first-aider for disaster management and control, I have learned to respond correctly to the dangers of nature. We now have an observation system for the River Búzi: we read off the water level at the measuring stations and radio our findings to the analysis and forecasting centre. If there are any anomalies, they inform the DRM committees in the villages. In the case of a red alert, they warn people via megaphones and radio. If a cyclone is forecast, people are escorted to safe shelter; if a flood is coming, we evacuate them to higher ground.
What does it feel like, having so much responsibility?
It feels right. We have learned to live with the floods and to act appropriately. We are prepared. The floods can come – I’m not afraid.
Cussara José Chicamba has been training volunteer flood workers and disaster risk management committees for GIZ throughout the country since 2013. In this way people are better prepared for coping with climate change.