In wake of Cyclone Freddy, locally led climate action saves lives in Mozambique

  • May 24, 2023

  • MAPUTO, Mozambique

Consultative Council members inspect the site where a new health clinic will be built after their village near Rovuma in Mopeia District was designated to receive this improvement to its basic infrastructure as part of efforts to make areas of Mozambique more resilient to climate change. Credit: UNCDF/Karel Prinsloo.
One month after Cyclone Freddy made landfall for a second time in Mozambique, creating severe disruption to critical services and destroying hard-won development gains, locally led climate action is delivering encouraging results. Thanks to anticipatory action and investment efforts by the government, the number of deaths and people displaced by the cyclone appears to have been lower than in past cyclones of similar magnitude. One of these efforts is the Improving Local Climate Resilience in Mozambique (MERCIM) Program, funded by the European Union and technically supported by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).
“What remains of my house is just a standing wall," said 35-year-old Ana Momade from Mopeia District, Zambezia Province, one of the most affected areas by Cyclone Freddy.
She avoided physical harm thanks to a community-based early warning system that instructed her to seek shelter at a local school. The school is one of the resilient infrastructures delivered by MERCIM in the province.
Scene of destruction after the second landfall of Cyclone Freddy in Zambezia Province, Mozambique, on 12th March. Credit: INGD
“Last year, Cyclone Gombe was the first extreme event to test our work, and now again the infrastructures were tested by Cyclone Freddy; What we do saves lives,” affirmed Rui Semo, Director for Planning and Infrastructure Services, Morrumbala District, another local government supported by MERCIM.
Mozambique ranks among the top three countries in Africa that are most vulnerable to climate change. In the last decade, Mozambique has been hit by six cyclones and two tropical storms, impacting around four million people. Cyclone Freddy is the latest of these, affecting around 800,000 people.
The MERCIM Program was shaped in 2019 by the Ministry of Land and Environment, aimed at four districts (Memba, Mopeia, Morrumbala and Mossuril), in the provinces of Zambezia and Nampula, selected in consultation with the Government of Mozambique and its development partners.
In March this year, the Government of Mozambique and the European Union signed a 4,5-year agreement worth EUR 15 million to expand climate finance in the country through MERCIM. With its expansion, MERCIM+ now covers 10 districts in four provinces (Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Sofala and Zambezia).
New resilient school in Chicuapo village in Morrumbala District. Credit: UNCDF
“It's not a theory; When Cyclone Gombe and now Freddy hit the country, thanks to MERCIM, we had already put in place infrastructures that were able to resist the cyclone and allow the local communities to go back to their life in a very fast time,” explained Antonino Maggiore, European Union Ambassador to Mozambique.

Strengthening the capacity of local governments

MERCIM uses UNCDF methodologies that strengthen the capacity of local governments to improve the delivery of climate-resilient basic services to communities and to enhance decision-making processes based on local knowledge.
This means providing capacity building and technical assistance to governments so that communities can genuinely participate in planning, budgeting, and other local governance processes.

To do this, it uses a participatory, gender-sensitive and bottom-up approach to challenges, which through the use of local consultative councils ensures essential buy-in from communities. First, local communities are engaged in what they consider to be their greatest needs, proposals are then forwarded to local and then provincial administrations.
Consultative Council members participate in discussions during the prioritization exercise of the resilient investment project in Morrumbala, Mozambique. Credit: UNCDF/Helvisney Cardoso
“As climate change directly affects communities, it is with the communities themselves that we must discuss solutions to adapt to this new reality,” affirmed Rui Semo, a local government official, who was trained locally by MERCIM, in his native district of Morrumbala.
Rui Semo, Director for Planning and Infrastructure Services, Morrumbala District. Credit: UNCDF/Helvisney Cardoso
MERCIM channels climate finance through the national public financial management system to local government authorities for locally led adaptation, using Performance Based Climate Resilience Grants. Such grants provide additional decentralized resources to finance local climate resilient investments. Annual performance of local authorities determines their budget allocation for the following year.
“The performance based grants are addressed to reward those local governments that adequately execute its roles and responsibilities within the public financial management system; This will ensure in due course an inclusive planning and financing cycle benefiting equally men and women”, said Ramon Cervera, UNCDF Representative in Mozambique.
Since the inception of MERCIM, 26 projects and resilient infrastructures have been fully funded, with 18 completed and accounted for in the four target districts. All these infrastructures and investment projects were identified, prioritized, selected, and approved by the population of the districts together with local governments, taking into account the existing Local Adaptation Plans - a key tool of the National Strategy on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.

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