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Planting Seeds Of Resilience In Mozambique

WFP’s Cash for Work programme in Tete province has allowed food-insecure households to generate critical income during the lean season - the period before harvest when food is scarce. One participant describes her experience of the programme…

Lúcia Pita Sabonete holds the ATM card she received for her part in WFP's Cash for Work project.

WFP’s Cash for Work programme in Tete province has allowed food-insecure households to generate critical income during the lean season - the period before harvest when food is scarce. One participant describes her experience of the programme…

A few hours’ drive from the city of Tete in northern Mozambique, you find yourself in Nhandoa, a village surrounded by tall yellow corn stalks and vibrant vegetation set against a backdrop of green rolling hills. Amidst such scenery, deprivation does not readily spring to mind. But the lush landscape belies the harshness of an environment where food insecurity is high. Many families in Cahora Bassa district rely on agriculture for their food and are susceptible to the effects of unpredictable weather.

“This agricultural season was hampered by lack of rain, causing most crops to wither before the harvest,” explains Lúcia Pita Sabonete.

A 45-year-old widow, Lúcia is the sole caretaker of her eight grandchildren, whose parents have died. Only three of the eight are able to attend school - the rest help support the family by working in the fields.

Lúcia has also worked in gold mining to supplement the family’s minimal income but, when the lean season hit, there was only so much she could do to make up for the poor harvest.

In 2012, she was registered in WFP’s Cash for Work (CFW) programme, which addresses food gaps during the months when food insecurity is highest. Participants engage in building community assets that boost resilience and provide them with an income. In Nhandoa, WFP recently implemented two CFW projects: the creation of a community garden for seed multiplication and the construction of a centre for pregnant women.

Working alongside 60 other community members and supervised by a management committee of locals, Lúcia helped prepare the land and plant seeds for the garden.

In return for her labour, she received an ATM card and monthly cash transfers into a local bank account. She used the money to buy food and other necessities for herself and her family.

“I worked for four hours a day, four days a week, learning to make flower beds for cassava and sweet potatoes seeds, and also what to do after planting,” says Lúcia.

While the projects help people like Lúcia to generate money when few other options are available, the programme’s ultimate aim is to strengthen the community’s long-term resilience to disasters and climate-related shocks. The projects last no longer than four months – after that, the community assumes ownership.

“Because the garden is managed by community members, they’re able to take care of it after the end of the programme,” says Lúcia.

Just as Lúcia and other community members have planted the seeds for what has now become a flourishing garden, the seeds of teamwork and leadership produced by the project are likely to yield more successful community assets in the future.