MOZAMBIQUE: Donors and drought go west

MAPUTO - Unless March brings good rain, up to 100,000 people in Mozambique's western province of Tete will need emergency food assistance, but the weather forecast is sunny and dry.

"The rains stopped falling regularly and in the past three weeks there
has been no rainfall at all," World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman
Peter Transburg told IRIN.

Small-scale farmers in Tete Province, which borders Zimbabwe, Zambia
and Malawi, have been hit particularly hard. "Should the situation
persist in the next three weeks, it will become critical," Transburg

Mozambique’s meteorological service (INAM) said the next few days might
bring slight relief, but was generally not optimistic: "We have hardly
recorded any rainfall in Tete over the past few weeks and our March
forecast shows this wet season is going to record lower rainfall than
that recorded last year – that’s a drought situation," the head of
INAM, Mussa Mustapha, told IRIN.

Our March forecast shows this wet season is going to record lower
rainfall than that recorded last year – that’s a drought
situationMozambique’s southern provinces – where up to 356,000 people
were already facing hunger by December 2008, according to WFP – have
received below average rainfall for the past three years.

Although the drought situation in the south has traditionally received
more attention, donors have increasingly started looking at Tete, where
"the situation has reached critical levels," Transburg said.

Towards the end of February a diplomatic delegation, including
ambassadors from United States, Canada and the United Kingdom,
travelled to Tete to assess the situation.

Todd Chapman, the Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy, said many people
in the province were facing poor harvests despite their proximity to
large water bodies.

"Just 30 kilometres from one of the water reservoirs behind the Cahora
Bassa Dam, we visited a rural farming community suffering from lack of
water. This points to a larger need to bring irrigation schemes to
these areas – irrigation schemes can produce more food, corn and water
melons," he told IRIN.

"Many people in the area are reducing food intake and they are being
forced to sell assets. Last year we provided more than US$3 million to
aid agencies, such as the WFP, to help with food assistance," Chapman

Transburg noted, "Unfortunately [WFP] resources can reach about 54,000
people and we do not have resources to meet the remainder until April.
About 3,000 tons is needed for Tete alone, and that is roughly
equivalent to US$3 million.


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