Floods in Mozambique a disaster for SA/Moz farmers

The flooding of the Limpopo River basin had claimed the lives of about 70 people and displaced an estimated 180 000 by the end of January.

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South African farmers in southern and central Mozambique have also been struck a blow by heavy rains which swept away crops and infrastructure. Thousands of locals have made their way to emergency shelters in centres at Chokwe and Xai-Xai, among others. The Mozambican government has been assisted in rescue operations and efforts to distribute supplies by the UN, Gift of the Givers, the SA National Defence Force and the SAAF.

Dirk Hanekom, CEO of AgriSaMoz, linked to AgriSA, which managed the interests of South African farmers in Mozambique, said the situation remained dire. “A lot of our farmers are under stress. There is a huge SAAF extraction operation under way with choppers assisting the UN and the Mozambican government. One South African family is still stranded in the Gaza province. They are trying to get fuel so they can move by means of improvised barges,” he said.

According to Hanekom, locals were flocking to farmers for assistance and AgriSaMoz President, Piet Potgieter, was working with the disaster team at the operation command centre in Xai-Xai. “Water levels are very high so people can’t move and the situation is really hectic in terms of access to clean water and energy. Some farmers have converted quad bikes to motorboats to get around.”

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Farmers connected to the Limpopo River basin, in the provinces of Manica, Gaza and Inhambane, have been badly affected, including those at Chokwe, the heart of the biggest irrigation scheme in the country. “That whole river basin is flooded, with some parts a metre underwater. Farmers have lost crops and equipment but they are okay. Two farmers I spoke to lost pivots and tractors, Hanekom said. “Many received flood warnings and were able to save some equipment.

The biggest loss is in crops on the land. Sugarcane has been swept out to sea, rice projects have been destroyed. It’s hectic down there.” Beef farmer Charles Cawood, who farms further north in the province of Tete, said they had not been affected by rains. “The river has come up but it is nothing to worry about. Maize farmers here are going to have a huge crop as a result of these rains,” Cawood said.