Mozambique

Mozambique: Rapid Nutritional / Food Security Assessment

Format
Assessment
Source
Posted
Originally published


Action contre la Faim - Mozambique

Rapid Nutritional / Food Security Assessment
Goonda Regulado, Goonda Administrative Poste,
Chibabava District, Sofala Province.
22 - 26 March 1999.

During the assessment as much relevant information regarding the present nutritional situation and the level of food insecurity The food security assessment was carried out using qualitative methodologies - key informants, focus group discussions, transect walks and observation. Information obtained from all of these sources was triangulated in order to cross-reference and verify the information that was collected. within the area was gathered. Additionally, an understanding of the situation within a "normal year" at this specific time was also sought in order to act as a base line / guide to how the situation had been affected by the floods and what could be considered as "normal" for this time of year.

Background to the Specific Area.

Gonda Regulardo is situated in the northern part of Chibabava District, bordering the NW area of Buzi District. The area has rivers on two of the three sides (Rio Buzi to the south, Rio Ruvue to the north), which meet in the most eastern area of this Regulardo, east of Gonda Madjaca. The western section of the Regulardo Makarate and Veruka zonas are situated in the western area of the Regulardo. is on higher ground than the eastern area Gonda Madjaca and Makova are situated in the eastern area of the Regulardo.. On the third side of the Regulardo is the main road (N1) that joins Beria and Maputo.

Access to this area since the floods has been difficult. At the beginning of March, the local authorities managed to travel from Gonda Sede to Markova by tractor. It was not possible to access Gonda Madjaca due to floodwaters. Access by the main road, is impeded by landmines in Chitause, which is on route to Gonda Regulardo.

During this assessment, the team was dropped by helicopter in Gonda Madjaca (transportation time 25 minutes). Access to Markova took 2.5 hours on foot on a narrow footpath through large areas of mud (40 - 50 cm depth) and water (70 - 100 cm depth). Access by boat would require a powerful engine due to the strong current, and it is not known if this is yet possible.

The population data supplied by the Regulo is illustrated below.

Village / Zona
Total Number of Families
Total Number of People.
Makova
86
432
Gonda Madjaca
119
521
Veruka
94
377
Makarate
86
412
Total
385
1742
It was not possible to carry out a full verification of the population lists that were supplied. However, during the nutritional section of the assessment the families involved (n=70; 18.2 %) were crosschecked on the population lists that had been provided. The total family size was not found to be over-estimated.

Through discussions with key informants and observation it was found that Gonda Madjaca and Makova were mainly affected by the floods, whilst Marakat and Veruka were affected by the cyclone. As a result of this information the assessment was focused upon Makova and Gonda Madjaca as they were stated to be the most vulnerable. A watermark observed on a well-constructed palhota Palhota is a traditional house that is built using wooden poles to form the basic structure for the walls and roof, the roof is thatched with dried grass, and the walls are filled with mud and smaller wooden poles. Most compounds have a Palhota (with open sides that is exclusively for cooking, with an upper floor for storage of food and seed stocks (the granary). from where the water level from the flood in Gonda Madjaca had reached was observed (the palhota was approximately 3-400 meters from the river) to be at 200 cm. It can therefore be assumed that the water levels closer to the riverbank were higher.

Displacement / Movement of the Affected Population.

Gonda Madjaca

The population within this zona had remained within the immediate area throughout the whole emergency. The floods started in the evening and as the water rose approximately 150 people sought refuge on the roof of the health post, whilst the other families climbed trees. Most families remained in these different locations for two to three days. People managed to take a large proportion of their possessions (cooking utensils, chicken, goats, seeds etc.) with them at this time. During the whole period of flooding, all households stated that all of the members remained together.

Makova

A similar situation was found to exist in Makova as in Gonda Madjaca. However, after the initial floodwaters subsided 20 - 25 families were reported to have left for Makarate towards the higher ground. These people returned approximately two weeks prior to the assessment. In the population movements that took place, families remained together as a single unit.

Internal Support, Coping Strategies & Solidarity within the Community

When the key informants and family heads were questioned about the support of the local authorities all stated that they had received no form of support. In Gonda Madjaca the community stated that they were displeased with the N’fumo for his lack of assistance and concern. However, the nurse of the health post was highly praised for assisting all of the people that came to the health post to get up onto the roof.

Solidarity within the community seemed to be low, with many of the families’ possessive of the remaining assets that they had. For example, when questioned as to whether they would share / loan their hoe to another family, they replied that it was not possible, and if they did they would require some form of collateral of equal value until their hoe was returned. This placed the hardest hit households, who had few assets remaining, into a difficult position.

Directly after the first flood when the water started to recede and the families believed that no more water was arriving, they planted the seeds that they had managed to save. All of the freshly planted seeds were washed away as a result of the two floods that followed. Thus in an attempt to obtain some form of harvest as quickly as possible, and to maintain a certain level of self-reliance, all of their seed assets were lost. Only a few families on the higher ground in Makarate that were visited were observed to have small areas of freshly cultivated land.

Availability of credit / loans to / between the community members is not present from either the local shop (one hours walk towards Makova) in a place called "little centre" or at the market stalls that are present sporadically along the main road (N1). However, food commodities can be exchanged in order to obtain either a greater diversity of food items or to purchase non-food commodities. Within some of the richer households’ tobacco leaves from the previous harvest were sold to obtain maize.

Nearly all of the families that were spoken to stated that at least one member of their family had at least twice walked to the main road and obtained casual labour on the large farms that are based around the this area. Most people worked for a period of two days before returning to their zona. Daily payment for this work was either maize (5-Kg), one sack of papaya and small quantities of salt and soap. The amount received of each commodity could not be given.

Food Supply

Trade

Within the assessed area there is one shop based in an area called the "small centre". This is approximately half way between Gonda Madjaca and Makova. This stocks mainly non-food items such as candles, lanterns, and tobacco leaves. Food stock was salt (5 000 MTc per 300gms) and biscuits. Commodities that were no longer present were blankets and sugar as it had not been possible for the owner to transport the commodities from the main road. The owner had been able to save most of his commodities, as the shop is not situated close to the river. However, he still had to move everything onto the roof. Access to this shop is still difficult due to mud and water on all routes leading to this location.

Commodities are also available on the main road as you exit Gonda Regulardo. Here people exchange tobacco for maize and chickens. The distance to this unofficial market from Gonda Madjaca and Makova is 8 and 5 hours respectively. The population in Gonda Madjaca was not using this unofficial market due to the distance and the difficulty in walking through the flooded areas and the high cost of the different item.

External Aid

In Gonda Madjaca no families had received any form of assistance since the floods. Food distribution by Action contre la Faim was planned using the ration defined by WFP for maize, peas, oil, sugar and high-energy biscuits. However, even though the distribution team were present in the location in order to carry out the food distribution, all of the food commodities that were required from WFP did not arrive. At the time of writing this report food was still being transported into Gonda Regulardo. Instructions, training and equipment were given to the secretary of the Regulo and the nurse who agreed co-ordinate the distribution that is hoped to take place by the end of March. Distribution is still dependent on the arrival of all of the food commodities. All families have been targeted within the Gonda Regulardo area due to the level of flooding and isolation since the emergency began.

At the end of February in Makova, Makarate and Veruka, some of families received 20-Kg maize, 0.2-Kg peas and 0.3-Kg of vegetable oil. The exact amount of families that received the commodities could not be given. However, it was stressed that there were many families that had not received any assistance.

Food Access & Availability

Normal Year

During a "normal" year in the area of assessment there is an adequate level of food commodities. The remaining food from the previous harvest is supplemented with fishing, collection of wild foods (including flying ants and grasshoppers), and purchasing of extra commodities through the sale of the tobacco crop On an average year a farmer can sell 250 - 300 bundles of tobacco leaves which provides an estimated income of 3 750 000 - 4 500 000 MTc. and excess maize crop. Throughout all of the discussions it was stated that there was usually no "hunger gap" and that there was always high levels of food available.

Cultivation of crops was stated to be the most important source of food / income. The farming practices are mainly riverine where cultivation of either maize (their staple food crop) or tobacco (the main cash crop) is carried out on the area adjacent to the riverbank. Further inland from the usual flooding area of the river the families plant other crops Supplementary crops include sweet potatoes, African groundnut, tomatoes, beans, peas, rice, sunflowers, rice and sorghum.. The provision for water for these crops is through rain and manual transportation of water from the river to the fields by the family. Due to this reason, the majority of the community lived close to the river. Within each compound there is usually a granary (food store) that is raised above the ground by approximately 150 cm. Crop production is supplemented by fishing and eggs / chickens. Fish consumption is usually high and is consumed 3-4 times a week. Fish are caught in the Buzi River through the use of fishing nets.

Present Situation.

Throughout the assessment large areas of cultivated land close to the river (approximately 200 meters in some areas, and larger pockets where the water had run further inland) had been completely destroyed and stripped of all foliage. No remaining cobs were left on the maize plants. In the remaining areas, the land had escaped the main force of the floodwater, although the crops had been affected by the cyclone. An estimated 25% of the maize crop within these fields was identified to be fit for consumption. However, in the majority of the fields that were assessed the maize had not been removed from the plant. No reason could be given for this. For the families that had settled further inland and planted after the first flood a small area of maize cultivation (approximately 5*10 meters) was observed. These families were however in the minority. Small pockets of land not been affected by the flood and were cultivated with sweet potatoes, sunflower plants, African groundnuts and rice. Approximately two thirds of the families were observed to have no hoes.

An abundance of wild foods were observed. This included okra (the varieties that produce both the fruit and only leaves), cassava, sugar cane, gergelin (wild green leaves that taste like spinach), and papaya. Where the floodwaters had receded small ponds remained. Within these ponds fish were still present and families had made basic fishing lines in order to catch these fish.

Chickens were observed in approximately half of the compounds that were visited. When questioned as to whether these were being eaten / sold we were told that they were keeping them for the future. They also stated that since the floods the chickens had not laid any eggs due to both the shock of the event and the loss of their male mate.

Local beer production was observed, with gatherings occurring nearly every day. In order to produce this commodity maize flour, sorghum or wheat is used in conjunction with sugar cane.

Food Consumption.

Prior to the floods an average of three to five meals a day were consumed. Breakfast during this time of the year would consist of either maize (still on the cob) or cassava. Lunch and dinner would consist of sadza (staple food made using maize flour) complemented by fish The main fish that is caught from the Buzi River is Bream. Once caught it is either eaten fresh, or is dried in the sun using salt (the preservation process maintains the fish for 1-1.5 weeks)., chicken, eggs, bananas and wild foods. The remaining meals would consist of leftovers from the main meals and fruit. Estimations of the quantities consumed were difficult to obtain; however the results are illustrated on the page 6. This is compared with the food consumption at present in order to draw a comparison on how the floods have affected food intake and diversity.

During and directly after the floods a small proportion of families spoke of eating rotten bananas from the passing banana trees that had been ripped from the soil by the force of the water. However, in general no food was consumed during the first three days after the floods began. When the families came down from the trees and roof of the health post, they collected papaya, rotten bananas and wild leaves. They also took fish from the surrounding water with their bare hands, as the fish population had become very high. Their consumption of fish at this time was stated to be higher than normal for this time of year.

Food consumption within a family now has reduced down to one main meal a day, usually eaten in the evening. The main foods observed in preparation were a combination of gergelin and okra leaves, and maize flour made into sadza. This was supplemented with papaya. On average fish is consumed every second day. The quantity of food per person was difficult to ascertain, however, the amounts obtained are illustrated on page 6. It can be seen that there has been a large decrease in the amount of food consumed by a person in a day.

Fish has become a more important staple food since the floods. At present the families are using makeshift fishing rods or spears and are obtaining fish from the small ponds that have remained inland as the floodwaters have receded. Once these pools of water dry up the access to fish by the community will be reduced as they lost their fishing nets during the floods. Once the inland ponds dry fish will only be available from the Buzi River. Due to the high number of crocodile that are present on the riverbank it would not be safe for the families to obtain their fish with the use of rods.

Proportional Comparison of Food Consumption during a Normal Year (pre-harvest) and at the time of the Assessment.

Note: The pie charts not only indicate the different food commodities that are consumed but also the size of the pie charts indicate the intake of food. In the "normal" year, three to five meals a day are consumed, compared with the present situation of one meal a day.

Normal Year Pre-Harvest.

After the Floods.

Nutritional Screening

Nutritional screening was carried out on a total of 70 families (Gonda Madjaca = 33; Makova = 37). Due to geographical (large areas of mud, water, and 2m high grass) and security (landmines, position unknown due to the floods) constraints it was not possible to carry out the nutritional screening as previously planned The nutritional screening was planned to be carried out in the following way. 1. Find centre point of village. 2. Define boundaries of the village. 3. Spin a pencil at the centre point of the village in order to identify the direction that the assessment will start. 4. Using the random numbers table, obtain a number that will be the first house to start the assessment. 5. At the first house randomly choose one child to be screened (according to age and height). 6. On completion of the first house, to do the first house on the left as exiting the house already screened. 7. To continue until a minimum of 30 children have been screened.. However, all families with children < 5 years were called by the local leaders to meet at a central point within each location. Children were selected using age (6-59 months) with the assistance of a local seasonal calendar, and height (65 - 110 cm) The lower height level of 65cm instead of 75 cm was taken due to the high level of stunting that was found to exist when researching previous nutritional surveys carried out in Sofala Province. Reference taken from the WHO Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition pp. 448, Ref. No. 01696, July - August 1995. Height / Age -3SD 19.0; -2SD 53.0. Additionally, it is the WHO standard to use the lower parameter for height of 65 cm when selecting a child to measure MUAC.. For the children that qualified within a family, one was randomly selected, measured and their details recorded. Additionally, five houses were also visited in each location when carrying out the food security assessment. When children within the nutritional criteria were present, one child was randomly selected and screened. Within these houses, no children were observed within the family to be malnourished.

The assessment focused upon the level of mortality risk within the population < 5 years with the use of the MUAC measurement on the left arm. The presence of severe malnutrition was also assessed through the diagnosis of bilateral oedema.

The parameters used to define the different levels of mortality risk are:

< 110mm: Severe Mortality Risk
110-/=119mm: Moderate Mortality Risk
120-/=130mm: High Risk of Mortality Risk
131-/=135mm: Moderate Risk of Mortality Risk.

Mortality Risk.

The following results were obtained for the assessment of mortality risk within the population targeted.

MUAC Parameters
Gonda Madjaca
Makova
Total No. (%)
< 110 mm
1
1 (1.4)
110-/=119 mm
1
1 (1.4)
120-/=130 mm
6
4
10 (14.3)
131-/=135 mm
3
4
7 (10.0)
>135 mm
24
27
51 (72.9)
Total
33
37
70 (100.0)
In both locations, a total of 2.8 % of the children screened were found to be suffering from severe / moderate mortality risk. A further 24.3 % were found to be at risk (high - moderate) of mortality risk.

A total of 72.9 % of the children screened were found to be healthy. Of the children that were identified to have a MUAC =< 135mm, 73.7% (n=14) were between 6-29 months The age bracket of 6-29 months is traditionally the most vulnerable age group, due to the introduction of the family plate, and an increased level of dependency on solid foods. Therefore if a families food security situation is jeopardised it will usually be this section of the community that is affected first..

The overall male to female ratio was found to be 1.4, which is too high to be able to carry out comparisons between the two genders. However, in Gonda Madjaca the ratio was 1.2, although no significant differences on the detected level of mortality risk and the risk of mortality risk was found to exist between the two genders.

Bilateral Oedema

No bilateral oedema was detected within the 70 households that were screened.

Shelter

Prior to the floods, the majority of the population lived close to the river in order to have easy access to water for both family use and for irrigating crops by hand. In both locations, the palhotas close to the river (approximately 15 minutes walk) were destroyed. The chief stated that two thirds of the original shelters were completely destroyed as a result of the flood. On observation, the palhotas closest to the riverbank showed no sign of ever existing, only small stems of maize remained. Further inland the palhotas had collapsed and had been engulfed by mud.

When the floodwaters began to recede, the families had moved to higher ground within the Gonda Madjaca and Makova areas. In their new locations they constructed temporary palhotas (only roof, no walls). They were in these temporary shelters during the second flooding, and the final flood when the Chikamba damn was opened. Many families did not feel confident that the rains had finished. It was observed in many of the compounds visited that the majority of their remaining assets were stored high in the branches of surrounding trees.

All of the basic materials that are required to construct the palhotas were readily available in the surrounding land not affected by the flood. Only one compound was found to be unaffected. No families were observed to be living in the open "under the trees".

Water.

Prior to the floods water was collected from the River Buzi. A well is present in Gonda Madjaca although this has not been used for some years due to an internal dispute. The area around this well is believed to be mined.

Directly after the floods the families in both locations consumed floodwater. They spoke of scooping the water from below them whilst they were in the trees / on top of the health post. At the time of the assessment water was being collected from the catchments of water that remained after the floodwaters receded. Once these become dry, the communities will obtain their water requirements directly from the River Buzi.

Future Plans

The information collection on future plans focused on the immediate and mid term future. All of the people that were spoken to did not intend to leave the area of Gonda Regulardo, even though they still feared more floods Some of the compounds visited still stored their remaining assets in trees..

They stated that if they had seeds they would plant them. However the majority of the families said that they would begin to clear the fields even though they had nothing to plant and no tools with which to do this. Family members plan to continue to walk to the main road in order to obtain casual labour on the farms in this area.

Their main concern was their lack of seeds and the implications that this could have on their livelihood. They stated that without seeds they would not be able to survive. An option that faced the families was that the head of the family would leave the area in order to seek employment to obtain seeds, tools, household equipment and money for food. However, the families that were spoken to, did not seem to think splitting the family was a positive option.

When the different groups of people from the community were asked to prioritise their needs the following four points were given:

1. Seeds and tools
2. Fishing equipment
3. Food
4. Blankets & cooking utensils

Discussion & Conclusion

Prior to the floods and cyclone the area assessed was self sufficient, with excess levels of food that allowed sale, exchange and the conservation of seeds for the next period of cultivation. There was also a source of cash from their tobacco crops. It was stated that at no time during the year was there a hunger gap. It could therefore be stated that this was a secure area in relation to food security.

The assessment has shown that the population has moved through the two stages of coping strategies. First by dealing with the initial crisis, through saving as many assets as possible, seeking refuge on higher structures, and surviving the first period when the flood waters were rising. The cyclone and floods resulted in the loss of food and cash crops, as well as a large proportion of their food stocks. The loss of crops was high due to the farmers cultivating directly along the bank of the river, and in the areas adjacent.

As the waters first started to drop the second stage of self-reliance was set into place by the consumption of wild foods, construction of temporary shelters and the planting of seeds that had been saved. However, this positive action was to turn against them on the arrival of the successive floods and cyclone that washed the freshly cultivated seeds away.

Due to the high fertility of the soil in the area there are abundant levels of wild foods. Catchment areas of water, that have remained after the floodwaters receded, contain fish that are caught with locally made rods and spears. Additionally, staple food obtained in the weeks prior to the assessment, from family members seeking casual labour at the boundary of the Regulardo, has provided the families with an extra source of food. It could be due to these factors that low levels of children with either a severe / moderate mortality risk were identified. However, 24.3% of the children screened were at risk of mortality risk. The most vulnerable age group identified within this "at risk" group was the 6-29 month category. This is usually the first section of the community that nutritional vulnerability is observed, due to the introduction of the family plate and reduced reliance on breast milk. It is this figure along with the already vulnerable level of food security within the families that causes concern. The reduced level of food intake from 3 to 5 to one meal a day, reduced quantities of food as well as lower access to fish (once the catchment areas dry up) lead to the conclusion that this is a vulnerable community when assessing the food security situation. However, the community has not yet reached a crisis situation, as there are still chicken present, and for some families maize to be collected from the fields. Local beer is also still being consumed. This would indicate that the situation is vulnerable, however has not reached an alarming situation. This present position could easily change if no intervention is made.

The population has moved through the two levels of self-reliance (crisis level to a temporary situation). With the provision of seeds and tools so that they can cultivate for the next harvest, fishing nets to access the fish in the river, along with general food distribution until the next harvest, the level of vulnerability in relation to food insecurity should be controlled, and eventually lowered. The community has the desire to move into a permanent position of self-reliance, which with the assistance previously stated should be possible by the time of the next harvest.

Recommendations

1. Seeds and tool distribution (specific seeds: maize, beans, peas and tomatoes) by mid April.
2. Fishing equipment distribution (nets and rods).
3. Re-installation package (cooking utensils, blankets...).
4. Monthly food distribution until the next harvest.
5. Monitoring and evaluation of the seeds and tools distribution.
6. Food security assessment to be carried out at the time of the next harvest.
7. Follow-up of the nutritional situation

Footnotes:

1 The food security assessment was carried out using qualitative methodologies - key informants, focus group discussions, transect walks and observation. Information obtained from all of these sources was triangulated in order to cross-reference and verify the information that was collected.

2 Makarate and Veruka zonas are situated in the western area of the Regulardo.

3 Gonda Madjaca and Makova are situated in the eastern area of the Regulardo.

4 Palhota is a traditional house that is built using wooden poles to form the basic structure for the walls and roof, the roof is thatched with dried grass, and the walls are filled with mud and smaller wooden poles. Most compounds have a Palhota (with open sides that is exclusively for cooking, with an upper floor for storage of food and seed stocks (the granary).

5 On an average year a farmer can sell 250 - 300 bundles of tobacco leaves which provides an estimated income of 3 750 000 - 4 500 000 MTc.

6 Supplementary crops include sweet potatoes, African groundnut, tomatoes, beans, peas, rice, sunflowers, rice and sorghum.

7 The main fish that is caught from the Buzi River is Bream. Once caught it is either eaten fresh, or is dried in the sun using salt (the preservation process maintains the fish for 1-1.5 weeks).

8 The nutritional screening was planned to be carried out in the following way. 1. Find centre point of village. 2. Define boundaries of the village. 3. Spin a pencil at the centre point of the village in order to identify the direction that the assessment will start. 4. Using the random numbers table, obtain a number that will be the first house to start the assessment. 5. At the first house randomly choose one child to be screened (according to age and height). 6. On completion of the first house, to do the first house on the left as exiting the house already screened. 7. To continue until a minimum of 30 children have been screened.

9 The lower height level of 65cm instead of 75 cm was taken due to the high level of stunting that was found to exist when researching previous nutritional surveys carried out in Sofala Province. Reference taken from the WHO Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition pp. 448, Ref. No. 01696, July - August 1995. Height / Age -3SD 19.0; -2SD 53.0. Additionally, it is the WHO standard to use the lower parameter for height of 65 cm when selecting a child to measure MUAC.

10 The age bracket of 6-29 months is traditionally the most vulnerable age group, due to the introduction of the family plate, and an increased level of dependency on solid foods. Therefore if a families food security situation is jeopardised it will usually be this section of the community that is affected first.

11 Some of the compounds visited still stored their remaining assets in trees.

Contacts

Based in Makova
Luis Marime GONDA
Alias JACHA
Zacarrias LUIS
Regulo for Goonda area.
Secretary to the Regulo.
Chief of Police
Based in Gonda Madjaca
Francisco PARINGWA
Moises Antonio Mozo RONDA
N’Fumo for Goonda Madjaca
Paramedic / nurse in health post.
Based in Makarate
Paulo CHATOCOTA N’Fumo for Makarate.
Based in Veruka
Armando ZANO N’Fumo for Veruka