Helping survivors of Cyclone Idai to reinvent themselves to face COVID-19

Isabel taking care of her crops
Monday, September 21, 2020

In Búzi, the district of the Mozambican province of Sofala most devastated by the floods that followed Cyclone Idai, lives Isabel Rucato –a 53-year-old widow who saw all her belongings that she'd acquired over half a century through many sacrifices being swept away by the violent winds and waters. Throughout her life before the disaster, she had already experienced many challenging moments of advance and retreat. The past couple of years have been especially challenging for reasons far beyond her control.

“The past two years have been very challenging. In 2019, I lost everything I had due to Cyclone Idai and this year of 2020 it's also difficult to organise life because of the global coronavirus pandemic. It is very sad what we are experiencing nowadays. Just only God knows,” says Isabel, who is also the head of a family of 10 members, among whom are unemployed children, a daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren; Marcos (5), Josefa (8), and Halina (11).

Isabel recalls that, because the house in which they lived was destroyed, her family slept for a little more than 15 days in the open space without provisions because the roads were completely blocked by the floods. “We went through the worst moments of our lives those days. I'm very scared just to remember. We barely survived.”

The waters evaporated and Isabel's family received a shelter kit to set up their residence, ending long days of lack of privacy, security, and suffering. Along with the shelter kit and food provisions, Isabel also received –through World Vision with funding from the Alliance of German Aid Organisations (ADH)– vegetable seeds like beans, tomatoes, cabbage, rice, maize and other agricultural inputs to produce on her 50x50 farm, as a sustainable measure to provide relief after Cyclone Idai.

“This humanitarian aid is being very critical for us since with the Cyclone Idai we lost everything and the seeds we were provided are showing excellent results. Some portion of the cabbage, beans, and tomatoes that I harvest I use to sell to fill some financial gaps and the other portion is for family consumption,” Isabel shares, pointing to her crops.

Isabel is preparing cabbage that she harvested from her farm
Isabel is preparing cabbage that she harvested from her farm


To increase her production and productivity, Isabel, along with around 2,000 other beneficiaries, has received training in advanced agricultural production techniques. "We are having good harvesting and I still hope to have more assessing how the seeds we sowed are growing."

Isabel uses the money earned from the selling of another portion of the harvest for her family's upkeep; buying soap, sugar, among other household inputs. “I am very excited about the results. I was hopeless about having so many crops because I didn't have the money needed to restart. Today, my grandchildren and children don't cry because of hunger, ”says Isabel  smiling.

However, there still some challenges, above all, those related to the need to provide her family with a decent home that is resilient to climate change. “With the money I've saved, I had a plan to build a safe house but because the demand for the products that I sell decreased due to COVID-19, this dream is put on hold,” regret Isabel.

Before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Isabel traded bananas, sugarcane, among other seasonal fruits, in Nova Sofala; a potential tourist region. For the moment, everything has stopped because those who bought her banana, mostly tourists, no longer visit that place due to the restrictions imposed by the presidential decree of a state of emergency aiming to prevent the spread of COVID-19. "This disease put my plans off because I am no longer doing my business."

But because crises should also be used as moments of reinvention, Isabel decided to use part of her savings to buy some basins to resell and thereby continue to dream and take care of her family.

Isabel is looking forward to the success of her new business
Isabel is looking forward to the success of her new business



By: Lourino Pelembe, World Vision Mozambique Communications Officer