Mozambique News Agency
The lower Zambezi valley has been hit by flooding according to information provided by the National Water Board (DNA). The Zambezi river has continued to rise remorselessly in Caia and Marromeu districts, in the central province of Sofala - areas which were flooded in late January. At Caia, the Zambezi rose from 5.95 metres at midday on 10 March to 6.36 metres on the morning of 13 March: the flood warning level at Caia is five metres. Further downstream, at Marromeu, where flood alert level is 4.75 metres, the river reached 5.7 metres by 13 March.
Upstream, large amounts of water have continued to pour into Cahora Bassa lake, with 6,035 cubic metres a second was entering the lake on 11 March, gradually filling up the lake. On 12 March, at the dam wall the height was measured at 324.8 metres. When that measurement reaches 326 metres, the lake is regarded as completely full. The Cahora Bassa dam management was therefore obliged to increase discharges from the dam to 2,770 cubic metres a second on 11 March. With Cahora Bassa releasing water at this level, the levels of the middle and lower Zambezi will remain high.
The Pungue river, west of Beira, is also giving cause for concern. Despite earlier optimism that there would be no flooding in the lower Pungue valley, on 13 March the river, measured at the Mafambisse sugar plantation, went above the flood warning level of 7.5 metres.
The Licungo, in Zambezia province, is also above flood warning level at the town of Mocuba.
In the south of the country, most of the rivers are in retreat. Nonetheless, the Limpopo, measured at Combomune, in the upper Limpopo valley, is still above the flood alert level of 4.5 metres. But this has not yet translated into a serious threat to agricultural and population centres such as Chokwe and Xai-Xai further downstream.
Flood destruction overshadowed by drought
So far this rainy season there have been 16 deaths as a result of storms and floods, according to the Minister of State Administration, Lucas Chomera. Speaking in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Chomera said that heavy rains and floods had also destroyed 2,156 homes and 26 schools. 7,400 hectares of crops had been lost.
He said the government had evacuated 2,187 people from the islands of Nhanhe and Resende in the Zambezi river, who were threatened by the Zambezi flood of late January.
According to the minister, 2.8 billion meticais (about $112,000) had been made immediately available to the governments of the three worst affected provinces - Sofala, Nampula and Gaza. Provincial plans, he added, were drawn up to ensure that agricultural inputs are available so that peasant families who have lost their crops can replant.
Chomera also said that the health authorities have brought a cholera epidemic in Caia, the Sofala district worst hit by flooding, under control. The number of people admitted to the Caia cholera ward has fallen from 30 to just three a day.
Despite the flooding, the minister reminded the Assembly that the major disaster the government has faced since taking office in February 2005 was not flooding but drought. Chomera pointed out that, by late 2005, about 801,000 people had been identified as at serious risk of food insecurity due to the failure of the 2004/05 rains in much of the country.
Chomera said the government and the World Food Programme had acquired 37,580 tonnes of food aid - but this only covered 70 per cent of the needs. He added that the country currently has 23,000 tonnes of food stocks, 14,000 tonnes of which is now in place in the affected provinces.
The government had rehabilitated 178 water sources in the seven provinces most affected by the drought, said Chomera, and had supplied 64 tanks holding up to 10,000 litres for water supply through tanker trucks in Maputo and Gaza provinces.
European aid for drought victims
Support for the government's actions has come from the European Commission, which has announced humanitarian aid worth two million euros (about $2.4 million) to communities suffering from the effects of last year's drought.
This is the first time since 2001 that the Commission has mobilised humanitarian funding for operations in Mozambique.
The purpose of this aid is to provide access to safe drinking water and to prevent water-borne diseases. Among the activities funded by this aid will be the rehabilitation of boreholes, water chlorination, latrine construction, the distribution of soap and other hygiene items, and public health education.
This aid is in addition to the Commission's food security programme for Mozambique, worth €15 million a year, and aimed at districts facing "chronic food insecurity".
The European Commission is also financing a substantial development programme under the ninth European Development Fund (EDF), focusing on transport infrastructure, macro-economic support and health interventions.
Last year was the best for Mozambican sugar production in three decades, according to the annual report published by the National Sugar Institute (INA). A total of 2.2 million tonnes of sugar cane was harvested from a planted area of 31,000 hectares. This produced over 265,000 tonnes of refined sugar and 81,000 tonnes of molasses. Compared with the 2004 sugar campaign, there was an increase of 20 per cent in cane production, 29 per cent in sugar production, and 23 per cent in molasses production.
Most of Mozambique's sugar is consumed by the domestic market. However domestic sales of national sugar fell by about 4.5 per cent in 2005, to 122,681 tonnes. One factor behind this was the demand by major industrial consumers (notably the local branch of Coca-Cola, and the breweries) for a cut in the sugar price. In order to put pressure on the sugar producers, these industries opted to import sugar from South Africa in the second and third quarters of 2005.
It took about six months to reach agreement on a preferential price for industrial consumers, and during this period the industries imported 6,500 tonnes of sugar.
The report claims that the customs service has cut contraband sugar imports dramatically. In 2000, an estimated 100,000 tonnes of sugar from neighbouring countries was smuggled into Mozambique, undercutting the national product. But in 2005 it is estimated that only 8,600 tonnes of contraband was dumped on the Mozambican sugar market.
Exports in 2005 were better than expected because both the United States and the European Union imported more sugar from Mozambique at preferential prices than the quotas initially allocated to the country.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged sugar-producing areas in the southern USA, forcing an increase in imports - which pushed up Mozambique's preferential quota.
As for the EU, Mozambique received an additional quota, because some other least developed countries were unable to supply the quotas allocated to them.
Almost 56,000 tonnes were exported to markets where quotas of Mozambican sugar enjoy a preferential price, and only 32,000 tonnes were placed on the free international market, where prices are much lower.Thus in 2005, Mozambique exported 14,604 tonnes of sugar to the United States, at a price of $403 a tonne. Under the sugar protocol between the EU and sugar producers of the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) group, the country exported 18,650 tonnes at a price of $588 a tonne. Under the second EU arrangement, the "Everything But Arms" (EBA) agreement for Least Developed Countries, Mozambique exported 16,800 tonnes at a price of $564 a tonne. A less important preferential market is that of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) members: Mozambique sent 5,797 tonnes of sugar to this market at a price of $354 a tonne.
The 32,000 tonnes sold on the "free" international market fetched an average of just $292 dollars a tonne.
In total, the 87,851 tonnes exported brought the country earnings of $37.7 million - or an average of $429 a tonne.
Stocks have grown from 85,000 tonnes in 2005 to almost 140,000 tonnes at the start of this year.
Prospects for 2006 are for further growth in production. Information provided by the four sugar companies (Maragra and Xinavane in Maputo province, and Marromeu and Mafambisse in Sofala) indicate that the area planted with sugar cane will rise to over 33,000 hectares, producing 2.3 million tonnes of cane, and over 270,000 tonnes of sugar.
The main problem facing sugar exports is the reform of the EU sugar regime. Between the trading years 2006-07 and 2009/10, the EU price for white sugar will be cut by 36 per cent and for brown sugar by 33 per cent. Compensation is envisaged, to allow sugar producers in ACP countries to become more competitive and thus survive in the new commercial environment. €40 million (about $48 million) of EU funding will be distributed among ACP signatories to the sugar protocol in 2006. Compensation will continue (at levels yet to be announced) for the next seven years.
A bright spot, however, is the rise in the "free" world market price of sugar. The price of white sugar had dipped to well below $200 a tonne in late 2003, but recovered as from late 2004. In December 2005, the price hit $330 a tonne (and $292 a tonne for brown sugar) - the highest prices on the world market for 11 years.
Prices are likely to continue rising, due in part to a decline in world sugar production (caused by such factors as Brazil switching from sugar to ethanol production, drought in Thailand, and hurricane damage to US sugar producers).
The Health Ministry hopes that by the end of this year about 50,000 people infected by the HIV virus that causes the lethal disease AIDS will be receiving the life-prolonging ant-retroviral drugs.
At a national meeting in Maputo on 9 March on sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, the Ministry announced that currently 19,726 HIV-positive people are receiving anti- retroviral therapy. Of these, almost half (9,664) are in Maputo.
The key problem now is to expand and decentralise anti-retroviral therapy and other services for people suffering from HIV.
Health Minister Ivo Garrido stressed that this expansion requires infrastructures and trained staff. He announced that in the near future a doctor will be appointed to coordinate the HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programmes in each of the 11 provinces. But this coordinator will remain subordinate to the higher structures of the National Health Service.
Garrido warned against departmentalising the HIV/AIDS programme, separating it from the rest of the health system. In the Minister's view, this would weaken rather than strengthen the Mozambican Health Service.
Furthermore, increased access to anti-retroviral treatment, Garrido said, must not be at the cost of lessening the quality of services. This was why questions such as equipping health units with laboratory equipment must be dealt with before embarking on expansion.
Education Minister Aires Aly on 7 March called for "an overall platform to encourage the struggle for the right of children to be taught in their mother tongues". He was speaking in Maputo at the opening session of an international conference on bilingual education, organised by a Danish NGO, Ibis, in partnership with the Movement for Education for All (MEPT), and the government's National Institute for the Development of Education (INDE).
Under colonial rule education in state schools was provided exclusively in the Portuguese language - and this continued in independent Mozambique. Right up until 2003 - 28 years after independence - the medium of education in primary schools was Portuguese, a language foreign to most Mozambican children, particularly in the countryside.
Thus, although independence led to a dramatic increase in the number of children attending school, the language policy was partly responsible for high drop-out and failure rates.
Under far-reaching curriculum reforms, bilingual education (in the mother tongue and in Portuguese) was introduced in 2003, albeit in a very small number of schools. It is gradually being extended to cover an increasing number of the many languages spoken in Mozambique.
Aly hoped that the conference would form part of a profound debate on bilingual education in Mozambique, and on "the right to a relevant education, to the promotion of self-esteem, identity and cultural awareness".
He recalled that "colonial oppression violently blocked the development of our languages. As a result they were relegated to a secondary role as vehicles for the transmission of knowledge and culture. Colonial rule tried to wipe out our cultural identity, denying us the fundamental right to education in our mother tongues".
Aly said that "historical, political and even pragmatic reasons" meant that, when independence was proclaimed, Portuguese was adopted as the official language and as the medium of education. But it soon became clear that mother tongues must be included in the education system. First, however, it was necessary to standardise Mozambican languages, many of which had no generally accepted written form. Hence seminars were held on standardising the spelling of these languages.
Some experimentation with bilingual education was undertaken in the 1990s, and the results were encouraging enough for the Education Ministry to include full-scale bilingual education as one of the major innovations in the new curriculum.
Data from the 1997 population census showed how urgent it was to introduce mother tongue schooling in primary education. For the usual description of Mozambique as "Lusophone" is grossly misleading. The census found that only 6.5 per cent of the population considers Portuguese as their mother tongue, and only 8.8 per cent use it regularly at home. Only 39.6 per cent of the population claimed a knowledge of Portuguese, and this figure fell to 25.4 per cent in the countryside, and to 15.6 per cent among rural women.
Despite the Ministry's commitment to bilingual education, the programme has taken off very slowly. According to the MEPT, to date, out of some 8,000 primary schools in the country, only 29 are using the bilingual programmes. In the rest, the children are still being taught in Portuguese.
Gender questions are a priority for the Mozambican government in all areas of activity, declared President Armando Guebuza on 7 March. Speaking in Maputo at the opening session of a conference on Women and Development in sub-Saharan Africa, President Guebuza said his government is convinced that its plans will only be successful if they include a gender approach.
Inspired by Mozambique's own traditions, dating back to the days of the war for independence, as well as by international conventions on women's rights, the government has ensured that women are found in top decision making posts. President Guebuza stressed that 23 per cent of the ministers in his government are women, including the Prime Minister. For the first time, two of the 11 provincial governors are women. As for the legislature, 35.6 per cent of the 250 members of the Mozambican parliament are women.
Despite "encouraging" results so far in the fight for gender equality, President Guebuza pointed to three major obstacles that must be overcome - poverty, AIDS and domestic violence. He warned that "poverty and HIV/AIDS are evils that are taking on dramatic proportions, on the brink of a catastrophe, and they threaten our ability to face development challenges".
President Guebuza stressed the role of women's involvement in agricultural and commercial associations, and in literacy campaigns, as contributions to the fight against poverty.
The President recently held a series of meetings with various social groups on AIDS, from which he drew the conclusion that "we have to work harder to halt the increasing spiral of infection in our country. One of the challenges imposed on us is to ensure that our messages of prevention are clear, so as to bring about real changes in behaviour".
President Guebuza hoped that this conference will produce recommendations on such subjects as improving school attendance among girls and women, expanding health care services for women, and reducing women's economic dependence and vulnerability.
Attending the conference are the Deputy President of the Spanish government, Maria Fernandez de la Vega, and delegations from Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Ethiopia, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania, Niger, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Spain.
The United States embassy in Maputo on 10 March delivered 50 bicycles to the Interior Ministry, as part of a project undertaken by the US government's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Programme (ICITAP).
The project is intended to strengthen police-community liaison. It includes an opinion poll in selected Maputo communities on the public perception of the police, and technical assistance for 150 policemen in tactics aimed to strengthen relations between the police and the community.
The third part of the project is the provision of the bicycles, plus training for 20 policemen on how to carry out police patrols on bicycles.
In addition to the bicycles themselves, the embassy delivered repair kits, safety helmets, shirts, and spare parts.
Two Maputo neighbourhoods, Costa do Sol and Chamanculo A, have been chosen for the pilot schemes of bicycle police patrols.
President Armando Guebuza on 9 March in Lisbon with Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates to discuss the future of the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi river. President Guebuza was in Lisbon to attend the inauguration of the new Portuguese President, Anibal Cavaco Silva, but the real key to future relations between Mozambique and the former colonial power are the discussions over Cahora Bassa.
On 2 November, during President Guebuza's last visit to Portugal, a memorandum of understanding was signed under which control of the company that operates the dam, Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), would pass from Portuguese into Mozambican hands.
Currently the Portuguese state holds 82 per cent of the shares in HCB, and the Mozambican state has a minority holding of 18 per cent. The November agreement sought to reverse this: Mozambique would end up with an 85 per cent stake, and the Portuguese holding would be reduced to 15 per cent. This would depend on paying Portugal $950 million - $250 million from HCB's own funds, while the Mozambican government would have to find the other $700 million.
It was expected that the agreement would be finalised within a few weeks, but what are described as "technical negotiations" have bogged down. Over four months have passed, and nothing has changed. Hence President Guebuza's attempt to unblock the problem in direct talks with Socrates.
Asked if he had agreed an exact date with Socrates for signing the final agreement, President Guebuza said there is still no precise timetable - but he was hopeful that the negotiations will indeed be concluded within days.
The European Commission has agreed to provide five million euros (about $6 million) to finance 15 projects of the Mozambican Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired. According to a statement read out to the Fourth General Meeting of ACAMO, held in Vilankulo in the southern province of Inhambane, this grant is part of the European Democracy and Human Rights Initiative set up by the Council of Europe in 1999, and which has annual funding of €100 million.
The statement said this is one of the ways in which the European Union recognises and encourages the role of civil society bodies in defending the rights of disabled people. It stressed the discrimination blind citizens often suffer. "A blind person does not have easy access to education, and does not benefit from the same opportunities as his fellow-citizens in professional training and employment. A blind person has less information, including on the prevention of contagious diseases, such as AIDS".
The chairperson of ACAMO, Dickson Tole, praised the efforts of the government, of civil society, and of donors to improve the living conditions of blind Mozambicans. He cited in particular a recent agreement between ACAMO and the Pedagogic University (the degree level teacher training college), under which scholarships to the University will be granted to three ACAMO members every year.
Tole called on the government to create conditions for blind pupils to study alongside sighted children in the country's schools, and to take measures against the factors that lead to blindness. Most blind Mozambicans were not born with this condition. Tole said that 80 per cent of blindness in Mozambique can be prevented.
Four oil and gas companies, from Canada, the United States, Malaysia, and Italy, have won tenders to prospect for hydrocarbons in the Rovuma basin in northern Mozambique, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Esperanca Bias, announced in Maputo on 8 March.
The Rovuma basin covers an area of 60,000 square kilometres in the provinces of Nampula and Cabo Delgado, and has been divided into seven areas for purposes of oil and gas exploration.
Two of these areas (blocks 2 and 5) have already been granted to the Norwegian company Norsk Hydro, under a contract signed in February.
The latest announcement covered the other five areas (which are mostly offshore), and the winning bids came the Canadian company Artumas, Anadarko of the US, ENI of Italy, and Petronas of Malaysia.
Bids from three other companies, Norsk Hydro, Rockover of South Africa and Petrobras of Brazil, for these five blocks, were rejected.
Bias told reporters that the government chose to divide the basin into seven blocks in order to attract the greatest possible number of companies, and maximise assessment of the basin's potential.
Bias said that in assessing the bids, the government's evaluation commission looked at the work programme proposed. the technical and financial capacities of the companies, and their experience in matters of safety and environmental protection.
In all, the companies are expected to invest about $300 million, and sink eight exploratory wells in the five blocks. A further $1.3 million will be spent on social projects, and $1.5 million on training Mozambican staff.
Sporadic work has taken pace in the basin over the past 20 years. Thus in 1986, the multinational oil company Esso, dug an onshore well which found no oil, but showed signs of natural gas deposits.
In 1998, Lonrhopet, a subsidiary of the British company Lonrho, undertook seismic prospection and other field studies. Although Lonrhopet did not discover any commercially viable oil or gas fields, its prospection did indicate the presence of hydrocarbons in the basin.
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