Mozambique has faced at least ten major natural disasters in recent years. The worst was in March 2019, when Cyclone Idai devastated an area of 3,000 square kilometers, causing 242 deaths and leaving 400,000 people homeless.
Although Mozambique and other African countries are far from being the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, they have suffered most and are among the most vulnerable to the impact of global climate change. They may also be the most affected by the land degradation that has occurred in different parts of the world.
According to the summary for policymakers of the first global assessment report of the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), issued on May 6, 2019, Africa, South America and Asia will be most affected by biodiversity loss and unprecedented deterioration in ecosystem services, such as water and food supply.
The authors of the report estimate that between 100 million and 300 million people are at an increased risk of floods and hurricanes worldwide owing to the loss of coastal habitats and protected areas.
“Natural disasters are becoming frequent in this part of the world,” Vitória Langa de Jesus, Executive Director of Mozambique’s National Research Fund (FNI), told Agência FAPESP.
“When the climate change discussion began, we didn’t have much idea of the effect climate change would have on us. The experience we’ve had in the past few years has intensified our desire to fund more research that provides input to help government implement disaster prevention plans, formulate policies for adaptation to climate change, and take action to mitigate its effects.”
To achieve these goals, FNI is partnering with research funders in other countries, including Germany and France. On May 6, 2019, it signed a cooperation agreement with FAPESP.
Researchers from Mozambique and São Paulo State will collaborate on studies regarding natural disaster prevention and climate change mitigation. Agriculture is another area of interest, according to Langa de Jesus.
“Agriculture is vital for us. This is one of the areas in which we believe researchers from São Paulo State and Mozambique can conduct studies aiming at the improvement of production, food processing and the development of crop varieties that are more resistant to climate change, among other subjects,” she said.
For Marco Antonio Zago, President of FAPESP, the chances of successful scientific cooperation in agriculture between researchers from São Paulo State and Mozambique are strong, in light of factors such as the similarities in climate.
“Agriculture is a field in which Mozambique can exchange a great deal of knowledge with São Paulo, which has top-tier institutions in agronomy, such as ESALQ [Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo], to take just one example,” he said.
Langa de Jesus added that another advantage of scientific cooperation between researchers in São Paulo and Mozambique is the lack of language barriers. “Having specified the research areas to support and following selection of proposals, we expect the researchers to work together on projects whose results will not only help solve national problems but also have an international impact,” she said.
Langa de Jesus was visiting Brazil with other representatives of FNI to take part in the 8th Annual Meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC), which was held on May 1-3 in São Paulo and attended by the heads of research funding agencies in 50 countries on all five continents. The meeting was organized by FAPESP, Argentina’s National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), and the German Research Foundation (DFG).
“One of the reasons we’re participating in the GRC is to exchange experiences with heads of research funders on how to encourage people to do science in our respective countries,” Langa de Jesus said.
“The GRC also enables us to find out more about science, technology and innovation in the world and to identify peers with which we want to sign cooperation agreements, like FAPESP.”