In the courtyard of a house on the edge of Moma, Majuma Julio is stirring a pot of maize, preparing lunch for husband Juma Momade, who is holding their year old daughter Fatima on his lap. Fatima is giggling.
The couple were married two years ago when Majuma was 15 and Juma was 19.
It’s not what she wanted, Majuma says. But it is what it is. The weather changed, she says, and there was no more money and marriage was the solution. So she got on with it.
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The weather continues to change. Temperatures for Mozambique are expected to increase by 1.4 to 3.7 °C by 2060. The number of hot days and nights are projected to rise by 17-35% and 25-25%, respectively, in the next 43 years.
Weather patterns are also expected to become more erratic. Since the 1960s, rainfall has decreased by 3.1% per decade. By 2060 that figure is projected to rise to 9%. With two thirds of the population in the coastal belt, any sea level rise poses serious challenges:
Up the coast from Moma, administrator Brigi Rupio wants to move people away from the Larde river.
“When I arrived here in 2014, there was a house right next to the river. But in 2015, there were severe floods that destroyed houses and increased the level of the river,” he says, looking out across the wide expanse of blue water.
“Then, there was drought. We had areas were we used to produce rice. But because of the dry spells, it’s not possible anymore. The weather is changing, even those who cannot read or write can notice that.”
Majuma noticed it. Her family sent her to Moma when she was 10 to live in the house of an uncle so that she could be close to a school.
That was seven years ago. The uncle was getting by: five bags of cassava, one bag of peanuts and one bag of maize every year. Then things started to change.
“It was because of the sun. There was too much sun and the rain was not falling enough. His production started to decrease three years before the marriage,” says Majuma.
“It used to rain for two months, but after a while it started coming less and less. I don’t blame anyone. The weather just changed.”
When Juma came to the house to ask if he could marry Majuma, her uncle accepted because he could no longer afford to pay for her to finish her studies.
“My uncle called me and informed me that there was a man who wanted to marry me. I accepted. I didn’t like the idea but I just accepted because I wanted to study.
“I was in my seventh grade, I wanted to finish school and get something that could allow me to eat. I wanted to be a teacher.”
Majuma was wary: she knew that marriage would mean children. She was worried that this would be the end of her studies. But Juma promised to support her.
“Juma and the imam came to my uncle’s house, they did the ceremony and we were married.
“I am all right now. I feel better than when I was in my uncle’s house because my husband treats me well, I keep going to school, there’s no problem.
“I won’t let my daughter get married at 15 years old. She has to study.”
Majuma is still in school. So too are Lucy and Filomena. For them, there is a still a chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty. For Ntonya and Maliya and Rute and all the others, the dream is over.
Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, the former executive director of the United Nations Population Fund who died in June 2017, called child marriage “an appalling violation of human rights (that) robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects”.
Child marriage was already one of the world’s most intractable problems: “A girl married as a child is one whose potential will not be fulfilled,” said Osotimehin.
Now there is a new complication, a new driving force that arrived quietly and took hold almost unnoticed.
And what is clear now is that anyone wondering what climate change really looks like in action need look no further than the brides of the sun.