Fisherman Antonio Momade Jamal, 50, has lived in Moma in Nampula Province on the east coast of Mozambique all his life. He started fishing in 1985 when it was still a profitable business.

Antonio had hoped to keep his daughter Filomena in school, but when catches started to fall, he could no longer support her. So he reluctantly accepted MT 2,000 (£25) to marry her off at the age of just 15 on the understanding that the young man who was asking for her hand in marriage, 21-year-old Momade Churute, continue to support her through school.

“When I started I used to get a lot of fish, much more than today. I keep fishing now, but it’s different. The weather changed,” he says.

“I used to fish with a group, we were using nets. And in a normal day, we managed to get about 10 bags of fish. I remember that in the 1990s, the quantity of fish started to decrease.

“In my opinion, the production decrease is connected with the weather. The climate changed. I see that it is much hotter than in the past years.”

 

Back in the good times, buyers used to come from the city of Nampula to compete for the catch. But not anymore.

“We see that it’s too hot. We talk about that and we all agree that it’s difficult to catch enough fish because of these high temperatures.”

Maybe they were guilty of overfishing, he says, but he’s not convinced.

“We have tried to move to other places to find fish there, but even in those areas we can’t find anything. In the areas where we used to go, the sea level is rising and the waves are much stronger.”

When Momade came to ask for Filomena’s hand, he thought she was too young “but I accepted, thinking that he would help her study. I said ‘OK, you can marry my daughter but you need to support her so that she continues going to school’. I saw an opportunity. And he promised he would.

“I’ve seen other neighbours who, because they are struggling, let their daughters get married. I have five other kids who go to secondary school. I have two other  daughters, one of 13, another of 11. If a man came to ask for their hand, I would think about it, I would consider it. This man could help me support not only my daughter, but also help my other kids continue their education.”

 

Filomena sits next to him, listening. She appears to have accepted her situation as long as it means she can go off to study in the city. She wants to be a nurse.

“We met here in the neighbourhood and he asked me to be with him,” she says, indicating Momade. “I liked him. I thought he was a beautiful man.”

She told him he had to ask her father’s permission.

“My father accepted because he had poor conditions, so he believed that my husband could support me to go to school. I accepted because my father allowed me to. Since my father is poor, I thought I would get married so that my husband would help me.

“I remember that before, my father used to fish a lot. But suddenly there were less and less fish and the poverty just increased.  I believe that if my father had kept doing well with the fishing, he wouldn’t have accepted the proposal because then he could afford my education, the school fees, my books.”

She studies in the evening and helps her husband with the fishing during the day, but it is a struggle.

“We have to walk one hour to go to the place where we fish. When we go there and we launch the net, there are no fish.

“I hear people talking about this, the fact that they are catching less and that the poverty is increasing. They say something about the weather. I’ve been seeing that the rainy season doesn’t come well and that it comes at different times now. And it is hotter.”

 

More than two thirds of Mozambique’s population lives in rural areas, many along a narrow coastal strip, relying mainly on subsistence farming and fishing.

But the increasing frequency of floods and droughts are taking their toll.  The major droughts that occurred in 1980, 1983, 1985 and 1992 killed more than 100,000 people and affected over 17 million, spreading famine across the country.  From 2000 to 2012, Mozambique was hit by 11 cyclones, twice the number observed between 1984 and 1997.

A series of floods and droughts in 2007 and 2008 culminated in tropical cyclone Jokwe lashing the northern districts, killing at least 13 people, destroying 9,472 houses and, in Nampula province, washing away 100,000 hectares of fields. The economy was crippled as cashew trees on which the region relied were destroyed, along with many of its fishing boats. In 2015, drought and floods struck again.

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