Januario Antonio lives on the edge of the town of Moma in Nampula province. The 49-year-old regards the 2008 cyclone as the tipping point.

“That’s when we started struggling,” he says.

He used to get a basket of fish a day and his farming produced 15 to 20 bags of cassava. Today, there are hardly any fish and two or three bags of cassava: “I have so many people to support and that’s not enough to last a year,” he says.

So when a man came to the house to ask if he could marry Januario’s 15-year-old daughter Theresa, he reluctantly agreed.

“I didn’t want my daughter to get married. I wanted her to manage to finish her studies and have a diploma, with my support. But it was impossible. What happened was not what I had in my heart,” he says.

 

The man, Amiro Age, promised to support her studies, but then he went away saying he was looking for work. Nine months later Theresa gave birth to their second child. The husband never returned.

“People let their girls marry early, because of the suffering. I have to support nine people. I can’t manage to support all of them. I need someone who could help me. It’s because of the suffering, the poor production.

“There many people in the same situation. You’re in your house, you wake up, you don’t even have one metical to get some food, to get some fish to accompany the manioc. This what pushes people to take a decision they don’t want to take.

“There’s a link. These extreme events do not affect only Moma. I see the weather changing. Even if you are a responsible guy, you do what you have to, but even so you are struggling.”

Theresa is 22 now. She lives with her parents and her two children – daughter Atija, three, and son David, one.

“We didn’t have enough food, not even enough clothes. So my only option seemed to be marriage,” she says.

“I was seeing that my married friends had enough to eat and had enough clothes. And I was suffering. One day I was eating, one day I wasn’t. So I preferred to find a husband so that I could live a normal life.”

It was her idea. “We met when I went once to the village where he lives. We met, we discussed it. I told him to come and talk to my father so that he could marry me.

“My father didn’t complain about it, he thought it would be a way to support me, even help me stay in school. That was the expectation of my father, but after we got married, my husband started to struggle and he couldn’t support my education.

“At the time, before the floods, there was water where my father used to fish and the production was okay but after there is more sand than water. So the level of the river decreased.

“For a long time, the rains came when we expected them. Now, the weather changes. Sometimes, the rainy season changes. The rain doesn’t come as often as it used to.”

 

 

She would have gone on to finish school if the money had been there, she says. She wanted to be a health worker, but that won’t happen now.

“I thought I would get married at 35. I’m not happy. I wasn’t planning on getting married at 16 years old.

“It’s my fault that I got married so young. I think it was my destiny, God put that idea of getting married so young in my head. Even if it wasn’t for this climate change, I believe it’s God’s destiny.

“I will tell my own daughter not to get married so young, even if she doesn’t have the possibility to continue her studies. Because she will have children, she may be left alone with them, and the situation will get worse.

“I will tell my daughter that I regret my decision. I thought that marriage would be a solution, but in the end it got worse. And I will tell her to go to school. That is a way to try to improve the situation.”

But it is an uphill battle. In 2015 and 2016, El Nino conditions were blamed for causing the worst drought in southern Africa in 35 years, affecting 39 million people across the continent.

El Nino is a complex and naturally occurring weather pattern and there is no consensus on whether it is affected by rising global and ocean temperatures, though a 2014 study published in Nature Climate change argues that its occurrence could double in the future due to greenhouse gas emissions.

Then in February 2017, as Mozambique struggled to deal with consecutive failed harvests due to prolonged drought, the Tropical Cyclone Dineo wreaked havoc across the country.

Strong winds exceeding 160 kmh and torrential rains killed seven people, injured 55, displaced more than 100,000 and affected overall more than 600,000 Mozambicans. According to the National Institute of Disaster management, 20,000 mud-made huts were partially or completely destroyed, their fragile thatched roofs blown away. More than 1,600 classrooms and 70 health facilities were affected, 137,000 fruit trees were lost and 29,000 hectares of precious agricultural lands were left empty, damaging the crops that were expected to be harvested in April 2017.

In its report “Hope Dries Up,” released in 2016, CARE International estimated that there were 631,000 child brides in the country in 2015 and the number would rise to 732,000 by 2020 as families struggled to cope.

Across the border in Malawi, its a similar picture. Nearly half the country’s girls are married by the age of 18 and nearly one in 10 by age 15, leaving Malawi ranked by Unicef as the 11th worst country in the world for child marriage.

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