Post-Cyclone Idai: Young mother starts business of improved stoves and empowers women in her community

UNDP Mozambique has supported 103,000 households affected by cyclones through economic recovery projects. Read the story of Estrela who was assisted by UNDP's income-generating activities.

March 13, 2020

Estrela Ayuba with 3-year-old daughter, in the resettlement site. Photo by UNDP/Brenda Hada

When Cyclone Idai made landfall on 14 March 2019, Estrela Ayuba, 24 years old, and her family little knew what was happening. Their house was settled by the coast of Beira city and, that night, it was destroyed by the strong waves and heavy rain.

Next day, the best thing she remembers were the neighbours and her family standing in a market nearby to look for safe accommodation. “There was no home to return”, she says. With few belongings, the family kept moving to temporary shelters – a situation they had been living on until deciding to be displaced to the Mutua resettlement site.

37 miles away from Beira city, Estrela found a vast land in Mutua center, but still not very inhabited compairing to her previous urban life. She was still full of worries and uncertainties. Her mindset started to change as she has received humanitarian assistance from different organizations and was attending UNDP’s initiatives on resilience building.

“Now I want to continue living here because I feel safe and more empowered”, she explains. Herself and other 19 women are now forming a working group as part of the UNDP efforts to advance women economic empowerment in the community.

Women from the group of improved stove production, in Mutua. Photo by UNDP/Brenda Hada

Those women had received skills trainings by UNDP’s implementing partner ADEL-Sofala on the themes of cooperativism, microfinance, business and conflict management, which started enhancing their confidence and trust as a group. After mentoring sessions, they have chosen to start their cook stove production as their immediate income-generation activity.

These biomass stoves replace the traditional cook stoves and open fires as an improved solution. Due to their design and low-cost material, they are usually more fuel-efficient and aim to reduce the negative health impacts associated with exposure to toxic smoke.

More than 103,000 families affected by Cyclones Idai and Kenneth have been supported by UNDP in Mozambique with similar income generation projects, under the Recovery Facility – a five-year program in partnership with the Government of Mozambique and supported by multi-donors such as the European Union, China, Canada, Finland, India, the Netherlands and Norway. The livelihood-related recovery actions also include the provision of small business starter kits, the establishment of savings and microcredit groups, and cash-for-money and food-for-assets mechanisms.

Cecilia and her women group shape improved clay stoves. Photo by UN Mozambique/Karel Prinsloo

The women's stove production started little and based on the beneficiaries’ preferred field of work. With an oven and a little house to store the pieces, they started selling the products to relatives and close friends.

In six months, they have sold 3,000 pieces and have consistently increased their income, which totaled MZN 15,000 to each participant. As their practical skills and knowledge have been evolving since the beginning of the project, they are now able to produce up to 600 stoves per week, with higher added value at the sales price and are building their second warehouse.

“We are preparing to produce bricks as well, and we will sell them at an affordable price so that people can build better houses in the community”, says Estrela about the next plans. The group is also counting on their savings and loan participations provided by UNDP and ADEL-Sofala to increase investments safely.

Afterwards, Estrela was designated by the group as president of the business. She knows that teamwork and community engagement is very important towards a more resilient life. “I feel good to be in the project, and now we need more opportunities to work with it. We want to improve our community”, says Estrela, very determined.

Estrela with her kids and the women from the improved cook stove production. Photo by UNDP/Brenda Hada