The global housing crisis is acute in Beira, Mozambique. Climate-resilient, affordable houses are in short supply due to climate threats, informal incomes, lack of urban planning and limited mortgage support.

The Beira municipality, with support from the Netherlands, addresses this issue through the new Maraza Residential Zone. They aim to make 25,000 homes accessible using pioneering approaches. Partners for Water’s programme advisor, Jaap Kroon and project partner Marie-Odile Zanders, discuss the project’s approach and challenges.

The Mozambican city of Beira is partly below sea level and highly vulnerable to the increasing effects of climate change. In 2019 and 2021, the port city was struck by two cyclones that destroyed more than 70% of the buildings. With assistance from the Partners for Water programme and the Netherlands Embassy, the municipality and the ‘Municipal Recovery and Resilience Plan’ are rebuilding Beira towards a climate-resilient, flood proof city, based on the so called the Beira Masterplan 2035.  The new Maraza Residential Zone is an important part of this city-wide development plan.

Marie-Odile Zanders, Director of Property Partnerships & Development at Empowa, Maraza’s home loan provider, has been working closely on this project with a number of partners. Together with Jaap Kroon, Partners for Water’s programme advisor Mozambique, she elaborates on the project’s progress and obstacles.

Housing Crisis

“Like in the rest of Mozambique and wider Africa, affordable housing is scarce in Beira and houses that withstand climate hazards are even scarcer. Obtaining mortgages in Mozambique is challenging and those that are available have interest rates exceeding 20 percent”, says Kroon. Zanders adds: “Many Mozambicans rely on informal and unpredictable incomes. This makes them ineligible for home loans. Today, approximately, only 600 mortgages are in existence throughout all of Mozambique.”

“The alternative for buying a house is to construct one yourself. This takes a long time and often results in homes that are not resilient enough to withstand natural disasters. The housing that will be offered in Maraza will mean that most low to middle income Mozambicans can finally gain access to a climate-resilient home and not have to build themselves,” says Zanders.

25,000 Resilient, Affordable Green Homes

“The idea is to build 25,000 homes in an already allocated, low-lying area of 450 hectares. The land will be raised to prevent flooding and equipped with drainage, sewage and drinking water connections. The houses in the Maraza Residential Zone will be cyclone-resistant and affordable for the residents of Beira,” explains Kroon.

Local and International Partners

Maraza will be developed of by both local and international partners. One of them is the Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Urbano da Beira (SDUB), the organisation responsible for land development. The Partners for Water programme and the Netherlands Embassy in Mozambique have been funding SDUB since 2019. Since 2023, it’s received partial funding from Partners for Water and the Municipality of Beira. In addition to SDUB, the local developer Casa Real and the financial technology provider Empowa are partners in this innovative project.

Proof of Concept¹: Inhamizua District

As a proof of concept, a similar project has been developed by Casa Real and Empowa. They independently built 150 affordable homes on the outskirts of Beira. The homes are made accessible by reducing construction costs for a starter house from US$ 45.000 to just below US$ 10.000 and through a rent-to-buy scheme. Lower income residents can rent the home while saving money to buy it. This allows them to demonstrate, despite their informal incomes, that the scheme has proven to be successfull. Fifteen months into the scheme, one in three tenants has already paid at least 20% of their home’s value. Furthermore, financial flows are handled using blockchain technology. This reduces costs and risk by delivering timely, verified and indisputable data to investors and other relevant stakeholders.

It is critical that new approaches to affordable housing development are explored. Our group of committed and patient partners in Beira are demonstrating that another way of making Africa’s affordable housing market work is possible. Our approach is attuned to the needs of people who live and work informally, while being commercially viable, scaleable and replicable

Marie-Odile Zanders

Start-up challenges in Maraza Residential Zone

Close to 2.5 million euros have been invested in Maraza’s development to prepare 3.5 hectares for construction as a mini-pilot project. The sand has been raised, an access road constructed, drainage and wastewater collection systems installed and plots for apartment blocks of about 400 units are ready. The homes will be sold in a similar manner to the successful Inhamizua project. However, despite the accomplishments of the Inhamizua district, there are several challenges in securing the initial capital needed to build the first apartments.

The Inhamizua project has incurred interesting returns, yet it has been deemed too risky by various potential financiers’ due to Africa’s underdeveloped affordable housing markets, among other factors. “To reduce the risk, Partners for Water offers soft funding of around 20% of the required investment for the first phase, on the condition that another party provides the remainder,” says Kroon. The data and systems used in the Inhamizua project help in further de-risking investments into Maraza’s homes. Zanders adds: “We invite anyone interested in a different approach to affordable housing development to come and learn from us in Beira.”

Next Steps

“Everything and everyone is in place ready to build the houses: the developers, construction workers, materials, plots and the Beira municipality is firmly supporting the development of the Maraza Residential zone. So, once funding is secured, construction will start as soon as possible,” says Kroon.  And there is no doubt that the demand exists, as market research in Beira has already identified around 500 families interested and capable of renting or buying homes from the mini-pilot project.

Beira thrilogy

This article is the first of three publications highlighting Partners for Waters work in Beira ahead of the 50th anniversary of bilateral cooperation between The Netherlands and Mozambique.

[1] Impact assessment was undertaken by Mercy Corps Ventures (MCV) during 2023/2024. For more info: MCV’s  blog on “The Impact of Climate-Resilient Housing and How Web3 Technology can scale its Development”.

Transboundary river management of nine international rivers, frequent cyclones, a 2,650 km shoreline, the dichotomy of water scarcity and abundance, salinisation of groundwater aquifers, and a lack of proper sanitation delineate the intricate water management challenges in Mozambique

These are compounded by the limited operational capacity and broad mandate of water institutes, financial mismanagement, 70% of the population residing in informal settlements, national conflicts, and reliance on funding and subsidies.

In The Hague, over 40 individuals from public and private organisations, knowledge institutions, and NGOs gathered to discuss the bilateral delta collaboration between the Netherlands and Mozambique, forging new connections and uncovering business opportunities in Mozambique’s water and climate sector.

Jaap Kroon from RVO, a project advisor for the Partners for Water programme remarked, “It’s been a while since our last water sector meeting, and given the turnout, it was time to organise another. I’m happy to see everyone here.”

As the world evolves, so do the challenges

The Netherlands’ enduring cooperation with Mozambique started nearly 50 years ago after the independence of the country. Water has been a main topic of the cooperation. The delta cooperation focuses on the coastal city of Beira and aims to make Beira a climate-resilient city and enhance the well-being of its inhabitants. As the world evolves, so do the challenges. Ivo van Haren from the Dutch Embassy in Maputo shared, “Our current policy, ‘doing what we know best,’ focuses on a smaller area for greater efficiency. We’re targeting water and food security programmes, seeking synergies and collaborating across sectors and with donors to address Mozambique’s complex issues.”

Challenges in Mozambique encompass frequent policy shifts, economic fluctuations, climate change impacts like cyclones and floods, financial mismanagement, and water resource management issues, including transboundary water coordination and infrastructure capacity. Coastal protection and institutional capacity are also significant concerns, alongside the financial sustainability of water and sanitation systems.

Delta cooperation since 2011

Since 2011, the Netherlands has engaged in various projects through the delta cooperation, focusing on water governance, drainage systems, coastal protection, and social inclusion. The impact of climate change, particularly the increased risk of cyclones and the aftermath of cyclone Idai in 2019, has catalysed significant developments.

Real-world impact and co-creation

Maarten Gischler, delta coordinator and senior water advisor at BZ, reflected on the cooperation journey, highlighting the shift from isolated projects to a more integrated approach in Beira, focusing on real-world impacts and co-creation with the local government institutions and communities.

“In the Netherlands, we live in a world of master plans, feasibility studies and projects. People in Beira, especially the poorer people that are inexistent on any map or registered in any administration, live in the real world. A world in which they sleep on the table during territorial rains. During the past thirteen years of the partnership with Mozambique, and specifically with Beira, we have made progress in ensuring that 250,000 individuals will sleep safely during severe weather events. But assembling the puzzle piece by piece with governments, businesses, NGOs, and the local community has refined our approach to working with and for the people of Beira. It’s about co-creating with and for people. Ultimately, our work is about people. And that is something we should remind ourselves of every day.”

It’s about usage, not about quality

The Beira Masterplan, criticised for being more of a “shopping list” than a strategic guide, underscores the need for a coherent strategy that aligns various initiatives. “The shopping list has been on the table for the last 13 years. So it’s not in the quality of the plan, but in the use of the plan that makes it relevant.”


200 million dollars of new water infrastructure

The city of Beira, comparable in size to Rotterdam, faces the challenge of operating and maintaining new water infrastructure worth 200 million dollars in the coming 3 years, with a municipal annual budget of 0.3% of Rotterdam’s annual budget. Community involvement in climate change awareness, maintaining drainage systems, and financial sustainability through improved local revenue generation are crucial in sustainable development of these infrastructures.

Focus points Delta cooperation in Beira

Summarising, the main focus points of the Netherlands-Mozambique cooperation in Beira have been:

  • Climate resilience: Enhancing the city’s resilience to climate change, particularly in preparing for and responding to cyclones and flooding.
  • Water governance: Improving water management systems, including drainage, to prevent flooding and ensure sustainable water use.
  • Social inclusion: Engaging local communities in the maintenance and decision-making processes related to urban infrastructure, ensuring that interventions are inclusive and beneficial to all, especially the marginalised informal sector.
  • Nature-based Solutions (NBS): Implementing NBS for coastal protection and urban water management, favouring ecological solutions over traditional concrete barriers.
  • Capacity building: Strengthening local institutions and building the capacity of local actors to manage and sustain the implemented projects.
    Financial sustainability: Enhancing local revenue generation mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of infrastructure investments and maintenance.

Promising opportunities for future cooperation

Some promising opportunities for future cooperation and business can be found in:

  • Integrated planning: Ensuring that all interventions are part of an integrated master plan that is realistic, strategic, and adaptable to changing circumstances. This plan should bridge the gap between formal and informal sectors and consider the city’s overall ecological and socio-economic context.
  • Community engagement: Deepening community involvement not just in implementation but also in planning and decision-making processes. This can enhance the sense of ownership and ensure that projects are more attuned to the needs of the residents.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: Establishing robust mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the impact of various projects. This can provide valuable feedback, allow for course corrections, and ensure that the initiatives deliver the intended benefits.
  • Financial models: Developing innovative financial models that can support the sustainability of infrastructure projects, including exploring public-private partnerships, microfinancing, and other funding mechanisms.
  • Knowledge sharing: Facilitating the exchange of knowledge and best practices not only within Mozambique but also with other countries facing similar challenges. This can foster innovation and provide new insights into effective climate resilience strategies.
  • Scalability and replication: Ensuring that successful projects are scalable and replicable in other parts of Mozambique and similar contexts, thereby maximising the impact of the cooperation

In the last session ‘round table discussion on opportunities for the Dutch water sector’, many of the participants shared their experiences on several of the issues that were discussed at the Mozambique water sector meeting, mainly on working with local communities and private sector. During lunch many of the discussions continued and information on each other’s activities in Mozambique were shared and opportunities for collaboration were explored.

Contribute with help of the Partners for Water subsidy scheme

Do you want to contribute to a climate resilient and sustainable Mozambique? And do you have an innovative technology, methodology or an innovative prototype in the field of water management? It can be challenging to independently introduce and market innovative water applications abroad. Partners for Water – Innovations for Water Security Foreign Deltas, Delta Cities and River Basins (PVW-IVWW) is a grant scheme that offers participants the opportunity to research the feasibility of their innovative applications abroad as well as to test and modify them.

Interested in the Partners for Water subsidy scheme? You are encouraged to apply from July 2024 to explore funding opportunities.

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