Top menu

Coca Ye, WFP Mozambique’s "Jack of all trades"

Coca Ye, WFP Mozambique

Coca Ye’s official title is Driver, but there is really no single term to describe what Coca does for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Mozambique.

Coca Ye’s official title is Driver, but there is really no single term to describe what Coca does for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Mozambique.

Coca began working for WFP as a driver in 1993, but in the past 15 years he has worn a wide range of WFP hats, including Compound Manager, Mechanic and River Operations Coordinator. He is a true ‘Jack of all trades’ and he is master of at least one -- on top of Coca’s versatility, it is his unique mastery of temporary warehouse installation that makes him stand out.

“I was trained on how to erect temporary warehouses during the 2000 floods,” recounted Coca in early 2008 during a warehouse installation in Caia, the town that served as the base for flood response operations.

“At the time, a few of us received the training, but I’m the only one left in WFP Mozambique who knows the process,” Coca explains. In 2000, floods in Mozambique killed 700 people and displaced a quarter of a million others.

Coca has honed his unique expertise over the past eight years by installing 62 temporary warehouses to store food and other emergency supplies in nearly every province of Mozambique. “This Wiikhall [common tarpaulin warehouse brand used by WFP] is the eighth I’ve installed already this year,” said Coca, wiping hard-earned sweat from his forehead.

coca 2

Heavy rains and flooding in January and February 2008 displaced over 100,000 people and devastated crops throughout Mozambique’s central region. Floodwaters along the Zambezi River Valley reached peak levels higher than in past flood years – 2000, 2001 and 2007 – but with increased planning, early warning and rapid response capacity of the National Institute for Disaster Management, human casualties were minimal and the overall response was better coordinated.

“This year, we knew there would be heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding, so we planned ahead and installed a few warehouses in key locations along the Zambezi River before the rains came,” Coca explained. “As the waters rose, we could see there would be a need for more storage capacity near the displacement centers.”

Temporary warehouse installation is not a one-person job, so Coca recruits about 20 local men to help with the task of clearing the ground, digging the foundation, connecting the supports, raising the skeleton, overlaying the tarp roof and walls and securing everything in place. A warehouse that is 40 meters long, 10 meters wide and 8 meters high (700 metric ton capacity) takes a day and a half to mount. “I pay the guys for their work, and I also usually treat them to a lunch on-site to make sure they have the energy to work all day,” said Coca.

coca3

In the midst of frequent storms, brutal heat and the ever present dangers of poisonous snakes and endemic diseases, like malaria, in Mozambique’s hinterlands where temporary warehouses are most critical, working conditions are far from ideal. Despite the hardships, Coca keeps an upbeat attitude and has learned to motivate his assistants by reminding them of the valuable role they play in the emergency response. Most of the men who helped with the Caia warehouse installation in early 2008 were flood victims from a nearby resettlement community and were benefiting from WFP food assistance.

Coca’s infectious smile is evident as he stops for a moment in the shade of a crossbeam the team has just erected and reflects, “I really count it a privilege to be the first person on the scene during an emergency, representing WFP and the humanitarian community. Even though they start out empty, the temporary warehouses are a source of real hope to people in the affected areas.”

Coca lives in Beira, Mozambique with his wife and four children. When he is not setting up warehouses or navigating rugged roads and rivers for WFP, he can be found relaxing at the beach with a fishing rod in hand.