The SDC already has extensive experience in rural development in Mozambique. Through several projects, it is working to improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers, nearly two thirds of whom in the north of the country live below the national poverty line. The agricultural sector employs 80% of the local workforce.
With the INOVAGRO project initiated in 2011, the SDC aims to institutionalise – and if possible to sustain indefinitely – the relationship between farmers in three northern provinces of Mozambique (Zambezia, Cabo Delgado and Nampula) with various suppliers and buyers in the private sector. For smallholder farmers, going beyond subsistence farming to earning an income means putting their products on the market and, in order to do so, to become integrated in distribution channels.
A vast environment
There are two main types of entrepreneur with whom the farmers have to establish professional contacts. There are, on the one hand, companies buying crops: soya beans, pigeon peas, sesame, peanuts and maize. On the other hand, there are companies specialising in the production of seeds sold to farmers. Microcredit institutions and manufacturers of agricultural machinery fill in the picture.
The INOVAGRO project financed by the SDC has so far assisted some 12,000 smallholder farmers in this vast environment. Farmers are trained in their commercial and contractual rights. They can take part in literacy classes. They are assisted in their efforts to acquire title deeds for their parcels of land and are encouraged to diversify their crops. Organised in cooperatives, they learn how to develop mutual risk-sharing mechanisms to protect themselves against natural disasters, for example. The north of Mozambique contains very fertile land, but it is subject to regular flooding.
The SDC and its partners are redoubling their efforts and contacts to ensure that high-quality seeds – in adequate amounts – are made available to farmers well in advance of the harvests. The SDC acts as a facilitator to encourage the Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture and the companies concerned to enter into dialogue. Working together, public and private actors set quality standards for seeds and consider how to adapt legislation when required.
Private consortiums realise how lucrative the market of the seed supply can be. For their part, the smallholder farmers learn the added value of investing in good time in the purchase of seeds. From this point of view, the INOVAGRO project calls for a profound change in business practices.
Improving yields for the poorest
Essentially, the designated beneficiaries of the project are the poorest farmers, who cultivate less than one hectare of arable land, mostly without title deeds. 15,000 – 40% of them women – are expected to increase their yield by the end of 2017. Another key objective of the SDC’s programme is to enhance the role of women farmers in their communities.
The results to date in the field are encouraging. Between 2013 and 2016, the annual income of smallholder farms participating in the project more than doubled, rising from USD 60 to USD 150 on average (this exclusive of additional activities run in parallel with agricultural production). This success has meant that the services offered to farmers have been extended to the provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula, and they may also be extended to other regions in the future.