In Mozambique, differences in rainfall contribute to higher levels of poverty in drier areas.
Poverty levels in drier regions of the country range from 67 to 85 percent, said Professor Firmino Mucavele, Director for Academic Reform and Regional Integration at Eduardo Mondlane University in a presentation of his analysis of agriculture’s true contribution to the Mozambican economy.
Mucavele, a Food Agriculture Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) board member, outlined regional disparities within Mozambique, whose north and eastern districts receive as much as twelve times the amount of rainfall as the southern regions surrounding the Maputo capital.
Crop productivity is also connected to rainfall since irrigation infrastructure in the country is effectively non-existent. Of the 3.3 million hectares suitable for irrigation throughout the country, only fifty thousand hectares (or only a miniscule 0.13 percent) have this resource at their disposal. Mucavele said:
The common denominator of the smallholder farmers is low productivity, limited ability of households to generate savings and food insecurity.
He added that access to key inputs is also low; only 2 percent of farmers use fertilisers and only 5 percent use pesticides. Underdeveloped capital markets and harvest losses averaging 40 percent also contribute to decreased productivity.
To boost the contribution of the agricultural sector, Mucavele made several key recommendations. He highlighted that the uptake of improved seeds and better production methods could boost crop yields; the yields from maize, which is Mozambique’s primary crop by volume, could be increased seven-fold, from 800 kilograms per hectare to as much as 6,500. He also pointed out that introducing value-added processes to raw commodities could also boost export earnings, with milled maize fetching five times the price of whole kernels.
Lastly, a concerted effort to reform and support agricultural markets caould stem disruptive variations in crop prices and ensure Mozambique’s farmers a viable source of livelihoods.
Cautioned Mucavele: “Social, environmental and institutional stability depends on food security.”