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Feed the Future in Mozambique—Building Relationships, Growing Food
Ten days ago, President Barack Obama lifted up Feed the Future as an example of how development creates “the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient.” Feed the Future aims to achieve the ambitious goals of “better nutrition to prevent the stunting and the deaths of millions of children, and raising the incomes of millions of people, most of them farmers.” Read more about Feed the Future in this excerpt from the 2012 Hunger Report:
Mozambique, like other Feed the Future countries, is poor but committed to taking ownership of its own development. Four of every five people live in poverty and spend a large portion of their incomes on food; soaring food prices led to riots in the capital city of Maputo in fall 2010. The country’s turbulent past includes a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992.
U.S. food aid and development assistance work well together in Mozambique, as Ambassador Amelia Matos Sumbana explained to participants in the 2011 International Food Aid and Development conference in Kansas City, MO: “In the 1990s, in the aftermath of 16 years of armed conflict, [U.S. food aid programs] helped our country recover and transition to a more stable and inclusive democracy. Food distribution helped meet immediate needs, and in a short period of time the program shifted to a developmental focus.” Mozambique continues to rely on U.S. food aid but is also well on its way to self-sustaining agricultural production. It works with both Feed the Future and the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (through a five-year development compact signed in 2007).
With a resource base of rich soil, abundant water, relatively low population density, and a smallholder-dominated farm sector, the agriculture sector would seem to have great potential to jump-start the nation’s economy and drive it into rapid development. Mozambique is also in a key regional trade location—on the Indian Ocean and bordering five southern African countries.
Feed the Future supports partnerships that provide Mozambican farmers with technical assistance. For example, Ikuru is the country’s largest farmer-owned business, with more than 22,000 members. It’s in Nampula Province in the north, one of the poorest regions of the country, where 43 percent of children are stunted and 51 percent are underweight. Ikuru’s main crop and source of income is groundnuts (peanuts). In 2004, group members sold just 300 metric tons of groundnuts. Production began to rise once the farmers were receiving technical support from USAID and its implementing partners, primarily Michigan State University and the Cooperative League of the USA. By 2009, the volume of nuts sold had reached 2,250 metric tons—an increase of more than 700 percent in just five years. Feed the Future hopes to cultivate more of these types of partnerships in Mozambique.
The technical support available to U.S. agriculture is one of the reasons it is so productive. Much of it is offered to farmers through USDA’s cooperative extension service. Such technical support is much less common in developing countries. Through partnerships with U.S. land grant universities and the private sector, USAID has been able to offer extension services in Mozambique and other developing countries. Ikuru is just one of the farmers’ groups that have made substantial gains in productivity in a short time.
Although Feed the Future supports research and technology innovation, many of the solutions to the problems that limit agricultural production do not require sophisticated technology. In another of Mozambique’s poorest regions, Zambezia, 61 percent of smallholders harvest mangos, but only 5 percent are able to market them. Fruit production in Mozambique is marred by post-harvest loss—25-40 percent of production—because most of the country’s farmers lack access to basic storage facilities that protect their fruit from bugs and rodents.
In Chapter 1 of the 2012 Hunger Report we were introduced to Arlyn Schipper, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer, who has visited developing countries with other U.S. farmers to offer his assistance to smallholders. U.S. farmers would be providing more help to smallholder farmers by sharing what they know about farming than by selling a small fraction of their own harvests to U.S. food aid programs. Knowledge-sharing trips are also an important way to build public understanding in the United States of the conditions and struggles of smallholder farmers overseas and of what U.S. development assistance tries to achieve. But opportunities for U.S. farmers to do this are scarce.
Farmers in developing countries do need access to better technologies, but even more important are effective policies and strong support from their governments, and commitment and true partnership from donor countries. Continued U.S. support for Feed the Future is a vital part of what will help them build stronger local economies and stronger families.
Photo caption: Mozambican farmers clear land by hand. Most Mozambican farmers grow food without mechanical tractors or animal traction. Photo by Rebecca Vander Meulen.
+ Learn more about Bread for the World Institute’s perspective on Feed the Future in our 2011 Hunger Report: Our Common Interest.
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