FAO seed kits cushion harvest losses in Mozambique

FAO seed kits cushion harvest losses in Mozambique

23/04/2019

Tomás is a smallholder farmer from Lamego, in Mozambique’s Sofala province. At 43, he, his wife and their eight children just lost all the crops they would have harvested last month to see them through until the main agricultural season starts in October. They have a farm of two hectares that usually produces maize, rice and sorghum – essential staples for the family’s food and income. When Cyclone Idai tore through this central province just a month ago, it took with it hundreds of lives and the means of earning a living for hundreds of thousands of already vulnerable people.

The floods and high winds completely wiped out Tomás’ produce alongside at least 500 000 hectares of cropland that has been destroyed across the country. His was one of the first of around 15 000 families that FAO is aiming to reach with distributions of agricultural kits, funded by the Governments of Austria and Belgium. The kits contain maize and bean seeds as well as tools to help farmers get their crops back in the ground and hopefully be able to harvest in the shorter second season in July-August. Asked about what the seeds mean for him he said, “Everything is gone. We are depending on this. But I can do it, I have to do it.”

Sitting under the shade of some trees while waiting her turn to receive the seeds, Zeria, 60, is resigned to the loss her household has suffered. “We had maize, sorghum, beans, poultry… all gone.” Nearby, her husband Jon, 67, watches over three of their seven children. “I don’t know what we will do. Hopefully these seeds will grow, it will help.” It is a feeling echoed by Anna Joan: 38 years old and eight months pregnant, she is worried about feeding her three other children and husband as well as herself and her unborn child. There is nothing left of their three-hectare farm, which used to produce vegetables, maize and rice.

The kits the families have received from FAO should allow them to reap their crops in just 90 days, if the soil is recovered enough. In a country that has repeatedly paid a heavy price from cyclical droughts and flooding, and where nearly 1.8 million people were already estimated to be severely food insecure before this latest disaster, the kits have opened a narrow but critical window of opportunity to stave off a further crisis and ensure they can feed themselves in the short term at least.

Further distributions are ongoing in the districts of Buzi, Dombe and Macate, while extensive needs assessments are giving a clearer idea of the amount of rehabilitation work that will have to be carried out to restore the agricultural, livestock and fisheries sectors across the affected regions. In the meantime FAO is also implementing three-, six- and twelve-month emergency livelihood response plans to help get the most-affected families back on their feet and producing their own food again as soon as possible and avoid a food security crisis from unfolding over the coming months.