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Improved post-harvest handling raises incomes for Mozambique farmers

FAO works to improve post-harvest handling and infrastructure among farmers in Mozambique.

Key facts

Agriculture is the main income generating activity in Mozambique. Some 3.8 million smallholder farmers account for 95 percent of the country’s agricultural production. Most of this production is for subsistence purposes and is characterized by low yields, mainly due to the lack of appropriate inputs (quality seeds and fertilizers), suitable production techniques, post-harvest handling and storage technologies. Post-harvest losses are extremely high in the country (an average of 30 percent of production) due to a lack in adequate storage facilities. As a result, smallholder farmers have little wriggle room and are forced to sell their produce soon after harvesting when the price is at its lowest. FAO is working with the European Union under the Millennium Development Goal 1c programme (MDG1c) to support smallholder farmers to develop improved post-harvest techniques. Since the inception of the project, over 260 artisans were trained in 15 districts of Mozambique in building and promoting improved family silos - locally termed "Gorongosa silos”.

Maize, along with cassava, is grown by 80 percent of all Mozambican smallholders and covers over a third of cultivated land. Despite its immense potential, the income of smallholders’ remains generally low and their exposure to food and nutrition insecurity high. One reason is that food and nutrition insecurity has a seasonal dimension among rural households. The lean season that lasts from October to February is when the foodstocks of the poorest households are depleted and food prices soar. Traditional silos do not offer adequate protection against pests and the elements, causing significant post-harvest losses.

While alternative silos exist, like the ones made of metal, “Gorongosa silos” have the advantage of being more affordable and based on locally developed technology. Made of local materials including mud and clay, as well as conventional ones such as cement and iron rods, these silos can last for up to 20 years with good maintenance. They are impervious to fire and protect against pests and disease. FAO post-harvest specialist, Jorge Machanguana, explains that once contained in the silos, the grain losses are minimal. “The silos retain the quality of the grain for a long time - up to ten months,” he explains, “which also reduces the need for chemical treatments.” Significantly, the longer the preservation time for the grain, the more flexibility farmers have when choosing the best time to sell their product. “This ensures the farmers can get a good price for their produce”. 

Cristina Viagem is a 39-year old farmer in the locality of Noré, in Nampula Province. “These new silos have made a real difference in our lives,” she says. “I am now able to sell what I produce to different markets and wait until the price is right,” she continues.

Armando Daniel Sabonete, a farmer also living in Noré, tells the same story. With dreams of “building a house made of cement and bricks, and extending my fields”, Sabonete has applied improved post-harvest handling techniques, and increased his income due to better crops and storage facilities. While he waits to make his long-term dreams a reality, he is using his gains to pay for his children’s schooling.

FAO trained artisans are building and promoting improved family silos in the provinces of Manica, Sofala and Tete, Zambézia and Nampula in the central and northern regions of the country. The five-year project which started in 2013, aims to build more than 10 000 Gorongosa silos and to train at least 20 000 farmers in post-harvest handling management in the sub-programme area.

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