There are 3.2 million smallholder farmers in Mozambique, who produce 95% of the local food and contribute 23% of the GDP. Agriculture in the country absorbs 86% of the working force. However, 54% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the chronic undernutrition rate is at a critical level as it affects more than 40% of children under five. FAO, in partnership with the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), has launched a 5-year programme to strengthen the three main pillars of food security and nutrition: agricultural and fisheries production, access to food, and nutritional status of vulnerable groups. Among the measures passed by FAO was a vaccination campaign against Newcastle disease, which can have a drastic effect on domestic poultry production.
Together with IFAD and WFP, FAO Mozambique has launched a 5-year programme with the aim of increasing food security and nutrition activities within the country. The programme, funded by the Government of Mozambique and the European Union, was created to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goal 1C target to “Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.” To do so, it employs a strategy of strengthening the three main pillars of food security and nutrition: agricultural and fisheries production, access to food, and nutritional status of vulnerable groups.
Spreading the work, sharing the responsibility
The programme is being implemented in five provinces of the country: Manica (districts of Manica, Gondola, Sussundenga and Barue), Sofala (districts of Nhamatanda, Buzi, Gorongosa and Maringue), Tete (districts of Angónia, Tsangano and Macanga), Zambézia (districts of Gurue and Alto Molocue) and Nampula (districts of Malema and Ribaué). As a whole, it is structured under 16 components, divided amongst the three organizations. The components implemented by FAO are:
- support to the seed sector
- improve access to inputs through e-voucher
- consolidation and expansion of Farmer Field Schools
- vaccination against Newcastle disease
- post-harvest and infrastructure at the household level
- home gardens and nutritional education
Now, over a year into the programme, results are clearly visible. The availability of high-quality seeds has considerably improved. Smallholder farmers, including women, have increased access to agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilizers and herbicides, as well as to relevant advisory services from different sources, such as private companies and farmers organizations. Storage facilities at the household level have also improved and post-harvest loss has been reduced. Finally, women and children are enjoying improved knowledge in basic nutrition, hygiene and health, and the production of fruits, vegetables and chicken.
“The secret to our success, I can give it to you in one word, and it’s very short. It’s called ‘trust’,” said FAO Mozambique Representative Castro Paulino Camarada. “You have to be transparent, you have to have dialogue, you have to work together, you have to be complementary.”
Investing in prevention
The attention to Newcastle disease has been a particularly crucial component of this project. Newcastle disease virus affects domestic poultry production, especially chickens, and can cause mortality levels to reach seventy to eighty percent in birds during periods of outbreak. FAO Mozambique made an investment to prevent an outbreak by launching a vaccination campaign against the disease, which at this time is the only available preventive measure. The campaign covered fifteen districts in the central and northern parts of the country, reaching over 62 000 families. This initiative aims at eradicating malnutrition and increasing the incomes of rural families through poultry production. In addition, FAO supplied laboratory and cooling equipment to aid the government in increasing the capacity of production of the vaccine.
Reaping the benefits
There are 3.2 million smallholder farmers in Mozambique, and agriculture absorbs 86% of the working force. It is they who benefit most directly from this initiative. Farmers who participate in the production of seeds are enjoying an increase in productivity, and many are benefiting from the voucher scheme. Smallholders are benefiting from training on post-harvest handling and improved post-harvest storage. However, the success is not limited to the agricultural sector. All over the country, primary school teachers and children are benefiting from nutritional education, as well as all the women who implement home gardens. The programme, still in its early stages, is off to a promising start.