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Geography, climate and population


Mozambique is located on the east coast of southern Africa on the Indian Ocean. The country is bordered by the United Republic of Tanzania in the north, South Africa in the south, Swaziland in the southwest and South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia in the west, and Malawi in the northwest. The country has a total area of 799 380 km▓. The land borders have a length of 4 445 km, while the coastline measures 2 515 km. Monte Binga, culminating at 2 436 m over the Zimbabwe border, is the highest point of Mozambique.

There are three basic geographic divisions:

  • A coastal belt which covers about 44 percent of the country, comprising most of the areas south of the Save river and the lower Zambezi area;
  • A middle plateau, ranging from 200-1 000 m in elevation and covering about 29 percent of the country;
  • A plateau and highland region with average elevations of around 1 000 m to the north of the Zambezi river covering about 27 percent of the country.

The total agricultural land area is estimated at almost 50 million ha, which is 62 percent of the total area of the country. In 2013, the cultivated area was estimated at 5.95 million ha, of which 5.65 million ha arable land, while 0.30 million ha were under permanent crops (Table 1). Permanent meadows and pastures cover 44 million ha.


The climate varies from tropical and subtropical in the north and central parts of Mozambique to dry semi-arid steppe and dry arid desert in the south. The hottest regions are located in the Zambezi basin, the coastline of Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Zambezia and Sofala. The south is the coolest part of the country, with an average maximum and minimum temperature of 30║C and 19║C respectively.

The annual average precipitation for the whole country is 1 032 mm and the rainy season lasts from October to April. It varies widely from the coast to the inland areas and from north to south. Average annual precipitation ranges from 800 mm to 1 000 mm along the coast, with values above 1 200 mm between Beira and Quelimane. It decreases inland reaching 400 mm at the border with South Africa and Zimbabwe. The north and central part of the country has annual precipitation from 1 000 mm to over 2 000 mm because of the northeast monsoon and high mountains. In the southern inland part of the country it ranges from 500 mm to 600 mm. Annual evapotranspiration varies between 800 mm in central Niassa and on the border with Zimbabwe to more than 1 600 mm in the eastern and middle Zambezi basin. Along the coast it varies between 1 200 mm and 1 500 mm.


The total population of the country is estimated at almost 28 million (2015), of which 69 percent is rural (Table 1). The annual population growth rate is 2 percent over the period 2005-2015 and the average population density is 35 inhabitants/km▓.

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2014, the Human Development Index ranks Mozambique 180 out of 188 countries and the Gender Inequality Index ranks it 135 among 155 countries for which data are available (UNDP, 2016). Life expectancy in Mozambique is 55 years and the under-five mortality is 81 per 1000 births in 2014, both progressing from 48 years and over 180 per 1000 at the end of the 1990s. Over 85 percent of the children in 2014 are enrolled in primary education, with a reduced gap between boys (90 percent) and girls (85 percent) compared to the year 2000 (61 percent of boys against 50 percent of girls). Adult literacy is 59 percent in 2015, with a large gap between female literacy (46 percent) and male literacy (73 percent). Poverty is still widely spread as it concerns over half of the population (55 percent) and is even more concentrated in rural areas (57 percent). In 2015, 81 percent of the urban and 37 percent of the rural population were using improved drinking water sources, that is 51 percent of the total population This represents a small improvement since 2002 when 43 percent of the population had access to an improved drinking water source (JMP, 2015). Sanitation coverage also increased from 14 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2015 but with little progress in reducing the gap between rural (10 percent) and urban areas (42 percent).


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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