FAO in Mozambique

FAO MDG1c Sub-programme holds public discussion on social protection and e-vouchers in Manica Province

Smallholder farmers at the event on social protection and e-vouchers of FAO MDG1c Sub-programme

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on Wednesday (21.10) held a public discussion entitled "Social Protection and Electronic Vouchers" in Chimoio, Manica Province. The event was held within the context of World Food Day and its theme "Social protection and agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty". Attending the discussion were smallholder farmers from beneficiary Farmer Field Schools (FFSs), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Administrator of Manica District, Carlos Mutar, as well as the Director of the District Services of Economic Activities (SDAE) in Manica, Eusébio Focolone. The event was organized by FAO under the Millennium Development Goal 1c Sub-programme (MDG1c) funded by the European Commission and the Government of Mozambique, whose aim is to speed up progress towards achieving the first Millennium Development Goal to reduce hunger and to improve food security and nutrition in Mozambique.

The purpose of the gathering was twofold. Linking the WFD theme "social protection and agriculture" with the upcoming rollout of the electronic voucher scheme - a significant component within the FAO MDG 1c sub-programme and the first of its kind in Mozambique – the event was structured so as to inform beneficiaries of how this component will function and how it can be accessed. Misaki Seki, the Operations Director at Agribusiness for the Development of Mozambique (ADM), FAOs implementing partner of the electronic voucher component, explained "the electronic vouchers are secure, flexible and offer an increased access and choice to farmers". The electronic voucher will gradually replace the paper voucher scheme, which has been run by FAO in the provinces of Manica, Zambézia, Nampula and Sofala for the last two years. A significant advantage of the electronic voucher is that farmers will have more freedom to decide what, where and when to buy their inputs, ensuring that they remain the central decision makers in the scheme.

Speaking at the event, Manuel Artur, a beneficiary of the paper voucher scheme, said that there was a noticeable improvement in the quality and quantity of his production since he started buying FAO-selected inputs through the voucher scheme. "There is a much greater chance of my crops growing when I use the treated seeds of the FAO voucher programme, as well as the pesticides that come with the package," he told the participants. He, and other smallholder farmer participants, expressed enthusiasm at the new improvements that will come with the electronic voucher.

The second purpose of the public discussion was to draw attention to this year's World Food Day theme of 'Social protection and agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty', specifically in the context of Mozambique. Commenting on the important link between social protection and agriculture in Mozambique, the coordinator of the FAO MDG 1c Sub-programme, Walter de Oliveira, remarked that the combination of social protection and rural development is financially affordable in Mozambique. "Together with the actions of the National Institute for Social Action (INAS) and other partners, social transfer activities, such as those promoted and implemented by FAO within the MDG 1c Sub-programme, can combine income support with better access to social services, particularly health and education. This will in turn reduce malnutrition and enhance income-generating capabilities of smallholder farmers." Speaking about the voucher scheme in this context, the District Administrator Carlos Mutar emphasized that "while FAO is doing a lot for us, we also need to do something for ourselves. That's why you [participants at the event/beneficiaries] are requested to contribute something as a co-payment for this voucher programme".

The aim of World Food Day is to raise worldwide awareness of food and nutrition security issues and the need to eradicate hunger within our lifetimes. This year's theme has been chosen to raise awareness on the important role social protection plays in the fight against inequality and vulnerability as well as hunger and poverty eradication, particularly when included as a priority in development agendas.