FAO in Mozambique

An embryo has grown roots

Viriato Halafo and Marcelino Foia have a lot in common: both are seed producers, both have been betting on ZM 523, an open-pollinated maize variety, and on NUA 45 common bean, a biofortified variety, rich in iron and zinc. Both have been supported by the “Accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal 1c (MDG1c) in Mozambique” sub-programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), both live in Tete Province – Viriato in the District of Angónia and Marcelino in Tsangano.

Viriato´s maize field is 2 hectares in size, Marcelino has half of that area. When he started his business of improved seed production, in 2016, Marcelino at first encountered resistance: “people did not believe that my seeds were indeed of good quality”. In the second year, he produced 1,5 tons and “there [he sold his] entire production. In the third year, [he] finally increased the area because now there are many [people] who need seeds”. The same happened to Viriato, whose business “has grown until now that [he sells] every seed [he produces]”. Those who buy his seeds are happy, very happy, he assures. “To this day they say that these varieties are very good.”

This year, Marcelino says, his production shall reach 2 tons, and he is sure that he will “sell all of it and it will not be enough, because one neighbour needs 200 kg, another one 50 kg” and so on. For him to be able to turn around  his seed business, Marcelino knew he had to come closer to the local farmers, “the relationship with them and the community in general changes everything: if nobody sees the production, how it grows well, if nobody hears about the health benefits of NUA 45 beans, for instance, then nobody will ever know that they need this variety”. These are good beans for stews, he guarantees, these are good beans to give children, pregnant women and all those who need to improve their nutrition. And therefore, the producer usually invites the “community to come see how the bean pod is growing. The same applies to the corncob. Then, people come see, they like it and know they need these seeds”. This is also Viriato´s strategy: he invites members of the family and community to “see his field. This year we had a lot of rain, so many [producers] did not manage to get maize in the quality I have here, so many people came by. All of them are very happy with the seed they have bought.”

Now that MDG1c has come to an end, both producers have a lot ahead, their horizons are broadened and their plans sound promising: “I still want to do many good things”, Viriato says, “for the renovation of my seeds, I will buy basic seeds from [Mozambique's Institute of Agricultural Research] IIAM in Ntengo-Umodzi. Also, I am going to find a way to get my production packaged, producers like it a lot when they can take the seeds in packages”. Marcelino is not intimidated by the end of the sub-programme either: “after I got the support from FAO, the European Union and the Government to start producing seeds, I cannot leave everything on the way”. The plan is to release his seeds in the entire district. “People are not going away, they will stay here. And they need seeds. I may have lost a mother but now I have legs that can take me far.”