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Promoting farmer entrepreneurship in Mozambique

In Mozambique 3 million smallholders grow food crops on less than five hectares (© SNV)
In Mozambique 3 million smallholders grow food crops on less than five hectares

Agriculture in Mozambique is skewed: 3 million smallholders grow food crops like maize, rice, sorghum and cassava on less than five hectares, while just a few hundred commercial farmers produce crops such as sugar cane, cotton, tea and ginger for export. But there is a third group, who have around ten hectares, and who are ready to apply inputs and use mechanised approaches in order to grow crops for the market.

"These farmers are a neglected group," explains Wim Goris, Agri-ProFocus (APF) network facilitator for Mozambique. "They understand the market, have some means to invest in opportunities and they learn by trial and error to improve their income. These farmers do not require traditional assistance on production techniques, but have a specific demand for market information, business development services, value chain development and access to finance," he adds.

Learning by doing

With 30 members - including donor agencies, training and financial institutions and private companies - APF is a Dutch partnership that is working to promote farmer entrepreneurship and build strong producer organisations in seven African countries. "Mozambique has a huge agricultural potential, and Mozambican farmers look for opportunities, just like farmers in Ethiopia or Europe," says Goris. "But many farmers in Mozambique are faced with specific challenges in farm size, farming skills, access to inputs, finance, advisory services and markets."

Agri-Hubs enable organised producers to enter new markets, professionalise their services and gain knowledge (© SNV)
Agri-Hubs enable organised producers to enter new markets, professionalise their services and gain knowledge

The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) coordinate Mozambique's country network, or 'Agri-Hub', which includes farmers' organisations, banks, private agricultural companies, NGOs and government institutions. "Agri-Hubs create opportunities for economic development," explains Goris. "These agricultural networks enable organised producers to enter new markets, professionalise their services and gain knowledge."

In Chibuto, a consortium of three APF members is working with the Chibuto School of Business and Entrepreneurship, of the Eduardo Mondlane University, to enhance the agri-business development capacity of the teachers, students and local agribusiness community. The programme, started in early 2011, is training teachers to use new interactive teaching methods, such as live cases, and to guide action research with farmers and students. "The School will also provide support to local producer organisations and small and medium enterprises through a Business Incubator Centre," explains Willem Heemskerk from KIT. "This will also allow students to gain practical work experience."

Improving value chains

APF is also working with Banco Terra, a Mozambican bank, which finances value chain products and commodities and has links with APF member, Rabobank. Banco Terra is working with SNV to develop a farmer support programme to enable farmers to establish formal market links, provide written contractual agreements with buyers, improve the quality of their produce, access inputs and services, and assure their buyers of good agronomic practices and business management.

Alone you may go faster, together you get further (© SNV)
Alone you may go faster, together you get further

The programme will initially focus on sesame, peanut and horticulture value chains, targeting 1,500 farmers. "This programme aims not only to increase income, employment and production for the farmers involved," explains Luis Miguel Correia from SNV, "but also to create an enabling environment which will ensure that the required inputs, finance, technical training and marketing services are ultimately provided by local businesses, service providers, and government institutions."

By joining their resources, Agri-Hub members are providing business development support, market information systems, and financial services for farmers in Mozambique. The Agri-Hubs also allow members to exchange and learn through online social platforms and through learning events, connecting research and practice. "The other benefit is in better links with service providers, NGOs, research and public sector. Farmer organisations need multiple support in a network approach to continue improving their business and marketing processes." APF is continuing to involve more Mozambican partners and build on the Agri-Hub model of joint action and learning.

Alone you may go faster, together you get further

APF has successfully established action and learning networks in several African countries, which are helping to establish effective links between existing agricultural programmes of APF members and their local partners. Agri-Hub coordinators are also organising learning events that enable network members to start new projects and work together more intensively.

"Networks are difficult to get off the ground," says Wim Goris, "but once they exist, they have great benefits. This is why we, at Agri-ProFocus, firmly believe that 'Alone you go faster, but together you get further.' Fortunately, alliance building and multi-stakeholder engagement have become the standard in many countries. At Agri-ProFocus, it is our core expertise and an increasing number of companies, universities and private consultants seek contact with us for this reason."

Written by: Wim Goris, Miguel Correia and Willem Heemskerk

Date published: May 2011


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