When market solutions are not enough
By Simon White
I recently spent a week in the northwest of Mozambique on assignment for an international donor agency looking at how agriculture markets can drive economic development. This dry-sounding brief offered me a chance to talk to farmers and agribusinesses and figure out ways they could be better connected to bigger opportunities.
Mozambique is a country I’ve been drawn to for some time. In 2014, my family and I moved there for a while, and I was eager to reconnect with this assignment. After the civil war ended in the early 1990s, the country’s leadership set about making a new start. Mozambique, they declared, was open for business. In the first decade of the new millennium, economic growth soared, oil, gas and other minerals were discovered beneath the fertile soil, and finally with the war over, tourism boomed. Like many other countries in Africa, Mozambique is brimming with future possibilities even as it is besieged by history.
It became clear within days of arriving in mid-January that if I was to provide good advice – the kind of advice that would be most useful to the smart, hardworking farmers I was encountering each day – I needed to reckon with the promise of the future and the inequalities left by the past.
Tete Province is lush and green. You can drive for miles under the wide sky and encounter only lush fields. Three out of four Mozambicans are employed in agriculture, mainly as smallholder farmers. Most farmers produce barely enough to meet their household needs. Those that produce more sell their products at local produce markets.
But it’s not just the soil that is fertile. Tete has gold and abundant coal reserves, and new mining operations have been opening up across the northern provinces. The knock-on effects of mining for agriculture are significant.
Tete has formal …read more