Transforming lives through better seeds in Mozambique

Agriculture is the backbone of Mozambique’s economy, with over 80% of the total population depending on agriculture for food, income, and employment. In 2010, agriculture generated approximately 23% of the gross national product, suggesting low returns to labor. Therefore, accelerating agricultural growth is key to eradicating poverty and improving food security especially in the rural areas. However, several biophysical and socioeconomic factors continue to undermine efforts to address these challenges.

Agriculture is the backbone of Mozambique’s economy, with over 80% of the total population depending on agriculture for food, income, and employment. In 2010, agriculture generated approximately 23% of the gross national product, suggesting low returns to labor. Therefore, accelerating agricultural growth is key to eradicating poverty and improving food security especially in the rural areas. However, several biophysical and socioeconomic factors continue to undermine efforts to address these challenges.

SEMEAR has three main objectives: (1) increase the production and supply of breeder, pre-basic, basic, and certified seed of common bean, cowpea, groundnut, pigeon pea, sesame and soybean, and strengthen the national seed systems; (2) scale up and enhance the adoption of improved varieties and best management practices through participatory approaches; and (3) enhance national policy dialogue on seed and fertilizer supply. The project is targeting to reach 100,000 households, 35% of them women. Further, SEMEAR looks to achieve intermediate results that directly respond to two of the five PEDSA objectives: increased productivity and improved marketing services.

Mozambique’s agricultural sector is characterized mainly by small-scale, rainfed, subsistence production, low mechanization, labor-based production techniques, weak policy support, low-level use of farm inputs, outdated agronomic practices, and poor access to seeds of improved and high-yielding varieties. The latter has been identified as a key challenge, compounded by the lack of an effective and well coordinated system to produce and supply improved seeds to farmers.

IITA leads the implementation of the 5-year “Improved Seeds for Better Agriculture” project (SEMEAR in its Portuguese acronym) launched in 2015 and funded through USAID’s Feed-the-Future (FTF) Initiative in Mozambique. IITA is undertaking the project in partnership with the Mozambique Institute of Agricultural Research (IIAM), ICRISAT, and CIAT. SEMEAR’s goal is aligned with PEDSA’s, Mozambique’s national agricultural development strategy that aims to improve the availability of breeder, pre-basic, basic, and certified seed of improved varieties released in the country and to strengthen technology delivery in the USAID-FTF’s Zones of Influence of Manica, Nampula, Tete, and Zambézia provinces in the country.

SEMEAR has three main objectives: (1) increase the production and supply of breeder, pre-basic, basic, and certified seed of common bean, cowpea, groundnut, pigeon pea, sesame and soybean, and strengthen the national seed systems; (2) scale up and enhance the adoption of improved varieties and best management practices through participatory approaches; and (3) enhance national policy dialogue on seed and fertilizer supply. The project is targeting to reach 100,000 households, 35% of them women. Further, SEMEAR looks to achieve intermediate results that directly respond to two of the five PEDSA objectives: increased productivity and improved marketing services.

Only one year into its implementation starting in the planting season of 2015/2016, SEMEAR has already registered some remarkable achievements. SEMEAR’s partners have already produced 69 tons of breeder/pre-basic and basic seed of common bean, cowpea, soybean, groundnut, pigeon pea, and sesame; and facilitated production of 479 tons of certified and improved seed of the crops being promoted. Demonstrations established totaled 1,094 for variety and crop management, with more than 120 field days conducted. There were 22 training sessions administered attracting more than 3,677 farmers and extension agents (2,237 men and 1,440 women). Soil samples were collected for soil fertility suitability analysis and mapping.

“SEMEAR’s partners
have already produced
68.98 tons of breeder/
pre-basic and basic
seed of common bean,
cowpea, soybean,
groundnut, pigeon
pea, and sesame; and
facilitated production
of 479.03 tons of
certified and improved
seed of the crops being
promoted..”
SEMEAR

Left : Nametile Nacololo Field day, June 2016. Right: Malema training, June

The project also actively participates in national platforms for dialogues in the seed and fertilizer sectors in collaboration with the private sector, NGOs, and the Government to lobby and promote the accreditation of independent seed inspectors, provision of capacity building, and training in production of basic seed by the private sector. The foundation seed produced by implementing partners will be supplied to partners and stakeholders to improve certified seed multiplication schemes, directly impacting on the number of farmers using improved seed in these communities. It has also envisaged that the seed systems in the country would operate efficiently.

Within a short period, SEMEAR is already making a difference in the lives of its beneficiaries. Take the case of Cecilia João—a woman-farmer, leader, and the co-founder of a women’s association—who is working with SEMEAR to change lives for the better.

An empty sack cannot stand upright

Cecilia João is one of many Mozambican farmers working with SEMEAR in the Meconta District of Nampula. She is a model, inspiring woman-leader, and pioneer in improved seed production and commercialization in her home community of Teterrene. Yet, just three years ago, Cecilia considered herself just a common smallholder farmer struggling to find good-quality seed and facing difficulties to produce enough for her family’s needs.

Due to SEMEAR’s interventions, Cecilia has increased her cowpea yields five times; and in a couple of years, Cecilia’s life started to turn for the better. She is no longer an introverted rural woman as she quickly became confident in “preaching the gospel” of IITA/SEMEAR to other farmers and even the media. Besides being a motivational leader in her community, Cecilia runs a demonstration plot planted with three IITA improved cowpea varieties (IT-16, IT- 18, and IT-1062) and one local variety. The field is regularly visited by many farmers eager to see and apply the improved agricultural technologies showcased there.

Due to SEMEAR’s interventions, Cecilia has increased her cowpea yields five times; and in a couple of years, Cecilia’s life started to turn for the better. CECILIA

With one child and another on the way, Cecilia considers the IITA/ SEMEAR project as a blessing. “This project has made me feel proud to be a farmer because being one truly represents food for my own children,” Cecilia professes. “An empty sack cannot stand upright,” she adds, referring to the importance of having sufficient food since, she says, only well-nourished farmers can produce efficiently, which leads to better incomes. SEMEAR caters to both.

Also, in 2015, Cecilia co-founded the Associação das Mulheres Olhasana (AMO)—a local women’s association that is working alongside IITA in fighting aflatoxin in Mozambique using AflasafeTM. Later on, AMO also became a seed business development partner of SEMEAR.

Despite being primarily a women’s group, AMO also works with male constituents, particularly members’ husbands. Together, AMO members cultivate clusters of farms spanning multiple hectares and encourages investment in high-quality inputs such as improved seed and inoculant. The men perform the more physically laborious tasks such as land preparation.

ORCID: 0000-0002-8487-4340

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