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FAO starts distribution of seeds and tools in Mozambique

Farmers in Cyclone Idai-devastated areas in Mozambique have started to receive agricultural inputs due to a joint effort by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security

The initiative is set to assist hard-hit rural families to get a head-start on the impending secondary growing season.

In Manica and Sofala provinces, an initial 15,000 vulnerable households will receive agricultural kits containing hoes, machetes and early-maturing maize and bean seeds that, once sown, will be ready to harvest after 90 days.

The distribution will take place alongside food rations from the World Food Progamme (WFP), which will help to deter beneficiaries from consuming the seeds immediately rather than planting them.

Farmers in these two provinces alone produce approximately 25 per cent of the national cereal output, but they saw nearly all of their assets swept away by Idai. Most lost all or large portions of their seed stores as well as the standing crops they were about to harvest. FAO’s agricultural kit distributions are expected to ensure that the most resource-strapped farmers in Manica and Sofala can plant their crops in the current secondary agricultural season, for which sowing started in April and harvests will be in July.

“Reviving livelihoods and markets as soon as possible is crucial to help farmers, fishers and pastoralists get back on their feet in time for the main planting season in October and beyond,” said Olman Serrano, FAO representative in Mozambique.

“The smaller second planting season is now underway, leaving an increasingly narrow window of opportunity to sow early-maturing crops such as the beans and maize FAO is distributing. These can be harvested around 90 days after planting and go some way to filing the productive gap left by the massive losses suffered in this main harvest,” he said.

In addition to food, beneficiary households will also be able to produce their own seeds for planting in October, when the country’s main agricultural season is set to begin. Safeguarding the main season and ensuring that rural families are able to fully participate in it is critical to restoring food security in Mozambique, where Idai’s impacts have been ruinous for both lives and livelihoods. Fisheries infrastructure, food and grain stores, and livestock were washed away, and hundreds of thousands of ha of crops are reported to be completely wiped out.

Farming in Mozambique

Subsistence farming is crucial for Mozambique’s economy and food security, with more than 80 per cent of the population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods and some 99 per cent of these being small-scale farmers. The central region is Mozambique's breadbasket and plays a vital role in cushioning food shortages, while the port city of Beira in Sofala province is a major trade gateway for the country. Extensive damage to Beira port’s infrastructure and connecting transport routes could impede the importation of grains - approximately one million tonnes of wheat and rice are imported annually into the country.

The sudden lack of food or the capacity to produce it means that this number is likely to rise dramatically in the coming weeks and months. While the exact extent of the damage to agriculture remains to be assessed, FAO and WFP are already carrying out rapid needs assessments and mapping productive, agricultural and fisheries infrastructure and assets to shape the inter-agency food security cluster response plans.