Blog by Maria Ana Borges --
My recent trip to Mozambique for the SUSTAIN-Africa Initiative included consultation and engagement with small and big businesses. During these discussions, we often talked about the challenging economic conditions for businesses operating in Mozambique. Access to markets is a much debated topic, which made me think about value chains and their potential to bring about larger scale change.
For example, if a smallholder farmer in the Xitima area (part of the Cahora Bassa District where SUSTAIN works) wishes to improve their livelihood by becoming a commercial farmer, they require access to customers. For a remote village, this involves lengthy trips to the nearest market and challenges in terms of keeping produce fresh. The distance to markets can compromise their supply, unless the farmer is connected to a good supply chain.
By engaging in new or existing value chains, farmers are not only able to gain access to markets, they are more likely to access extension services, as well as machinery and finance. All of this can lead to improved living conditions. So where do issues like sustainability and inclusion come into play? The truth is that they don’t always and that is a concern down the line, as agriculture can cause tremendous impacts on the ecosystems, which farmers and communities depend on.
SUSTAIN-Africa, which works with farmers and communities, government officials and business, aims to support the greening of established growth corridors in Africa. It is developing sustainable and inclusive value chains in Mozambique to build climate change resilience and promote innovative solutions for local communities.
The recipe is simple and involves a few ingredients for success: ownership, organisation, diversification and access. Farmers are given demonstration plots and are brought together under ‘producer clubs’. Here they practice conservation and climate-smart agriculture, develop good governance structures and sustainable livelihoods. Making linkages to existing value chains and developing new ones is the next step.
SUSTAIN’s implementing partners, ADPP – Ajuda ao Desenvolvimento do Povo para o Povo – and Micaia Foundation, are just beginning this journey with 40 producer clubs now fully operational in the Zambezi Valley.
There is also palpable energy around the newly established clubs that I visited with SUSTAIN colleagues in the upper Zambezi. Club structures have been formed, fields have been cleared and seedlings have started to push through the earth. Women and men are enthusiastic about the programme and their future prospects, where they expect to have greater possibilities for themselves, their families and communities.
Maria Ana Borges is a Programme Officer for IUCN's Business and Biodiversity Programme. For more information about the SUSTAIN-Africa Initiative, visit www.sustaininitiative.org