One of the poorest countries in the world, Mozambique has recovered gradually from decades of civil war that ended in 1992. Yet a huge majority of the population is extremely poor (60% living on less than US$ 1.5 a day).
Poverty is especially widespread in rural areas (70% of the poor). Most rural poor depend on low yielding and rainfed subsistence farming, and they are often stricken by drought and other climate disasters. In times of scarcity, they have little to buffer them from food insecurity. This explains the high malnutrition level (43% of children under five are stunted) reinforced by numerous food taboos.
Women are often in a vulnerable situation, having much less access to education in secondary school, land and assets. There are four times less women than men in secondary school.
Yet, since the mid-nineties, the country has benefited from rapid growth and political stability, and in recent years investments in agriculture have grown.
High potential of agriculture sector
Eighty percent of Mozambique's active population depends on agriculture, which contributes 24% of the GDP (2009). Mozambique has 36 million hectares of arable land but only 10% is cultivated. The country has nearly 3.7 million family farms with an average holding size of 1.1 hectare, a quarter (24%) of which are headed by women, producing on an average 95% of the total agricultural production. The remaining 5% comes from 400 commercial farms producing cash and export crops such as cashew, tea, sugarcane, and livestock. About 98% of farms practise rainfed, very low productivity agriculture, without using improved seeds (less than 10%) and other inputs and a very limited access to markets (10% sell surplus to markets).
The central and northern provinces of Mozambique have greater agricultural potential, more fertile soil and more abundant rainfall thanthe other parts of the country, and they generally produce agricultural surpluses. Moving from the central to the southern provinces, the climate becomes drier, the soil is poorer and natural disasters such as drought and floods occur more frequently. These areas - together with coastal communities, which suffer extreme isolation – are the poorest in the country (read more on IFAD Mozambique rural poverty country profile).
Food crops are important and vary according to the regions. Alongside maize and cassava, sorghum is a key staple crop for half the farms in the north, while groundnut is essential for family food security in the drier south. ICRISAT mandate crops are particularly important in a country where 20% of the territory is semi-arid.
A market-based, value chain approach is expected to speed up the modernization of agriculture through 3 agricultural growth corridors (Beira, Nacala and Zambezi: see Grow Africa Mozambique) by capitalizing on the main ports on the Indian Ocean coast for exports.