Tackling hunger in Mozambique through Farmer Field Schools


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In March 2015 the Edith Maud Ellis 1985 Charitable Trust awarded a grant of £1,000 to Concern Worldwide’s sustainable agriculture project tackling hunger in Zambezia province, Mozambique as part of Concern’s Hunger Stops Here campaign, which raised £1.4m to help tackle hunger.  This amount was matched by the UK Government.

The project has made enormous progress through building the capacity of local communities to increase their incomes, as well as reducing their risk to disasters – such as the once-in-a-generation floods that devastated the area in January 2015.

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Background

Mozambique is a nation of 25.8 million people with 70% of the population living in poverty.  The vast majority of the working population are smallholder farmers, who depend on a small patch of land for their food and livelihood, making them incredibly vulnerable to environmental  shocks and climate change.  Extreme poverty, low food diversity and poor child feeding practices contribute to high rates of malnutrition.

Zambezia province, where this project is taking place, has some of the worst child welfare indicators in the world.  Overall chronic malnutrition for under 5s in Zambezia is 50%, and its child mortality rate of 205 deaths per 1000 live births is over twice the national average.  Food insecurity and resulting malnutrition is one of the main clauses of this.

The causes of hunger and poverty in Zambezia are agricultural systems that are inefficient and vulnerable to chronic seasonal flooding exacerbated by a changing climate, gender inequality, with women no tin control of household expenditure and therefore unable to meet the needs of their families; and poor nutrition practices.

In March 2015 the Edith Ellis Charitable Trust donated £1,000 to support Concern’s innovative approach to reducing hunger in Zambezia, by using Farmer Field Schools as a vehicle to promote greater household income for smallholder farmers and increased dietary diversity.  The project’s approach is to bring together members of the poorest households to form Farmer Field Schools.  Concern’s agricultural technicians teach these groups improved farming techniques, including how to grow cash crops and nutritious foods, and provide tools and seeds, along with a shared plot of land.  This is so farmers can see for themselves that this approach works, and are then inspired to replicate it on their own small plots of land.

Aims, Objectives and Results Achieved

Objective 1: Increased food security and dietary diversity for extreme poor households

Results achieved:

  • Over the last year, Concern supported 110 Farmer Field Schools (FFS) in Zambezia, which represents 2,700 households – or roughly 13,500 people.
  • Concern has distributed over 10 tonnes of various seeds to FFS over the last year.
  • Irrigation pumps have been distributed to 17 FFS over the last year, improving irrigation.
  • Households now produce 67% of the food they consume, which is an increase of 13% increase since 2013.
  • 24% of children now consume four or more food groups on a daily basis.  Although this only represents one in four children, it is a 70% increase since the project started.
  • 65% of women of reproductive age now consume four or more food groups on a daily basis.  Having a diverse diet contribute to better health of mothers, which will result in healthier children.
  • Concern linked FFS members with the Government’s Ministry of Agriculture to purchase improved seed varieties at a reduced price.

Objective 2: Women and other vulnerable groups have increased control over decision making and resources at household and community levels

Results achieved:

  • There has been huge progress made within this objective, as the project works with the community to demonstrate the value of women for a household’s development.
  • In terms of livelihood decisions made within households, 98% of women are now consulted regarding the sale of the household’s cash crops, and 94% of women are consulted on the purchase of agricultural inputs.  These are considerable achievements, given women were only consulted 43% of times at the start of the project.
  • 99% of women are now consulted in household decisions on buying non-staple foods.  This compares to only 32% at the start of the project, and will contribute towards the increase in diverse diet of women and children reported under Objective 1.

Objective 3: Extreme poor families have reduced vulnerability and increased capacity to respond to natural disasters and other shocks

Results achieved:

  • Over the last year, Concern trained 16 Community Mobilisers in the construction of community stilt seed storage facilities.  These staff then replicated the training to 13 FFS groups.  Three trainings were organised with 11 Community Mobilisers and 37 FFS group Facilitators in the construction of “Gorongoza type” cement silos.  Training included the construction of one silo in each district and occurred over several says to allow cement parts to dry properly prior to the assembly of the silo.  This silo offers effective protection from water, rodents and theft.
  • From April to June 2015 trainings were conducted for nine of the 38 new FFS.  The training focused on the preparation and use of bio-pesticide using plants and ingredients locally available.  For example, the project proposed the syrups of basil, onion with garlic and tobacco for protection against pests such as caterpillar.  The objective is to enable farmers to manage pests on their horticulture at an affordable cost when they feel it is necessary.
  • As a result of the above activities, 27% of farmers have adopted disaster risks reduction practices and reported benefits from doing so.  At the start of the project, no farmers were aware of these practices.

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