Moamba Irrigation Project, Mozambique's Hidden Treasure
ACORD works with farmers' groups and others across Africa to improve production techniques and promote meaningful engagement from the grassroots in the Comprehensive African Agricultural and Development programme (CAADP) process which could lead to a resurgence in African agriculture. In 2010 and 2011 ACORD facilitated trainings that equipped farmer's organisations with updated technical information and skills and introduced participants to CAADP principles and CAADP compacts.
From Training to Practice
Mr. Sitoe explains how the Irrigation
project works. Photo by Salatiel/ACORD.
Joshua Sitoe, a small scale farmer from Moamba (Maputo province) benefitted from these trainings and he now manages the Moamba irrigation system that provides water to over 200 hectares of small farms, reaching more than 1,200 farmers. The water is pumped from a nearby river using a diesel powered engine and channeled into a dam. From there, it is distributed into the farms using an elaborate channeling system that is both engine powered and gravity assisted.
Originally, the irrigation system was owned by the Government and was later handed over to the farmers' movement in Moamba for them to manage. The farmers' movement is made up of more than 25 small-scale farmers associations. At the time of the hand-over the water system was in very bad shape, with old, run down engines and facilities out of service. But with determination, planning and new knowledge, the farmers' movement has been able to revive and put it into use.
Their initial task was to rebuild all the structures and develop a solid and reliable system that could sustain the scheme. Mr. Sitoe is an engineer and together with other mechanics has been able to ensure that the mechanical system is well functioning. Members of the farmers movement also shared tasks including dam cleaning, fundraising to be able to purchase spare parts and providing security for the facilities as some of the by-pass water channeling systems are located in distant and remote places.
Following the rehabilitation which started in 2004, the associations started supplying farms with water and therefore enabling them to produce maize, pumpkin, tomatoes and potatoes. "We produce vegetables all year round, and we also supply the big market at Zimpeto with farm produce", says Mr. Sitoe with pride.
Soon the farmers learnt that water access by itself is not enough for effective agricultural production, there is need for skills in seed selection, planting techniques, soil fertilization, and other ‘soft' skills and techniques that lead to higher crop production.
Mr. Sitoe has fond memories of the June 2010 training held in Kenya and how the skills acquired have come a long way in improving his farming practices. During the workshop, farmers from different African countries shared their farming experiences and participated in practical demonstrations to increase their skills and knowledge on effective agricultural techniques.
"We learnt about animal keeping. Ethiopians and Kenyans are more skilled in animal management while we in Mozambique are good at crop management. So the workshop enabled us to shared knowledge, benefiting from expertise from the best in the field", he says.
During trainings, farmers are encouraged to talk freely about their farming experiences, take pride in their achievements and learn from mistakes. For example, lack of adequate financial support has been one of the main draw-backs for farmers in many places. However, it is a sensitive matter that most farmers prefer not to talk about openly. But thanks to the workshops, the farmers are able to not only share their financial experiences, they are also provided with opportunities to brainstorm on possible action steps to acquire financial support and to prepare financial plans and forecasts covering 6 to 12 months ahead. With these and other activities, they soon realise that they are part of a wider Pan African movement of small-scale farmers working towards a common objective of eradicating food insecurity on the continent.
Small-scale farmers in Moamba harvesting Irish potatoes and packing in paper cartons for selling at Zimbeto market. They get an average yield of 3 tonnes per harvest. photo by Efigenia/ACORD.
Mugede, a local CSO and member of ROSA (the National Network of Organisations working on Food Sovereignty in Mozambique) and many other associations, in conjunction with ACORD, work towards ensuring that the voice of small scale farmers is included in national and international debates on rural development in Mozambique. Through consultative discussions there has been increased representation of small-scale farmers' organisations and their members in the CAADP process which culminated in the signing of the CAADP compact in December 2011 and a budget commitment over 11% for agriculture in 2012, exceeding the CAADP target of 10%. Going forward it is crucial that civil society track the quality of this expenditure to assess whether this increased investment is reaching small holder farmers particularly women who are the backbone of the agricultural labour force.