Learning Platform update: Highlights from Mozambique
Since the first multi-stakeholder Learning Platform on Land Governance and Food Security in Tanzania on April 27 and 28 (Blogpost #1), LANDac and partners have organized two additional Learning Platforms in Mozambique and Uganda. This new blogpost shares the highlights from the Mozambique Learning Platforms which took place in the city of Chimoio on July 27 and 28, 2017.
The Learning Platforms create space for dialogue and learning around land-based investments in agriculture and forestry. The platforms focus on how to better align land-based investments with local development priorities. Each two-day platform meeting is preceded by research in communities in the investment areas, and followed by monitoring meetings and continued engagement. This project is initiated by LANDac, together with CIFOR, the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP) and Shared Value Foundation (SVF).
Mozambique: Beira corridor
The provinces of Manica and Sofala in Mozambique – located along the Beira growth corridor – are seen as the gateway to South-East Africa, with Beira as the main port and Chimoio as a key transit hub to Zimbabwe, Malawi and beyond. The area has attracted a large number of land-based investments in agriculture and forestry, and new investments are still coming in due to this favourable geographical location, as well as its agricultural potential.
Three land-based investments – located along the Beira corridor – participated in the Learning Platform in Chimoio: Tongaat Hulett Sugar (sugar cane; plantations and smallholder production); Portucel Moçambique (eucalyptus; plantations); and Westfalia (avocado and lychees; smallholder production). The Learning Platform gathered a total of 26 participants, representing these companies, local government, communities, research and civil society.
Local priorities: employment and diversifying agriculture
The discussions in Chimoio were kicked-off with a presentation of the research findings of a local assessment done in communities around the investments involved. A shared interest in finding employment with the companies came out strongly for all three investments, regardless the type of investment and the actual number of jobs created by the companies. This means employment opportunities were ranked highly as a priority for communities living near the sugar investment where thousands of jobs have been created, as well as near the eucalyptus and fruit investments, where few direct jobs are available. Besides jobs, respondents indicated a strong interest for further engaging with the companies, but ideas of how exactly are not always so clear. One suggestion which came forward several times, was the interest of community members in receiving more information about potential ways in which they might seek collaboration with the existing companies, this was particularly true for Tongaat Hulett and Westfalia. For example, in the area where Westfalia buys lychees, many local farmers currently growing the fruits were interested in the option to sell their produce to the company – but it was often not clear how to contact the company and express their interest.
In terms of livelihood priorities, research findings showed a strong preference towards agriculture-related activities, including expanding and diversifying agricultural production with a strong focus on food crops. Community members saw a role for the companies in contributing to agriculture-related activities. Access to markets for products that are already grown in the different areas, varying from maize and beans, to tangerines and lychees, were seen as an impactful way of contributing to local development.
The Chimoio Learning Platform led to a process of collaborative planning in which multi-stakeholder groups discussed ways forward and activities that would address some of the issues identified. To support agricultural livelihoods, each company identified a number of activities. For a company like Westfalia these are very much aligned with their business model, providing training and support to local growers of lychees, as well as linking them up to alternative markets. One of the issues identified in the assessment in Westfalia communities was that lychees unsuitable for EU markets because of their size, were now rejected and sold on local markets for a much lower price. Westfalia is working on getting access to alternative markets, amongst others in South Africa, so that the rejected fruits can still be sold on more profitable markets.
Tongaat Hulett Sugar and Portucel, in addressing some of the challenges brought forward from the research, expanded their focus beyond their core business (sugar cane and eucalyptus respectively). Tongaat Hulett plans to support the set-up of more associations in the area, which focus on other agricultural products than sugar cane. They provide support to setting up these associations and try to link them to markets. Portucel on the other hand, has been providing extension services to smallholder farmers in the areas around their plantations. One of their plans – following the Learning Platform – is to look into opportunities to establish block agriculture in which eucalyptus is combined with other crops in agro-forestry arrangements.
In the months to come, the Learning Platform team will remain in contact with the group, to support implementation of the activity plans of the companies. Follow-up activities consist of update meetings later in the year, as well as focus group discussions in communities where research was conducted initially to create feedback mechanisms.