How Climate-Smart Agriculture Is Affecting Yields & Livelihoods in Mozambique
Small-scale Mozambican farmers cannot afford chemical inputs like fertilizers and pesticides that have raised yields elsewhere. Similarly, only 4.6% of Mozambican farmers purchase improved seed and 4.3% have access to extension services. Persistent low yields affect household and national food security. Mozambican maize yields are 1.1t/ha (MINAG 2019) — in Zimbabwe, even lower at about 700kg/ha (FAO 2019). As a result, a new approach that is more accessible to small-scale farmers and environmentally conscious is imperative.
RAMA-BC (The Feed the Future Resilient Agriculture Market Activity – Beira Corridor), a project through USAID, has for the last three agricultural seasons partnered with local farmers and seed companies in central Mozambique with Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA). CSA, as a low-input alternative for drought-prone, has allowed for risk-averse farmers to continue growing in Sub Saharan Africa.
In CSA, different legume intercrop combinations restore soil fertility, improve organic matter content, and increase soil water retention — which is critical as drought takes hold. Intercrops maximize space, efficiently exploiting different root depths, whilst fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere. High-quality plant-metabolism nutrients are taken up more efficiently than chemical fertilizer, which must be transformed into a usable form first (The process of converting inorganic nitrates into a bio available form requires energy and water from the plants). With CSA, yields steadily increase and stabilize. In the second season, RAMA-BC achieved an average yield increase of maize of 96%, at 3t/ha (Yield data taken from 18 trials conducted on Model Family Farms in Tete — 3.4t/ha — and Manica — 2.6t/ha — harvest of May 2019). Nearly 8,000 farmers on about 6,000 hectares are now adopting CSA. CSA, with intercropping, is familiar to farmers, as small-scale farmers frequently combine different crop species to diversify diet and save labor. Healthy soils also result in pest and disease-resistant crops.
Pests like the newly endemic Fall Army Worm (FAW) are repelled by ‘volatiles’ emitted from intercrop leaves or controlled by beneficial insects which thrive in a more diverse environment. Household nutrition and food security is strengthened as farmers harvest fresh and nutritious cowpeas or pigeon peas either side of the main harvest. And by addressing soil health, as a fundamental and sustainable principle, RAMA-BC is reversing declining yields and helping farmers adapt to a more resilient future.
For further information, the technical briefs in the side bar summarize RAMA-BC’s CSA approach to improving resilience.