More than 70% of the Mozambican population is involved in agriculture, with the sector contributing 26% to GDP. Around 3.2 million smallholder farmers account for 95% of the country’s food production, with 80% of these farmers growing staples such as maize and cassava. Other important crops include wheat, rice, sugarcane and avocados.
Despite being comparatively land abundant, Mozambique continues to experience high degrees of food insecurity, with regional food shortages frequently driven by conflict and repeated displacement. This is compounded by climatic shocks, which have disrupted communities’ agricultural activities and livelihoods, as well as weak access to production inputs and markets.
In the early 2000s, as Mozambique began recovering from central planning and decades of civil war, its government began adopting more pro-investment policies. Seeking to capitalize on its abundance of arable land, the government began concessioning large areas for industrial agriculture. Over the span of a decade, over 500 investors were granted a combined 2.5 million hectares of land. Many industrial plantations emerged for food crops such as maize, rice and soy, as well as for eucalyptus, cotton and sugarcane.
Since concessions are generally located within customary land areas, land-based investments in Mozambique frequently involve community displacement. While Mozambican land laws do require that investors obtain community consent, elite capture and political interference issues often undermine the spirit of these laws. As a result, many host communities experience loss of land, common pool resources and livelihoods.
Key initiatives and commitments
With communities increasingly resisting land-based investments and a growing realization that land concessions are rarely unoccupied, the Mozambican began taking a more cautious approach to land investments. In 2009, it issued a two-year land allocation moratorium and in 2016 disbanded the Centre for the Promotion of Agriculture charged with promoting agro-investment in the country. This slowed the pace of land investments in the country and reduce the size of average land allocations.
The government is now finalizing a new Agrarian Sector Strategic Plan (PEDSA II, 2020–2030), which recognizes the needed for greater interministerial coordination to deliver sustainable rural livelihoods. In a joint effort with eight different ministries, PEDSA II has crafted an important vision for building the resilience of vulnerable food-insecure communities while preserving ecosystem services. To help deliver on this, improved community-business partnerships is envisioned. Coordinated efforts within government provide an important basis of developing business ecosystems that facilitate transformative investment.