Firmino Mucavele rightly says…..”You can’t eat minerals!”

One of Mozambique’s top economists, Firmino Mucavele, has warned that, despite the rapid development of the mining industry, Mozambique will go nowhere if it does not build up its agriculture. Cited by Radio Mozambique, Mucavele, who was recently distinguished by NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) for his work on agricultural development, warned that you can’t eat minerals – minerals run out, and the resources derived from mining do not guarantee food security.

According to Mucavele, “70 to 80 per cent of the investment in mineral resources is foreign and only 20 per cent of the returns stay in Mozambique”.

The minerals, he claimed, “will merely contribute to the image of the country. They are not a solution to food security or to our sustainable development”.

Mucavele called for far-reaching reforms in the agricultural sector, with the adoption of a pragmatic and realistic policy for transforming subsistence agriculture into commercial farming. He argued that Mozambique will only have an agriculture with high levels of production and productivity, which contributes to the development of other sectors, when it banks on commercial agricultural, with small and medium seized companies.

He warned that there is no coordination between different value chains, and there is no harmony and congruence between the policies and actions defined for the various sectors of development. “As a result, no action or policy is successful”, he said, “If there is financing for seeds, there is no financing for transport or storage. If there’s a railway line, there’s no agro-processing. There are no linkages between production, processing, storage and distribution”.

Mucavele also pointed to the low level of agricultural research, and the lack of connections between research, extension and innovation. There was a lack of investment in research, and a failure to use adequately the few staff trained in this area that the country possesses. Illustrating the shocking lack of agricultural staff, Mucavele said that Mozambique only has 800 rural extensionists –who have to deal with about 36 million hectares of arable land.

Smaller countries have much larger numbers of extensionists. Thus in Malawi, ten years ago, there were 3,150 extensionists, and in tiny Swaziland there were 2,300. Under the government’s current agricultural programme, Mozambique hopes to raise the number of extensionists to between 6,000 and 8,000. Even so, the number will remain well below the country’s needs. Mozambique was good at drawing up plans, Mucavele said – but they were never fully implemented. “We have an inexhaustible wealth of policies”, he said. “What we need to do is take some of them and implement them, linking theory with practice”.


One Comment so far. Comments are closed.
  1. avatar Elizabeth Fitzgerald,

    I agree with Mr. Mucavele that a key factor in Mozambique’s investment of natural resources should be to agricultural production. Most, if not all, of the countries that have avoided the “resource curse” apportioned resource wealth to agricultural investments. Mozambique cannot rely completely on its resource wealth, because, as Mr. Mucavele points out, the resources will eventually run out. In addition, countries that suffer the most from the “resource curse” and Dutch disease did not place as much importance on diversifying the economy and stabilizing non-resource sector industries. Only a small percentage of Mozambique’s arable land is cultivated, and as Mr. Mucavele stated, Mozambique’s agricultural sector is not coordinated–production, transportation, and sales are so disconnected that the agricultural sector is not functioning in an efficient and productive manner. If Mozambique uses its resource wealth to invest in agriculture, this will be a lasting investment that will create jobs, a stable wealth source, and ultimately, a better standard of living for communities throughout the country.

    I came across an August 2011 article explaining that Mozambique rented 6 million hectares, or about 60,000 square kilometres (out of a total of about 800,000 square kilometres), to Brazilian farmers for 50 years, with the option to renew the contract for another 50 years. The annual rent rate is 37.50 meticals per hectare. The article is located at the following link:

    Do you think it is a good idea that Mozambique rented out land at a set rate for 50, or perhaps 100, years to foreigners, or do you think that Mozambique should wait for resource revenues to flow in and then invest in agriculture? Could renting out land to foreigners, who will likely improve infrastructure, be a solution to unifying the agricultural sector, so that production, transportation, and sales are finally coordinated?