Farmer to farmer: Retired Extension educator volunteers in Mozambique

I recently volunteered for another CNFA Farmer-to-Farmer Program to assist with agricultural development in an African country. Last year it was in Uganda. This year, it was in Mozambique.

My assignment was to assist the Agricultural College of the Catholic University of Mozambique to perform a feasibility study for developing 750 acres of their land into a commercial farm operation. They want to accomplish three objectives with the farm:

  • To operate the farm so it generates income to support the farm operation.
  • To serve as a model for commercialization of agriculture in Mozambique.
  • To serve as a teaching and research facility for students and faculty.

The time period for my assignment was Aug. 14-31. The following are some of the highlights of my experience.

"There are many wonderful people in Mozambique who want to improve their quality of life and appreciate the sharing of expertise by people from the U.S."—Ron Overmyer

My first experience was just getting to the university. Mozambique is on the eastern side of Africa. It is bounded by South Africa to the south, Zimbabwe to the west, Malawi and Tanzania to the north, and the Indian Ocean to the east. It is about twice the size of California and has 21 million people. It got its independence from Portugal in 1975. It established a constitutional republic in 1990 after a protracted civil war.

The Faculty of Agriculture of the Catholic University of Mozambique is located in the town of Cuamba in Northern Mozambique. It took me four days to get there from my home in Oak Harbor in northwest Ohio. It involved air flights from Toledo to Chicago to Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa, to Nampula, Mozambique. The flights took three days due to the time change. On the fourth day, it was a seven-hour Land Rover ride on a two-lane dirt road to reach Cuamba. Cuamba has about 10,000 people.

I was housed in a university faculty apartment complex. It was a nice apartment with a lounge area, a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a bedroom. The university was about a half-mile from the apartment complex. The university provided transportation between the apartment and the university. There are about 300 students at the university.

Average farm less than 5 acres

About 80 percent of Mozambique's population is involved in subsistence agriculture, which means that most people grow just enough for their families and try to market any production they don't use. The average size farm is less than 5 acres for an average family of five. Almost all the farm work is done by hand. There are 3.2 million small farmers producing 95 percent of the agricultural GNP, and 400 commercial farmers producing 5 percent of the agricultural GNP. The annual per capita income is $885. High soybean yields are over 22 bushels per acre. High corn yields are over 80 bushels per acre. Most of the corn and soybeans are raised without high-quality seed, fertilizers, or pesticides. The soybeans are mainly sold to large poultry producers and the corn (white corn) is sold locally for making flour.

About 100 acres of soybeans have been raised on the university farm during the last two years. The farm has averaged 18 bushels per acre without the use of fertilizer or chemicals. Probably another 200 acres can be developed into farmland. The rest of the farm is composed of a mountain and a very stony area. The university also maintains cattle and goat herds on the farm.

Developed a farm business plan

I worked closely with the university farm manager to develop a farm business plan and a projected cash flow. We developed the following business plan items during the 10-day period that I was there:

  • The vision, mission, objectives, farm goals, an organizational chart, and farm job descriptions for the farm operation.
  • Enterprise narratives for soybeans, corn, pigeon peas, and the livestock operation.
  • Enterprise budgets for soybeans, corn, pigeon peas, and the livestock operation.
  • A crop rotation for the 100 acres of developed cropland.
  • A projected cash flow for the farm operation.
  • A farm physical inventory narrative and pictures of the farm inventory.
  • Pictures of the farmland.
  • A GPS-based farm map.
  • Curriculum vitae for the farm manager and assistant farm manager.

The immediate focus will be on perfecting the commercial farm cultural practices for the 100 developed acres along with establishing markets for the farm production. Additional farm acreage will be developed after the cultural practices are perfected on the 100 acres. Email exchanges will be used to complete the additional farm business planning activities that need to be done.

'It was a tremendous cultural experience'

My return trip was basically the reverse of the going trip except that I traveled by train from Cuamba to Nampula, Mozambique, which took about 12 hours. The train was a great way to experience Mozambique. We stopped at about a dozen villages along the way to pick up farm produce to be transported to Nampula. We also passed fantastic scenery of huge granite ridges, mountain ranges, and mountain peaks just rising out of the flat landscape without any foothills.

It was a tremendous cultural experience along with the opportunity to share my agricultural expertise. I had many experiences with food, facilities, and people that are much different than experiences in the U.S. There are many wonderful people in Mozambique who want to improve their quality of life and appreciate the sharing of expertise by people from the U.S.

The Farmer-to-Farmer Program in southern Africa is implemented by CNFA. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development on behalf of the citizens of the U.S.

I am a former OSU Extension educator who served both Ottawa and Sandusky counties. If you would like more information or a presentation on my experience in Mozambique, pleaseemail me or call me at 419-308-5378.

-- Ron Overmyer