Mozambican Agriculture Minister Celso Correia on Wednesday called for “a paradigm shift” in the approach to agriculture, “because we cannot continue to be a laboratory of experiments, where each partner arrives and gives us seeds, but years later, when the resources run out, the households fall back into poverty”.
Correia was speaking in Maputo, as he presented the 2022 Post-Harvest Food Security Report. The changes he wanted to see included seven year cycles of support for agriculture which would train producers, instead of short term aid, after which they return to misery.
The report forms the basis for Correia’s claim in Rome a week ago that about 90 per cent of the Mozambican population has an acceptable diet which meets their daily calorific needs.
Nonetheless, about ten per cent of the population are in a situation of food insecurity and need urgent assistance to guarantee their basic food requirements.
To face this emergency, 40 million US dollars are available for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to intervene, particularly in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where hundreds of thousands of people have ben displaced from their homes by islamist terrorist attacks.
The data in the report indicated that the proportion of the Mozambican population facing acute levels of food insecurity fell from 13 per cent in 2022 to ten per cent in 2023.
“In the period under analysis, about 90 per cent of the population had an acceptable diet”, Correia said. “In Mozambique, 958,600 people are in an emergency situation and need food aid. 690,400 of these people are in Cabo Delgado province”.
He added that the country was divided into five phases of food insecurity, and no Mozambicans are in the fifth and worst phase, which is that of “catastrophe and famine”, where households suffer extreme food shortages. This scenario only occurs where there are extreme levels of acute malnutrition and mortality.
Correia strongly defended his statements in Rome that 90 per cent of the Mozambican population are eating three meals a day, and hit back at those NGOs, notably the Community Development Foundation (FDC), who had attacked him.
He suggested that the FDC painted a picture of a country in utter misery, in order to attract resources from donors.
“90 per cent of the population has a safe diet – that is, they manage to eat three meals a day”, said Correia. “We have to improve their diet and ensure more stability in access to food”.
“So our work is not yet concluded, but we are on the right path”, he stressed.
Correia strongly objected to claims made by the FDC’s such as “in Mozambique, people are dying”.
“The FDC is projecting images of misery in order to raise funds”, he accused, and of that money much is spent on workshops that produce nothing of value for the people in need. “’In Mozambique they are dying’ – we are a miserable country, and that’s how we are operating. Billions of dollars for cycles of support which are not sustainable”. Correia declared.
Furthermore, the FDC was using outdated figures. Thus it claimed that 42.3 per cent of children are chronically malnourished, although recent studies have shown that the true figure is now 38 per cent. The FDC also claimed that most households spend 60 per cent of their income on food – it thus forgot that large numbers of Mozambicans grow their own food rather than buying it.
An FDC representative at the Wednesday meeting, Joaquim Oliveira, apologized for the mistakes in the FDC’s original reaction, and declared that the FDC shared Correia’s desire for a paradigm shift.
“We want to be part of this. We want to contribute”, said Oliveira.
In conclusion, Correia suggested the real problem is that Mozambicans are not used to hearing good news about their own country.