Linking Nutrition and Agriculture: Mozambique Policy Dialogue

In the inter-connected world of food security, partnerships – among countries, regions, and development organizations – can play a critical role in achieving research- and evidence-based policies to increase the resilience of global food systems and to improve food and nutrition security for all. In this light, since 2014, IFPRI has held a series of food policy dialogues in Africa south of the Sahara, in collaboration with various regional partners as part of the Food Security Portal project. This series of blog posts examines findings from these dialogues and highlights lessons learned and next steps.

Over the past few years, Mozambique has made important strides in incorporating food security and nutrition into its national agricultural development plan, as demonstrated in the country’s National Agriculture Investment Plan . Despite this progress, however, significant gaps remain in the country’s ability to gather and effectively use food security and nutrition data.

Two policy dialogues were held in late 2014 to identify and discuss these gaps. The first, held in August 2014, was organized by SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation) and IFPRI; the second, held in November 2014, was organized by Michigan State University, IFPRI, and the Mozambique Ministry of Agriculture. (View all presentations from the second meeting.) The meetings discovered several underlying problems.

First, Mozambique faces several challenges when it comes to data generation. There is a lack of systematic processes throughout the country, as well as limited capacity to collect and process existing data and to coordinate efforts among ministerial agencies. In addition, the majority of the country’s existing data is not representative, nor is it disaggregated to the district level. This means that even when data does exist, it does not necessarily provide a clear or accurate picture of the country’s actual food security scenario.

In addition, there are rather significant food and nutrition security information gaps. Some of the more pressing data needs include: 1) information on access to and use of agricultural inputs (i.e. fertilizers and seeds), 2) yield calculations for Mozambique’s varied agro-ecological regions, 3) satellite crop data, 4) livestock data, 5) crop production data, particularly for pulses, and 6) information on market access.

To address these gaps, dialogue participants recommended several concrete actions and highlighted several thematic areas that need further attention and research. First, baseline studies need to be implemented to clearly define important indicators for use in Mozambique’s Investment Plan for Agriculture and Food Security (PNISA). James Thurlow of IFPRI and Rui Benfica and Benedito Cunguara of MSU presented PNISA’s success to date and found that while the plan has in fact exceeded the targeted agricultural growth, achieving 8.5 percent growth as compared to CAADP’s targeted 6 percent, it will still need to be improved in order to help Mozambique achieve agricultural growth and poverty reduction outcomes seen in other countries in the region. Specifically, use of survey data to measure productivity gains from various agricultural investments needs to be increased and improved.

Second, and related, the country needs to develop greater policy analysis capacity to support its National Agricultural Surveys (TIAs); while these surveys are being conducted, the data produced from these surveys are often not fully explored or utilized.  In addition, policy studies, such as cost of production studies for maize and rice, are needed to better inform more effective decision-making.

Participants highlighted the need to increase investment to encourage both public and private sector engagement in the agricultural sector. Such investment should target small- and medium-sized producers, as these producers form the bulk of the country’s agricultural sector, and focus on involving these populations in more inclusive value chains.

Further research is also needed into how to increase agricultural input use, particularly smallholders’ use of improved seed varieties. In addition, participants called for greater attention to be paid to the country’s rice markets, specifically to the impacts and implications of rice import tariffs.

Finally, it was recognized that nutrition can no longer be viewed strictly as a healthcare issue. Some significant steps have been made to challenge this belief, such as the coordination of food fortification efforts by the country’s Ministry of Trade and Industry; however, food and nutrition security are still largely seen from a supply-side perspective. In other words, many policies still seem to stem from the belief that if more food is produced, people will automatically have better nutrition. In a presentation on agriculture and nutrition, Rui Benfica, Cynthia Donovan, and Jacquelino Massingue of MSU and the Mozambique Policy Analysis and Planning Capacity for Improved Food Security and Nutrition Outcomes highlighted this misconception. They cited the fact that many households in Mozambique depend on their own production for food and that while this may give them adequate dietary energy intake, it does not ensure adequate dietary diversity. The presenters called for increased investment in agricultural marketing and other non-crop/livestock sources of cash income, as well as for increased education regarding nutritional indicators and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) in both rural and urban communities.