Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza on 15 March
declared that his government is striving for a "green revolution"
to improve and diversify agriculture and raise its productivity. Addressing
the opening session of an extraordinary meeting of the Central Committee of
the ruling Frelimo Party, in the southern city of Matola, President Guebuza
said that success in the fight against hunger calls for an intervention strategy
to guide farmers along the entire value chain in agriculture.
President Guebuza wanted the Central Committee meeting to guide the government in deepening the foundations and the contours of this "green revolution" which he regarded as a multidimensional strategy to fight against hunger and poverty.
"This revolution must be sustainable, sensitive to the environment and to biodiversity, and should reflect the Mozambican context, taking into account the experience of our people", he said.
President Guebuza insisted that increasing food production implies strong leadership at all levels to mobilise farmers and all other key actors in agricultural production, with the rural district as the main focus.
"Despite all the agricultural potential of the country we still find cases of hunger, one of the elementary signs of poverty", lamented the President. To reverse this situation, he stressed the need to lay the groundwork for subsistence peasant farmers to be transformed into commercial farmers, which calls for improvements in the distribution of seeds and fertiliser, the diversification of production and a good use of water, as well as ensuring there are buyers for the crops.
President Guebuza encouraged farmers to organize themselves into associations to facilitate technical assistance by rural extension services, and easier access to credit and to markets.
Turning to the natural disasters that have hit Mozambique this year, he praised the good organization and hygiene he found during his visit to the accommodation centres for the victims of the flooding along the Zambezi. He expressed his admiration for the way the victims have showed a determination to reduce their vulnerability, by agreeing to live in safer areas.
WFP warns of poor harvest
The President's call came as the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) gave a warning of impending poor harvests across southern Africa, due to a combination of floods and drought. WFP has warned of its "deep concern over erratic weather patterns in southern Africa which have devastated harvest prospects for millions of people, and could spell yet another year of widespread food shortages".
In addition to the flooding in the Zambezi Valley in Mozambique, parts of Angola, Madagascar, Namibia, and Zambia have also experienced floods which, says the WFP, "have destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of crops during the most critical growing stage".
Less well publicised has been the shortage of rain further south. The WFP notes that crops have withered and died across southern Mozambique, parts of Zimbabwe and Namibia, Lesotho and much of Swaziland.
South Africa also faces a poor harvest due to excessively hot and dry conditions. Since WFP gets much of its food aid for elsewhere in the region from South Africa, a fall in the South African harvest will be "especially problematic".
According to Amir Abdulla, WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa all indications are that southern Africa could be heading for yet another year of critical food shortages. For some parts of the region, it's simply too late to hope that a late burst of rainfall will change people's food supply outlook for the year ahead."
There are bright spots, in that good harvests are expected in Malawi, Zambia and northern Mozambique. WFP will be able to buy surplus crops in these regions and move them to the food deficit areas. Or rather it will do, if it has enough money, for WFP warns that "even without the additional challenges that would be posed by widespread erratic harvests in southern Africa, WFP faces a funding shortfall of about $97 million for current operations through to the end of 2007".
Prime Minister Diogo explained that the two months before the signing of the agreement are to be used in discussions of the details before a Spanish team comes to Maputo to finalise the agreement.
Prime Minister Diogo gave no details of how the insurance scheme will be implemented, but she described the outcome of the talks as "a victory for Mozambicans".
In another step towards assisting development in rural areas, an institution describing itself as Mozambique's "first national micro-bank" was inaugurated on 7 March in the district of Moamba, in Maputo province.
This institution, the Malanga Microbank, is owned by Mozambican businessmen, and financed by the government's Rural Finance Support Programme, which was set up to ensure that people living in the countryside would have somewhere where they can deposit their savings and take out loans.
According to the chairperson of the Rural Finance Support Programme, Martinho Fernandes, the programme has financed Malanga Microbank to the tune of $629,000. "So far, we have found that this institution has been using the money as agreed with the providers of the funding, which include the Mozambican government, the African Development Bank, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. It is the wish of our institution and of the Mozambican government that the Malanga Microbank meets its obligations in order to satisfy the needs of the people in the Moamba district", he said.
For her part, Joana Saranga, a director of the Bank of Mozambique, said that the central bank has the responsibility to get involved in making every district a pole of the country's development. "That's why this Microbank has come into existence, and we have been giving it a lot of support, because here in Moamba we do not have a commercial bank. Yet we know that there is agricultural production and people do not have anywhere to deposit their savings', said Saranga.
At the ceremony, Maputo provincial
governor Telmina Pereira said "Moamba and Maputo province have a great potential
in terms of agriculture, agricultural processing and other areas where we need
to invest, so that people may have the money and encouragement to open up new
areas of the economy".
The Mozambican government expects from the National Agricultural Development Programme (PROAGRI), now in its second phase, concrete results expressed in an increase in production and productivity to guarantee food security and combat absolute poverty.
According to Agriculture Minister Erasmo Muhate, speaking in Maputo on 14 March at the start of a technical meeting on PROAGRI implementation, Phase II of this programme should play a key role in diversifying crops so as to ensure food security. He wanted to see actions aimed at agricultural development over the medium and long terms, particularly in areas that suffer from cyclical droughts.
For the implementation of PROAGRI-II, which is scheduled to run until 2010, the government and its foreign partners signed a memorandum of understanding in February establishing a set of rules to maximise the resources available.
At that time the European Commission pledged 35 million euros (about $47 million) as its contribution to the programme.
Muhate said that if PROAGRI is to be successful the style of work of the Ministry of Agriculture must change radically, so as to prioritise the presence of technical staff, not behind desks, but on the ground, working with peasant farmers.
Muhate, who has been in office for less than a month, said he has already instructed all provincial agriculture directorates to carry out a survey of dry zones, and present a production plan for the 2007-08 agricultural campaign.
He insisted that technical staff must help producers, by introducing them to techniques that would lead to an increase in their productive capacity. He was tired of seeing fields of shrivelled crops not a stone's throw from watercourses. "We have to end this macabre spectacle of drought in places where watercourses pass that could be used for irrigation", declared Muhate. "Our technical staff have to produce food in the countryside so that we can do away with hunger and fight poverty".
Even at the country's largest irrigation scheme, at Chokwe, in the Limpopo valley, he had found a desolate scene. Muhate said he had visited Chokwe in late February, and witnessed irrigation channels choked with grass while the producers "are wasting time in lamentations and intrigues".
In Moamba, in Maputo province, he had come across over 800 hectares of fertile land that are not being used. The producers, some of them highly experienced farmers, just complained of a lack of credit.
Nearby, alongside the Corumana dam (where there is no water shortage), Muhate had found another 30 hectares totally unused.
What is currently happening, accused Muhate, "is a chain of lies that begins in the fields and ends in the President's Office, and in practice nothing is produced".
The bill is largely a copy of the provisions for parliamentary elections. As with parliament, the allocation of seats in the assemblies will be through the Hondt system of proportional representation.
The election campaign will be shorter than for general elections - 30 days rather than 45.
Like municipal elections (but unlike parliamentary ones), independent lists of citizens, as well as legally recognised political parties and coalitions, may run candidates.
State funding for the election campaign is guaranteed, and the criteria for distributing the available money among the candidates will be decided by the National Elections Commission (CNE), taking into account how many candidates each party, or group of citizens is running.
Any Mozambican voter may stand as a candidate in the provincial elections provided he or she has lived in the province for at least six months.
President Armando Guebuza must set the date for the elections, after consulting with the CNE, and the date must be announced at least 120 days in advance.
Everyone agrees that elections cannot be held in the rainy season, which starts in October. If the elections are to be held on, for example, 30 September, President Guebuza would have to announce that date no later than 3 June.
This timetable is very tight given that no CNE yet exists, and that before any election can be held the entire electorate must be re-registered. Nonetheless, both the ruling Frelimo Party and the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition are insisting that the elections will be held this year.
Renamo is demanding changes in four articles in the bill. It insists that there should be a maximum of 500 voters registered at any one polling station, and that the polling stations must obligatorily be in the same places where people registered to vote.
Frelimo is sticking with the traditional position in all previous elections that the maximum number of voters per polling station is 1,000. In practice this means that urban polling stations have around 1,000 voters, but rural ones, given the dispersed nature of the rural population, have many fewer.
As for the siting of the polling stations, Frelimo agrees that, in principle, they should be in the same places where voters registered - but argues this should not be compulsory, since unforeseen circumstances may force changes.
The current flooding in the Zambezi Valley showed how vulnerable the country is to natural disasters, argued Frelimo deputy Antonio Niquice: a disaster such as a flood, a cyclone or an earthquake might make it impossible to site a polling station at precisely the same place where its voters had registered.
Renamo also demanded that each polling station should have the original of its electoral register on voting day and not a computerised copy. Copies of the registers "might not be true copies because of errors in computerisation", warned Elisa Silvestre.
But Renamo's main complaint is with a clause which states that, if there is any discrepancy between the number of voters ticked off against the register and the number of ballot papers found in the ballot box, then it is the latter which counts - unless there are more ballot papers than voters registered at that particular polling station, in which case the election is declared null and void at that station. This clause exists because of the strong possibility that, as the day wears on, tired polling station staff may forget to tick names off the register.
Renamo wants to rewrite the clause so that only a discrepancy of up to five per cent will be accepted between the number of papers in the ballot box and the number of names ticked off the register.
Renamo's amendments will now be discussed in committee before the bill is put to its second reading. However, since all of these Renamo positions were rejected in the debates around the bill on general elections last year, it is most unlikely that any of them will be accepted for the provincial elections.
The Japanese embassy in Maputo on 16 March signed an agreement with the Mozambican Foreign Ministry, under which Japan will provide Mozambique with 3,497 million yen (about $29.8 million) for food aid and development assistance.
The bulk of the aid, 3,282 million yen, is intended for the rehabilitation of the Montepuez-Lichinga road, linking the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Niassa, while the remaining 215 million yen is for food aid.
Work on the Montepuez-Lichinga road, which is over 400 kilometres long, began last month and will continue until July 2010. The road, currently barely usable, will link Niassa to the port of Pemba, providing an alternative outlet to the sea to the branch railway line that connects Lichinga to the northern rail corridor and the port of Nacala.
The Japanese government says that this project will contribute to Mozambique's efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, by developing infrastructures in the more remote parts of the country.
The funding for the road is a loan under Japan's MIRAI (Minimal Interest Rate Initiative), and carries an annual interest rate of 0.01 per cent. The food aid is a grant of rice.
The Japanese government has been providing food aid to Mozambique since 1977, and the total value of this aid has reached $135 million.
Minister of Energy, Salvador Namburete, on 16 March recognised that Mozambique, like most African countries, is still a long way from attaining universal access to electricity. That simple fact, he said, meant that the developed world should stop looking at Africa as nothing but a source of the raw materials for energy.
Namburete was speaking at a press conference held to announce that the African Energy Ministers Forum (FEMA) will meet in Maputo on 30 March to discuss "Security and Stability of Energy in Africa".
The Mozambican vision, he said, was that there will be no security in energy supplies, or indeed in the supply of energy raw materials to the rich north, while the energy deficit in Africa remains as it is today.
In Mozambique, a country with huge energy potential only between eight and nine per cent of the population have access to electricity, stressed Namburete. "Because the final goal is universal access, we need major investments in the generation and transport of electricity and in electrification", he said. "This goal can only be reached with the assistance of our cooperation partners".
"We want them to help us use the resources we have", he added, "so that we can generate the energy we need, and then sell it to other parts of the world".
Namburete listed several electricity projects that could be implemented, as soon as potential investors provided the money, and which would greatly contribute to reducing the energy deficit.
One of these is the projected dam and power station at Mpanda Nkua, on the Zambezi river, about 70 kilometres downstream from the existing Cahora Bassa dam. A second is the coal fired power station which the Brazilian mining giant the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce has promised to build in Tete, using coal from the Moatize concession that the Brazilian company won in 2004.
As for electrification, Mozambique now had all 11 provincial capitals connected to the national grid, drawing power from Cahora Bassa. But of the 128 districts, there was permanent electricity in only 60 of them, deriving from either the national grid or that of neighbouring states such as Malawi and Zimbabwe.
By 2010 Namburete hoped there would be permanent electricity in 108 district capitals.
Namburete said the government hopes for an average of 70,000 new electricity connections a year over the next five years. In 2005, there were 54,000 new consumers of electricity, a figure that jumped to 85,000 in 2006.
Machel, who currently heads one of the country's most prominent NGOs, the Community Development Foundation (FDC), was speaking at a press conference on 15 March shortly before receiving the "Visionary 2007" prize, awarded by the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS). ACSS is part of the Washington-based National Defence University, which is a specialist agency of the US Department of Defence.
Machel argued that Mozambique cannot be satisfied with an overall positive growth rate if that does not improve the lives of all Mozambicans. "The situation of children in Mozambique is not at all good", she pointed out. "The country achieves overall economic growth, but we have to know what impact this growth has on specific groups, on children and on women".
The prize was granted to Machel because of what the ACSS called her "exceptional" contributions towards solving the current challenges in the domain of security, strategic vision and leadership in reform, as well as her role in promoting "good governance and transparency" in Africa.
Machel said she regarded the prize as recognition of her humanitarian work, particularly for women and children affected by armed conflicts.
The deputy director of the ACSS, Arnold Fields, said that the "Visionary" prize is attributed every year to figures who have made a notable contribution to the cause of "good governance, defence and security", as well as to "justice, peace and the defence of human rights".
Last year the prize went to former Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare, who is the current chair of the African Union Commission.
This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
email: Mozambique News Agency
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