Mozambique News Agency
Mozambique produces surpluses of
maize and cassava, but still imports large, and increasingly expensive, amounts
of rice and wheat, Agriculture Minister Soares Nhaca told the country's parliament,
the Assembly of the Republic, on 7 May. Replying to questions from deputies
about the country's food deficit, Nhaca said that maize production grew from
1.3 million tonnes in 2005 to 1.6 million tonnes in 2007, and is expected to
reach 1.7 million tonnes this year. There has also been a steep rise in cassava
production, from 6.6 million tonnes in 2005 to 8.2 million tonnes in 2007. The
forecast for this year's cassava harvest is 8.8 million tonnes.
Urban tastes demand bread and little wheat is currently produced in Mozambique. So Mozambique needs to import 460,500 tonnes of wheat a year, said Nhaca. The rice deficit is not so large even so, Mozambique needs to import 316,000 tonnes of rice a year.
These two grains have seen enormous price rises in recent months. Nhaca told the deputies that the price of a tonne of rice on the world market has shot up from $628 to over $1,000 just in the past five weeks.
He blamed these price rises on the combination of climate change, soaring rises in the price of fuel and other agricultural inputs, and the use of grains for bio-fuel rather than for food.
Nhaca said that the government was banking on a "Green Revolution" to raise agricultural production and eliminate the food deficit. The first steps had been taken including the distribution of 150 tonnes of wheat seed, mostly to farmers in Tete and Manica provinces, to expand the country's meagre wheat production.
The government had also distributed 246 tonnes of various seeds to households affected by the January-February floods in the central provinces, and had organised fairs to provide inputs to some 60,000 households recovering from this year's disasters.
Research is key to any Green Revolution, and Nhaca said nine different varieties of wheat are being tested in various parts of the country. Clones of cassava varieties resistant to brown streak disease are being multiplied and distributed in Nampula province.
The government is also boosting the availability of fertilizer. Nhaca said the government was promoting large-scale imports of fertilizer, which should reduce the price paid by farmers. The longer term solution, however, is to attract private investors willing to set up fertilizer factories in Mozambique.
Nhaca also stressed the importance of increasing the area under irrigation. He said that between 2005 and 2007 the government rehabilitated and made available to producers 8,513 hectares of small-scale irrigation systems, thus bringing the total irrigated area in the country to 49,000 hectares.
He stressed that the government wants to restore the 118,000 hectares of irrigated land that the country possessed before the South African apartheid regime launched its war of destabilisation against Mozambique. But Nhaca warned "making full use of the irrigation systems involves other determinant aspects such as the transfer of technology to the producers, and access to inputs and to markets".
Key to transferring new techniques to peasant farmers are the rural extensionists. Nhaca said that 185 new extensionists are being recruited, which will bring the number up to 762. By the start of the next agricultural campaign, in September, all these extensionists "will have been duly trained and equipped. We shall improve the quality and coverage of the extensions services to all 128 districts in the country", he pledged.
Other aspects critical to the success of a Green Revolution, he said, included upgrading the roads that lead to key production areas, speeding up rural electrification, and improving river and maritime transport
"An effective response to our country's food problems lies in implementing the Green Revolution strategy", Nhaca declared. "Let's make the Green Revolution an instrument in the struggle against poverty".
The Mozambican government announced on 5 May that the country's third municipal elections will be held on 9 November. The last local elections were held in 2003 in all 23 urban areas with the status of cities and in ten towns (one per province). A law passed in April has granted a further ten towns municipal status, and so the November elections will be held in 43 cities and towns.
A further round of voter registration will precede the elections, in the two months between 6 July and 4 August. The main purpose of this is to register voters who have reached the voting age of 18 this year, but it will also allow anybody who, for whatever reason, was not covered by the complete re-registration of the electorate between September and March, to register.
These extra two months of registration should be particularly useful for people who were obliged to move their home because of the flooding in central Mozambique in January and February, and those who lost their voting cards because of the floods, or because of cyclone Jokwe that hit Nampula province in early March.
Mozambique's registered electorate now stands at over 8.9 million people, according to Felisberto Naife, the general director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the Mozambican civil service.
Because the previous registers were unreliable (largely due to the failure to eliminate the names of voters who had died), the entire electorate was re-registered between 24 September 2007 and 15 March (with an interval of a month for the festive season).
The estimated total potential electorate (based on the preliminary figure from the August 2007 population census) was 10.2 million. Thus STAE has managed to register 88.3 per cent of the potential electorate.
The total cost of the registration, said Naife, was over $41 million. Much of this money was spent on acquiring computers, printers, and other digital equipment used by the 3,242 brigades. For the first time voter registration was computerized at brigade level.
The brigades issued voter cards electronically, and put all the information on CD-ROMs, but everything was also backed up manually. Naife argued that this gave the whole exercise greater reliability and credibility.
The Mozambican government is planning to invest about $3 million in a project to build filling stations in rural areas powered by solar panels. According to the chairperson of the National Energy Fund (FUNAE), Miquelina Menezes, in an initial stage 20 such stations will be installed in four provinces in the central and northern regions of the country.
In the beginning four provinces will benefit from this project: Cabo Delgado and Niassa, in the north, and Sofala and Manica in the central region.
Currently there are 227 filling stations
in Mozambique, but 43 per cent of them are concentrated in Maputo City, according
to Deputy Minister of Energy Jaime Himade.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector funding wing of the World Bank, announced on 6 May that it has signed with the Mozambican government an investment programme to develop the tourism sector in the country.
The programme, expected to draw in investment of $1 billion, is to benefit four tourism sites along the Mozambican coast.
Known as the Mozambique Tourism Anchor Investment Programme, the IFC believes that the four sites will create 25,000 direct and indirect jobs.
According to IFC country manager of Mozambique, Babatunde Onitir, "we are looking for large-scale developers and operators that have a proven track record in emerging markets and that subscribe to environmentally and socially sound development principles".
The IFC states that this programme "will help develop and preserve protected areas, provide positive international exposure to the country, and drive the growing tourism economy. The four sites will include two resorts, which are suitable for large-scale tourism and residential development, and two sites earmarked for smaller-scale eco-tourism developments".
IFC projects in Mozambique are currently estimated at $113 million, covering eight projects in the areas of finance, agriculture, raw materials, fuel and gas, among others.
President Armando Guebuza arrived in Santiago on 8 May for a three-day official visit to Chile, during which agreements on fishing, mineral resources, education and social welfare are expected to be signed.
The visit is a chance to revive bonds of friendship between Mozambique and Chile that date back to the late 1970s, when many Chilean exiles, fleeing from the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, were granted asylum in Mozambique.
In the first years of Mozambican independence, Chilean exiles taught Mozambican students, some of whom have subsequently become prominent figures in the country's political life including Prime Minister Luisa Diogo, and Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi. Baloi, who is accompanying President Guebuza, will have the opportunity to meet his old teachers.
Friendship forged in the dark days of the struggle against apartheid in southern Africa and against fascism in Chile underlies the invitation to President Guebuza from Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, and is expected to form a sound basis for economic cooperation.
President Guebuza had an official meeting with Bachelet and he also met Chilean business people. He also inaugurated a photographic exhibition organised by some of the Chileans who were exiled in Mozambique during the Pinochet years, and delivered a lecture at Chile's "Andres Bello" diplomatic college, where the country's future diplomats are trained.
Crime in Mozambique is on the increase, according to Attorney-General Augusto Paulino. In his annual report to the Assembly of the Republic, given on 29 April, Paulino said that the number of crimes recorded rose from 36,257 in 2006 to 41,902 in 2007 an increase of 16 per cent.
Crime is at its worst in the capital. Maputo city and Maputo province (essentially the city of Matola) accounted for 17,676 recorded crimes in 2007 42 per cent of the total.
But the sharpest rise in reported crime came from the central province of Manica, with an increase of 84 per cent from 621 crimes in 2006 to 1,140 in 2007. It was followed by the northern province of Cabo Delgado with a 53 per cent rise (from 639 to 1,977 crimes), It is hard to know whether this represents a real rise in crime, or merely better reporting. It should also be added that, despite this jump in the number of reported crimes, Manica remained the province with the least crime in the country (less than three per cent of the total).
Most crimes reported in 2007 (26,350 63 per cent) were crimes against property. There were 10,161 crimes against persons (24 per cent), and 5,391 crimes against public order (13 per cent).
Paulino noted a sharp rise in the number of cases where people took the law into their own hands. In 2006, there were 17 cases where people believed to be criminals were lynched by mobs. But in 2007, the number of lynchings rose to 31, and in the first quarter of 2008 19 cases were reported.
Matters would have been worse without police intervention. In the central province of Sofala alone, between January 2007 and March 2008, a further 24 alleged criminals were rescued from lynch mobs by the police. Some of those responsible for mob justice are being hauled before the courts Paulino said that 15 people have been arrested in connection with the early 2008 lynchings.
Paulino stressed the serious nature of thefts of electrical, communications and railway materials that have cost the state large sums. In addition to clandestine electrical connections, thieves stole both overhead and underground copper and aluminium cables, as well as fuses, metallic parts of pylons, and even oil from transformer posts.
The fibre-optic cables installed by the state telecommunications company TDM, to guarantee modern communication between the provincial capitals, have not escaped the attention of thieves, who dug up the cables to cut them into pieces and sell them. There were ten such acts of sabotage in 2007.
Railway tracks and other railway equipment were also ripped up (often for sale to scrap merchants). The total loss to the Mozambican rail company CFM in 2007 was over 82.7 million meticais (about $3.4 million).
Paulino suggested that, to deal with such sabotage, cases involving this type of theft should be speeded up and the law should be changed to introduce more severe penalties. He also called for a better relation between the police and prosecutors and the electricity, telecommunications and rail companies.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International has alleged in a report issued on 29 April that the Mozambican police are killing and torturing people with near total impunity. According to Michelle Kagari, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme, "police in Mozambique seem to think they have a licence to kill and the weak police accountability system allows for this".
Kagari said that "in almost all cases of human rights violations by police - including unlawful killings - no investigation into the case and no disciplinary action against those responsible has been undertaken, nor has any police officer been prosecuted."
Amnesty points out that the Mozambican police face numerous challenges stemming from high crime rates, a backlog of criminal cases in the judicial system, and violence against police by criminals. Amnesty says that this has led to public pressure on the police to act forcefully against criminals, and claims that this lies behind the unlawful killing of suspects by police officers.
Kagari is clear about the way forward, stating "any officer suspected of involvement in human rights violations must be held to account. Police officers must be made aware that they cannot torture, beat and kill with impunity. They must be held responsible for their actions if policing is ever going to change for the better in Mozambique".
The Amnesty report urges the Mozambican authorities to take steps to stop human rights violations from occurring in the first place, and recommends the revision of the police codes of conduct to bring them in line with international standards.
The report concludes "the safeguards and police accountability systems currently in place in Mozambique do not prevent human rights violations by the police. As long as the situation remains as it is, human rights violations committed by the police will continue with impunity".
But the picture is not entirely bleak, and police who commit murder are sometimes hauled before the courts. At the moment, as confirmed by Attorney-General Augusto Paulino before the Assembly of the Republic, three policemen accused of the summary execution of prisoners in April 2007 on a sports field in the Maputo suburb of Costa dos Sol are under arrest and face criminal proceedings.
The Mozambican police have not yet reacted to the report. Indeed a police spokesman interviewed by the independent television station STV said he knew nothing about the report, and had not seen a copy.
The number of people in the Mozambican countryside with access to clean drinking water rose by over 20 per cent between 2004 and 2007, according to Minister of Public Works Felicio Zacarias.
Answering questions in the Assembly of the Republic on 7 May, Zacarias said that only 40 per cent of the rural population had access to clean water in 2004, and the figure had risen to 48.5 per cent by 2007.
Some provinces are better supplied than others. In three provinces, over 70 per cent of the rural population have access to a decent water supply these are Inhambane (73.5 per cent), Sofala (71.5 per cent) and Maputo (70.7 per cent). This is a huge improvement for semi-arid Inhambane, where the coverage rate was 55.4 per cent in 2004.
But the greatest challenges are posed in the two largest provinces, Nampula and Zambezia, where clean drinking water reaches less than a third of the rural inhabitants. Dismal though this figure is, it is a considerable improvement on the situation four years ago. Zacarias said that the number of Zambezia rural dwellers with access to decent water had risen from 22.8 per cent in 2004 to 32.1 per cent in 2007. In Nampula the increase over the same period was from 16.6 per cent to 31.2 per cent.
The government's target, in its five-year programme, is to have 55 per cent of the rural population enjoying clean water by the end of 2009. As for the urban areas, the target is that 60 per cent of their population will have access to clean water by 2009. Zacarias said that in the major cities the water companies' capacity to obtain, transport and store water has been greatly increased in recent years, and now "we are expanding the water supply network to areas that were not previously served".
This expansion was starting in 2008 in Beira, Nampula, Quelimane, Pemba, Dondo, Inhambane, Maxixe, Xai-Xai and Chokwe. A project is also planned for the further expansion of the Maputo water system. Already this year there had been 3,000 new connections to the Maputo piped water system, said Zacarias, and in the Costa do Sol neighbourhood 13 new standpipes were installed which are serving over 20,000 people.
Under a financing agreement reached recently, he added, the owners of homes with new connections will only pay ten per cent of the cost of the connection, and the rest is subsidized.
Zacarias was convinced that the 60 per cent target will be reached in 2009, but warned "for these services to be sustainable, and so that future generations, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, can benefit from clean water, we must fight against illegal connections and the theft of water meters".
The 19 donors and funding agencies that provide direct support to the Mozambican state budget have praised the "solid results" achieved by the government in macro-economic stability and the management of public finances, but remain concerned at the lack of progress in the fight against crime and corruption.
The 19 "Programme Aid Partners" (PAP) who give at least some of their support directly to the state budget include the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Union, most EU member states, Norway and Switzerland. Indeed the only major donors who do not provide budget support are the United States and Japan.
The annual joint review of progress by the government and this group of partners ended on 30 April with the conclusions that of the 41 indicators and targets set for 2007, 23 had been achieved. The donors believed that this was a good enough basis for continuing to provide budget support.
At the closing ceremony of the Joint Review, outgoing PAP chairperson, Norwegian ambassador Thorbjorn Gaustadsaether, recognised the government's macro-economic achievements, but warned of the looming threats to stability posed by the sharp rises on the world market in the prices of both oil and basic foodstuffs. These price rises could have a serious effect on the poorest strata of the population.
He noted that while poverty in Mozambique has declined in overall terms, "there are also perceptions and clear indications of an ever growing gulf between the privileged and the poorest".
Gaustadsaether added that, because of factors such as unemployment, the poorest members of society have not benefited from Mozambican economic growth. The riots that broke out in Maputo on 5 February, in reaction to a hike in passenger transport fares "remind us of the need to create greater equity in society".
The ambassador said that, while recognizing the government's efforts to fight corruption, the donors "encourage the government to redouble those efforts". Although a national anti-corruption strategy exists, backed up by national and sector plans of action, "the desired degree of implementation of these instruments has not yet occurred".
The incoming PAP chairperson, Irish ambassador Frank Sheridan, declared that issues of governance "remain at the centre of concern for all the donors, and also for the country's citizens". "I firmly believe it is in the interest of all of us to make greater progress in this area, and we shall work seriously with our counterparts to improve the situation this year", he pledged.
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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