There is a lot going for soybean (or ‘soya’) in Mozambique. Although a relative newcomer to the country, the crop offers vast income opportunities for smallholder farmers particularly those in the high rainfall areas such as Zambezia, Lichinga, Nampula, Manica, and Tete provinces. Production and prices are improving. Back in 2004, soya production was estimated at 770-880 t with an average yield of 450 kg/ha (Estrada, 20041 ). Today, the average yield is estimated at 1300 kg/ha and total production is about 50,000 t (Luis Pereira, Technoserve, pers. comm., 2014). In 2006, the prevailing farm-gate price/kg for soybean grain was 7-9 meticais (MZM) ($0.25-0.33). By August 2013, the price had doubled, hovering at about 18 MZM/kg ($0.64). The growing domestic poultry industry also has a high demand for soybean which is largely met through imports of soybean cake from Argentina, Brazil, and India.
The available regional market and attractive farm-gate prices with an inadequate domestic supply offer a huge growth potential to soybean in Mozambique. Despite the rosy outlook smallholder farmers are still hampered by low production due to a lack of good quality seeds of locally adapted varieties, and poor crop management practices. IITA and USAID, with other partners, are changing that situation.
Planting the grains of success
Through the USAID-supported Platform Mozambique Project (2009-2015) and in partnership with the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (Mozambique National Agricultural Research Institute, or IIAM), NGOs, and farmers associations, IITA introduced five soybean varieties [Sana (TGx 1485- 1D), Wàmini (TGx1740-2F), Zamboane (TGx 1904-6F), Wima (TGx 1908-8F) and Olima (TGx 1937-1F)] that have been officially released in Mozambique. The varieties were selected through on-farm participatory variety selection, ensuring that their characteristics are well suited to local conditions and needs. The varieties are high-yielding, and tolerant of drought and most of the common diseases; they yield >40% more grains (2 t/ha) than the widely grown local varieties. They can also fix a large proportion of their nitrogen requirements from the atmosphere, thereby reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizers and lowering input costs for farmers.
To get the best out of these varieties, the project developed complementary management practices to maximize their potential under smallholders’ farming conditions. These practices included best planting times in different production zones, appropriate row-spacing, optimum plant populations, phosphorus fertility management, inoculation, and appropriate cropping systems. These practices were then developed into ‘technology packs’ and disseminated to smallholders and extension agents across the soybean production zones through on-farm demonstrations, field days, field visits, and training workshops. This was done in collaboration with various other initiatives led by IIAM, IITA, CLUSA (Cooperative League of USA), Technoserve, IKURU (Empresa Comercial dos Productores Associados), and Inovagro. Through these channels, farmers, for example, became aware of the negative consequences of late planting, such as a yield loss of at least 50 kg/ha for every day of delay in planting after the first planting date. At the prevailing farm-gate price, this translates to a loss of $20/ha for every day that planting is delayed.
Gains on the ground
The combined efforts of IITA and USAID are already starting to change the lives of Mozambican smallholder farmers.
Take the case of 48-year old Florinda Biriate, who started producing soybean 10 years ago. “My initial foray into soya production was in 2006 when I cultivated one hectare. I harvested 13 bags (approximately 650 kg/ha at 1 bag ≈50 kg) of grains which I sold at around 5-7 MZM/kg ($0.18-0.25). Encouraged with this, I gradually increased my soybean area every year until I reached 8 ha in 2010. At that time, I produced 237 bags (about 11,850 kg) of grains, selling them at 15 MZM ($0.54)/kg”. Florinda got the highest price for her soya in 2011 when she sold it at 17-19 MZM/ kg ($0.60-0.67). This, she said, was a game-changer for her. “The price and the high yield of soya motivated me to grow more of it than any other crop,” she explained. In 2014, she cultivated 6 ha of soya, with 5 ha for grain and 1 ha for certified seeds. She harvested 1,500 kg/ha from the first and 1,150 kg/ha from the second “I used to get just 600 kg/ha of soya, but now my harvests have more than doubled!” Asked what turned things around for her, she said, “It was the support that I received through the USAID project with the technical backstopping of IITA and CLUSA. With the knowledge gained from them, not only did I get better yields but also reduced labor. I now plant my soya in early December and in straight lines of 50 cm by10 cm instead of in the traditional scattered planting. Previously, I weeded 3 or 4 times before harvest but now I weed only twice, sometimes even once. It is also easier to weed when the plants are in line.”
“I lost my husband two years ago so I farm alone now. These technologies not only make things better but also easier for me and my children,” added Florinda. “With my earnings from soya, I was able to buy two refrigerators, a motorbike, two bicycles, a television with a satellite dish so I can watch news from around the world, a DVD player so that my kids can watch movies any time, and I have money to send them to school. Best of all I am building a new house,” she related happily. Another farmer, Fernando Maliango, also recounted his soya journey. He started with a half-hectare field of 0.5 ha in 2004, selling his produce at 4.70 MZM ($0.16)/ kg. Today, he has 11 ha that yield 18 t. He sells his produce at 17 MZM ($0.61)/kg
“This big improvement in my yields and income motivated me to stay with soya. I benefited a lot from IITA, CLUSA, and Technoserve through training and associated field days in which we learned how to do things better. We are grateful to USAID and all the other donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Norwegian Funds that made all these possible.”
“These days I easily get between 1250 kg/ha to 2000 kg/ha following all recommendations from the technicians and also using a good variety,” Fernando explained. In 2014, he planted 5 ha for certified seeds and 4 ha for grain. He sold the seeds for 25 MZM/kg ($0.89) and the grain for 13 MZM/kg ($0.46).
“With my soya I was able to buy a motorbike, two bicycles, refrigerator, a mill to make flour from maize and other crops, a TV set with a satellite dish, and other household items. I was also able to improve my house, roofing it with iron sheets,” Fernando said proudly.
Other gains in a grain
The Platform Mozambique Project has trained more than 5700 farmers, 230 extension agents, and technicians on improved soybean production practices, and 1327 final-year students from local universities and polytechnics on a 6-month field training internship. In addition, it introduced soybean-fortified local dishes to more than 26,000 people to enhance the quality of their diet. The project also established 450 demonstration plots and organized more than 100 farmers’ field days and field visits. More than 100 t of foundation seeds were made available to partners. It is estimated that the project has directly benefited more than 50,000 households, and has indirectly reached even more. Farmers continue to test different varieties to find those with the highest potential on their farms. Average yields have increased from 700 kg/ha at project start to 1300 kg/ha presently. Incomes from soybean have also increased by about 56% among adopters of improved technologies introduced by the project. Such technologies, such as soybean-maize rotation planting, have also led to average yield increases of 21-1000% for maize when planted after soybean compared with the common practice of planting maize-aftermaize with no fertilization.