Programme profile

RAMA-BC: Resilient Agricultural Market Activity - Beira Corridor

Programme Index Listing

Location
Mozambique
Main implementer
Land O’Lakes Venture37
Donor
USAID Feed the Future
Duration
2016 - 2022
Total budget
USD $10.5 million
Annual budget
USD $2 million

Project description / objective

To increase on-farm agricultural productivity, profitability and resilience to climate variability, by strengthening the market system that supports resilient conservation agriculture practices in the Beira Corridor.

A key component of the RAMA-BC approach is to promote the integration of leguminous cover crops and minimum soil disturbance in maize production systems.

Context
Soil fertility is a major constraint to maize productivity in Mozambique. Less than 10 per cent pf smallholder farmers buy high-quality seed, but even fewer purchase fertiliser and other inputs to increase yields since using fertiliser costs six to 10 times more than using improved seeds. Returns on investment in seeds are therefore low, and farmers tend to sow unimproved seed from the previous harvest instead.

When farmers improve their soil by intercropping with legumes, then seed purchases become more attractive. Legumes are low-cost perennial nitrogen-fixing crops that replenish soil health, repel unwanted pests and provide an additional source of nutrition through the beans and green leaves. Improved soil fertility and moisture retention reduces risk of crop failure, and legumes add a new source of nutrition to household diets.

 

Market systems focus

Agricultural inputs distribution

Promoting joint adoption of improved maize and diverse legume cover-crop seed varieties, as part of improving soil health and fertility through conservation and resilient agriculture practices.

Agricultural support services

Strengthening agricultural research and agricultural extension services that promote resilient agriculture practices.

Programme interventions

Agricultural Inputs Distribution

Development of a leguminous cover-crops package
Engaging with seed producers, suppliers and distributors to promote green manure cover-crops as a technological ‘package’ alongside maize seed sales.  

Promotion of new inter-cropping practices
Partner with the private sector to expand geographic distribution and promote improved seed sales at farmer field days and through advertisements and behaviour change communication campaigns.

Agricultural Support Services

On-farm demonstration & promotion activities
Provision of practical on-farm demonstrations and promotional/educational material that supports the integration of leguminous cover crops in maize cultivation systems.

Strengthening research and teaching
Strengthening local agricultural colleges and universities’ capacity to conduct research on integrated cropping systems and improve practical conservation agriculture curricula for students and young professionals.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)

Agricultural Inputs Distribution

Two of RAMA-BC partner seed companies, Phoenix Seed and K2, marketed over 1,000 x 7kg maize/intercrop composite seed kits through 11 agrodealers in three different districts. This initiative is being supported by demo plots, planted next to each agrodealer, showing the intercrop configuration. 

RAMA-BC is increasing access to intercrop seeds that improve soil and maize productivity. Phoenix Seed and K2 sold 1,024 composite kits, which is equivalent to 5,620 kg of maize seed and 1,024 kg of legume seed through 11 agrodealers selected for this purpose. This corresponded to a sale of 708,532.00MZN for companies, and a sale of 834.600,00MZN to agrodealers.

As a marketing strategy for composite intercrop/maize kits RAMA-BC supported:

  • three of the 11 agrodealers linked to seed companies in setting-up demonstration fields in their stores
  • through its partnerships with community radio stations, radio spots were broadcast, allowing producers to know about the availability of kits and the advantages of intercropped seed, both in terms of productivity and soil improvement
  • signage with the seed suppliers' logos were positioned at the demonstration fields and Model Family Farms (MFF).

Agricultural Support Services

Based on the findings of an internal midterm evaluation, the RAMA-BC programme has made considerable progress in awareness, knowledge and application of resilient agricultural practices when compared to the comparison area and the baseline. 

  • Nearly nine out of 10 participant farmers (86%) could describe at least one resilient agricultural practice, versus 54% in the comparison group and 49% at the baseline, a more than 30% increase. 
  • Most participant farmers had heard about climate change and resilient agricultural practices through the radio and RAMA-BC technicians, both methods supported by the project. 
  • Only a slightly smaller percentage (80%) of participant farmers applied at least one resilient agricultural practice, compared to 44% of comparison areas, nearly doubling the prevalence of application. 
  • Interestingly, knowledge and application differ substantially between Manica and Tete Provinces, where Tete farmers had higher knowledge of resilient agricultural practices (96% in Tete versus 81% in Manica), but Manica farmers had higher applications (91% in Manica versus 59% in Tete). 

The midterm qualitative data show that participant farmers were hesitant to apply practices that were highly labour intensive, such as mulching, or expensive, such as irrigation, fertiliser application and use of improved seeds. This is confirmed in the prevalence of application of these methods. But there is still space to increase the use of some low-cost, low-labour practices such as precise spacing, timely planting, intercropping and contour rows.

Despite the great progress in application of improved techniques, the use of these practices has not yet translated into a general increase in yield or sales. Yield and sales of targeted crops were similar to the comparison areas and both decreased from the baseline values. 

  • A large minority (38%) of the sample from the midterm were farmers that had only been trained about resilient agricultural practices before the most recent season, so they will need another season in which to implement. 
  • The yield benefits after two seasons is demonstrated by the rigorous analysis that RAMA-BC conducted on the MFFs that found yield for maize doubled after two years of utilising resilient agricultural practices versus traditional methods. 
  • These were also areas impacted by Cyclone Idai.  

Although sales have decreased from the baseline, and thus incremental sales are negative, when you compare the treatment areas and comparison areas from midterm to baseline (difference in difference approach), you see that the treatment areas actually did significantly better in sales compared to baseline than the comparison areas. 

The improved practices may have protected the treatment groups from an even poorer agriculture season.  

[updated May 2021]