Investments in the Beira Growth Corridor
The provinces of Manica and Sofala in Mozambique – part of an area also known as the Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor (BAGC) – are seen as the gateway to South-East Africa, with Beira as the main port and Chimoio as a key transit hub to Zimbabwe, Malawi and beyond. The area has attracted a large number of land-based investments in agriculture and forestry, and new investments are still coming in due to this favourable geographical location, as well as its agricultural potential.
In June-July 2017, two Shared Value Foundation researchers together with local researchers, spent 7 weeks in the different investment locations to gather in-depth local information about community experiences with the companies, existing development priorities and ideas for increased collaboration. The research focused on a total of 8 communities in 4 districts and involved people involved in the business models, as well as community members not directly engaging with the companies.
Findings highlighted community interest in finding employment with the companies under research, as well as an interest in other ways to engage with the businesses, for example as smallholder lychee growers in the case of Westfalia. Overall, community members surveyed showed a strong preference for agriculture-related activities when asked about their future ambitions. They generally saw a role for the companies in contributing to this, for example through supporting local smallholder farmers in agricultural inputs and capacity building. Access to markets for products that are already locally grown was another way in which communities thought the businesses could have a positive development impact. These and other findings were shared on 26-27 July during a 2-day multi-stakeholder meeting in Chimoio, which drew a total of 26 participants representing the companies, local government, communities, research and civil society.
First platform meeting
Three land-based investments – located in these investment areas – participated in a first Learning Platform in Chimoio: Tongaat Hulett Sugar (sugar cane; plantations and smallholder production); Portucel Moçambique (eucalyptus; plantations); and Westfalia (avocado and lychees; smallholder production). During the Platform meeting, the three companies in close collaboration with different stakeholders, drafted action plans addressing some of the findings in the field.
Tongaat Hulett Sugar and Portucel, in addressing some of the challenges brought forward from the research, expanded their focus beyond their core business (sugar cane and eucalyptus respectively). Tongaat Hulett plans to support the set-up of more associations in the area, which focus on other agricultural products than sugar cane. They provide support to setting up these associations and try to link them to markets. Portucel on the other hand, has been providing extension services to smallholder farmers in the areas around their plantations. One of their future plans is to look into opportunities to establish block agriculture in which eucalyptus is combined with other crops in agro-forestry arrangements. Westfalia took on the task to find alternative markets for smaller lychees. Currently, a relatively high percentage of the farmers’ fruits is rejected because it is too small for European markets – this was one important complaint from the different communities. By findings alternative markets, for example South Africa, the company will be able to buy a larger portion of the farmers’ production. Another issue to be addressed is to make it more tranparent for potential new producers to contact the company and start engaging as outgrower producers.
A follow-up meeting takes place in November, at which the same participants will reflect on new developments. The SVF team will re-visit the communities that were visited prior to the Learning Platform to conduct a number of focus group discussions.