A literacy program operating in northern Mozambique supported by International Fund for Agricultural Development‘s (IFAD) enables small-scale farmers—particularly women—to improve their incomes by taking a more active role in the business of farming.
The literacy program is a component of IFAD’s Programme for the Promotion of Rural Markets in Mozambique—or Programa de Promoçao de Mercados Rurais (PROMER)—a nine-year program that began in 2009, which will help farmers that have been farming at subsistence levels market their produce more profitably. Among other business administration benefits, the literacy program will help them to negotiate fairer trade contracts.
PROMER helps enable small-scale farmers and other disadvantaged farming groups in Mozambique to reap the most value from local commodity value chains and improve their access to local—and eventually— international markets. PROMER operates in four provinces within Mozambique, including Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Niassa, and Zambezia.
More than 70 percent of poor households in Mozambique live in rural areas, and many households rely on farming as a source of both food and income. In Mozambique, smallholder farmers account for 97 percent of staple food production. However, agricultural productivity is low, so farmers only produce enough to feed their households. Any remaining surpluses for sale typically yield marginal profits.
UNICEF estimates that almost 50 percent of the adult population in Mozambique is illiterate, although rates may be much higher in rural areas—particularly among women. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), while national average for female adult literacy in Mozambique is just over 47 percent, female adult literacy rates in rural areas are as low as 31 percent. Illiteracy prevents small-scale farmers from accomplishing basic business administration tasks, like keeping track of production trends or negotiating fair contracts with potential buyers.
“That’s why we had to start with a literacy program, as many of the small scale farmers we are targeting were not in a position to access the market simply because they could not read and write,” explains Carla Honwana, a PROMER program coordinator.
The literacy program adheres to Mozambique’s National Curriculum, and participants who have completed the program will achieve primary school level literacy. Farmers attend up to eight hours a week worth of sessions at a local literacy center. The sessions accommodate farmers’ work schedules by taking place in the afternoon after the farmers have completed work in the field.
Farmers that have graduated the program can draft production plans for the next season and actively participate in the decision-making and management processes in local farmers’ groups. IFAD estimates that more than 5,000 farmers—60 percent of which are women—have graduated from the literacy program and about 75 percent of the farmers participating in the program were able to improve their marketing skills even before graduating from the literacy program.
While the literacy program lasts only one year, farmers who would like to achieve higher literacy levels can continue learning through a government-run literacy program in Mozambique.