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Participatory process for road selection becomes a best practice in Mozambique

©IFAD/Robert Grossman

In rural Mozambique many smallholder farmers  are prevented from selling their products to the market because of a lack of good access roads in remote rural areas. The Programme for the Promotion of Rural Markets (Programa de Promoçao de Mercados Rurais-PROMER) supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the government of Mozambique, is  contributing to change the situation by improving farmers access to market through the rehabilitation of  Feeder  roads in 15 districts of the four northern Provinces where it is implemented, namely Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Niassa and Zambezia. The main objective of the nine-year PROMER programme which started in 2009 is to enable small-scale farmers to increase their income from agriculture by helping them to market their produce more profitably.

Many of the Feeder  roads in the project area had been neglected or suffered from poor maintenance. Farmers living in remote rural areas had to travel great distances, sometimes as much as 100 kilometres, to carry their produce to the market. They had extremely limited means of transport, which made it even more difficult for them to reach the market. To tackle this issue, the PROMER programme started to rehabilitate access roads which needed work most urgently. Such roads are now giving renewed access to local markets. "The road rehabilitation is an important aspect of market access in our region," said Fernando Namucua, Administrator  of the  District of Alto Molocue. "We need them to better connect our farmers to their markets, otherwise they remain completely isolated."

The highly participatory process used to select the roads to be rehabilitated was also a success story in itself. Initially developed by the PAMA project, the IFAD-supported pilot project which led to the PROMER programme, it aimed at being as objective and as inclusive as possible. Roads to be rehabilitated are defined by Reference groups  formed in all the 15 districts covered by the programme. These reference groups  include representatives of the local administration, farmers association, traders, financial institutions as well as the service providers contracted by PROMER. "The reference group had to base its decision on the strict priority criteria we defined under the PROMER programme," explained Carla Honwana, coordinator of the PROMER programme in Maputo. For instance,. The road had to be locate in an highly populated area. It had to be in an area with a good potential for agricultural production. The road had to be connected to tertiary and secondary roads, giving them a better access to end market. Its cost had to be within the programme's budget and the local Authorities had to guarantee future maintenance. "Those were the conditions and points were allocated to each of the criteria, those with the highest number of points would qualify," added Carla Honwana. As a result of the set criteria and the strong participation of local stakeholders, the choice of road was never questioned. "We thought the process was extremely fair and objective,"said Eusebia Maria Celestino, administrator of Ancaube District in the Cabo Delgado Province, "so much so that we considered using it for decision-taking in other sectors."

Once rehabilitated, the new roads as well as the new bridges in some cases, transformed the area and substantially improved farmers life. In the Niassa Province, after the rehabilitation of the Nankhari-Muhemela road, farmers no longer had to travel 100 kilometres to go to market, but the distance was greatly reduced to only about 15 kms. "We can go to the market more often now to sell our produce," said a farmer from the Ntheia association, which is greatly benefitting from the new road. The area is highly productive with great quantities of maize, beans, soya, sesame seeds as well as cotton. In 2013, after the new road was completed the Ntheia association managed to sell a total of 15,000 kilograms of agricultural products, compared to 9,000 kg the year before, included spot and contract sales and excluding cotton. Furthermore, now that the road is completed, large trucks can access previously isolated areas to collect produce from the farmers doorstep.  "Spot markets even started to develop along the new road and more farmers associations have since been formed," said Mario Quissico, Market Intermediary Officer at PROMER. "The improvement is substantial, we can really see it along the road," he added, "farmers started to build new houses along the road to be closer to the market, and they can afford to buy bricks and a tin roof to do so." Those farmers can now read, write and count thanks to the literacy programme also introduced by PROMER and they are better informed about prices. They no longer have to sell their goods at discounted prices and can start generating an additional income which they are using to improve their livelihood.