Growing awareness of widespread hunger and poverty in many countries in the SSA is spurring a focus on productivity increase in smallholder farming systems. The main objectives of this study are first to understand the diversity among maize-based smallholder farms and their current constraints, and second, to explore options for biomass production either for food, cash or biofuel at farm level and contributions to maize availability in the region.
With current production systems many SSA countries are not keeping pace with population growth and changing of peoples’ lifestyles. Smallholder farmers are diverse in terms of resources and aspirations. The main objectives of this study are first to understand the diversity among maize-based smallholder farms and their current constraints in improving agricultural productivity in the Manica Plateau, Central Mozambique, and second, building on that understanding, to explore options for biomass production either for food, cash or biofuel at farm level and contributions to maize availability in the region.
Using farm surveys, direct observations and on-farm measurements, followed by Principal Components Analysis (PCA) I identified land and labour as the variables that can best explain the variability found among smallholder farms. The hiring in labour from small farms allowed large farms to timely weed their fields. Small farms were resource constrained and hired out labour (mutrakita) for cash or food to the detriment of weeding their own fields, resulting in poor crop yields.
A bio-economic farm model was used to investigate two pathways to increase agricultural production: (i) extensification, expanding the current cultivated area; and (ii) intensification, increasing input use and output per unit of land. The simulated results showed that combining labour and labour saving technologies substantially increased both gross margin and maize yields of large and small farms in both posts. Minor trade-offs is observed on large farms between the two goals whereas for small farms we see synergies between the goals.
The need to link smallholder farmers to markets has been increasingly recognized as important strategy to promote rural development and poverty reduction.