Mozambique's poor go hungry despite rapid growth
Mon, Apr 04, 2011
Eradicating food insecurity remains a challenge in Mozambique, writes BILL CORCORAN in Maputo
MOZAMBIQUE’S government has decided to hike food and fuel prices in the coming months but will offer other aid to the poor in the hope of avoiding a repeat of last year’s deadly riots in Maputo or north Africa-style protests.
Fuelprices will revert to market levels when subsidies are phased out this month, but students and workers will receive transport passes instead, Antonio Cruz of Mozambique’s planning ministry said last week.
Subsidies on bread and rice will end in June. However, families earning less than about $2 a day – 90 per cent of Mozambicans – will be able to buy basic foods at reduced prices in certain shops,he added.
“These protests [last September in Maputo] are a sign that the cost of living is very high. It is an international crisis that is also influencing what is happening in North Africa,” he said.
Despite rapid economic growth over the past 15 years that has propelled it into the world’s top 10 fastest-growing economies, eradicating food insecurity in Mozambique remains a challenge.
InFebruary, the government warned that food security needed to be “deeply improved”, following the release of a survey that revealed 37 per cent of all households experience hunger during the year.
Mozambique’s impressive economic development since the mid-1990s can, for the most part, be attributed to two factors: its potential for catch-up growth from a low post-civil war base; and the desire ofmultinational companies to cash in on its untapped natural resources.
Mega-projects established to exploit oil, gas and minerals have bolstered the economy on a macro level over the past 10 years, but for most ordinary Mozambicans life has remained harsh.
Food security progress has been made, but new challenges have also emerged, with global warming and globalisation increasingly shaping thiscountry’s fragile future.
While always afflicted by droughts, floods and storms, Mozambique’s weather patterns have become more erratic recently. This is adversely affecting the local food production system.
With the world’s major food production belts also devastated by unseasonal weather over the past 24 months, the prices of imported commodities have also begun to rise, leaving people few optionswhen it comes to acquiring affordable food.
In September last year the government was forced into making a U-turn on its decision to stop subsidising fuel and bread when riots in Maputo erupted over the plan. At least 10 people died and hundreds were injured.
Maputo resident Ricardina Fenuaudo Machaies said that most people in the capital cannot afford fish, meat and chicken. So when the price ofstaple foods began to increase “people felt betrayed by the government”.
“Life is difficult at the moment because food is very expensive . . . So the poor decided it was time to show the government they were not happy,” she explained.
Mozambique’s difficulties have been compounded by the global economic recession. The downturn has made it hard for donor countries and aid agencies to maintainthe level of budgetary support they have provided in the past.
The state-controlled Noticias reported in February the government was facing a €1.4 billion shortfall this year in its budget, of which 44 per cent comes from overseas aid.
While the situation outside the capital during last September’s riots remained calm, food security in rural areas is also precarious, according to Marcela Libombo,an official with the department of agriculture’s disaster management secretariat.
A 2009 nationwide study recently released by her department found that while food security had generally improved, problems persist in relation to food use, trading, sanitation and nutritional education.
The survey identified 281,300 people suffering from severe food insecurity in 32 districts of eight provinces,...
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