In August Ron Overmeyer of Oak Harbor, former Ohio State University Extension educator for Ottawa County, volunteered for a CNFA Farmer-to-Farmer Program to assist with agricultural development in Mozambique, Africa.
Overmeyer’s assignment was to assist the Agricultural College of the Catholic University of Mozambique to perform a feasibility study for developing 750 acres of their land into a commercial farm operation. They want to accomplish three objectives with the farm, (1) operate the farm so that it generates income to support the farm operation, (2) serve as a model for commercialization of agriculture in Mozambique and (3) serve as a teaching and research facility for students and faculty.
Mozambique is on the eastern side of Africa, bounded by South Africa to the south and the Indian Ocean to the east, is about twice the size of California and has 21 million people. The Faculty of Agriculture of the Catholic University of Mozambique is located in the town of Cuamba in Northern Mozambique. It took four days of flights and a seven-hour Land Rover ride to travel from Oak Harbor to Cuamba.
Around 80 percent of Mozambique’s population is involved in subsistence agriculture. Most people grow just enough for their families and try to market any production that they do not use. There are 3.2 million small farmers producing 95% of the agricultural GNP. The annual per capita income is $885. Most of the corn and soybeans are raised without high quality seed, fertilizers or pesticides. The soybeans are mainly sold to large poultry producers and the corn is sold locally for making flour.
About 100 acres of soybeans have been raised on the university farm during the last two years. The farm has averaged 18 bushels per acre without the use of fertilizer or chemicals. Probably another 200 acres can be developed into farmland. The rest of the farm is composed of a mountain and a very stony area. The university also maintains cattle and goat herds on the farm.
After 20 days of working closely with the university farm manager, Overmeyer developed a farm business plan. The immediate focus will be on perfecting the commercial farm cultural practices for the 100 developed acres, along with establishing markets for the farm production. Additional farm acreage will be developed after the cultural practices are perfected on the 100 acres. Email exchanges will be used to complete the additional farm business planning activities.
On the return trip, Overmeyer traveled by train the 12 hours from Cuamba to Nampula, Mozambique.
“The train was a great way to experience Mozambique,” according to Overmeyer. “We stopped at about a dozen villages along the way to pick up farm produce to be transported to Nampula. We also passed fantastic scenery of huge granite ridges, mountain ranges and mountain peaks just rising out of the flat landscape without any foothills.”
“It was a tremendous cultural experience, along with the opportunity to share my agricultural expertise. I had many experiences with food, facilities and people that are much different than experiences in the United States. There are many wonderful people in Mozambique who want to improve their quality of life and appreciate the sharing of expertise by people from the United States.”