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Forgone opportunities of large-scale agricultural investment: A comparison of three models of soya production in Central Mozambique

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Abstract

Agriculture is one of the main engines for prosperity and economic growth in Africa but effective agricultural strategies to support rural development and poverty alleviation are not yet identified. While state investment in the small-scale farming sector is minimal, and the medium-scale “emergent” household farm sector remains underrepresented, large-scale land investments are advocated as means to bring capital to rural areas and stimulate development. Yet, little empirical research has been done to contrast agricultural development strategies and to understand their strengths and weaknesses. We present an analysis of different soya production models - small-scale farmers, medium-scale mechanised emergent farmers, and large-scale commercial operations - and their socio-economic aspects in Central Mozambique. Based on purposefully collected data in 10 villages in Gurué district, our findings suggest that large-scale plantations create localized land scarcity and that the benefits from wage labour and local investments do not compensate rural populations for lost access to land. Small- and medium-scale soya farming also leads to decreasing land availability, but provides greater socio-economic benefits such as on-farm employment and work opportunities along the local value chain. Small- and medium-scale soya production increases on- and off-farm income and leads to spill-over effects to the local economy. Negative effects of these models of soya production on food production could not be detected; instead the cultivation of soya significantly increases maize yields grown in rotation. These findings suggest that small- and medium-scale commercial farming can compete with large-scale operations in key socio-economic parameters and that a concentration on large-scale investments can result in forgone opportunities regarding rural development and poverty reduction.

ID: 122601483