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In Mozambique, coffee is used to save a unique tropical forest

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The damage is visible from afar. The slopes of Mount Gorongosa, located in the center of Mozambique, in the national park of the same name, were previously covered with tropical forest, unique in the country. Now that beautiful dark green layer is full of holes.

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Miles of hillsides were cleared, making way for a parched land where only dwarf grasses and shrubs grow.

But for some years now, the forest has been reborn thanks to a crop practically unknown until here in Mozambique: coffee.

As you walk through the plantations at a height of a thousand meters, Juliasse Samuel Sabao measure the progress made. On one side of the track, an almost desert landscape. On the other, a dense forest and hectares of coffee plants carefully lined up.

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“Coffee requires shade to grow. For every coffee plant another tree is planted”says this park employee.

Fleeing the civil war (1975-1992) that caused a million deaths after the independence of Portugal, Juliasse discovered the cultivation of coffee in neighboring Zimbabwe.

For ten years he has watched over the plantations of the mountain Gorongous.

Twenty years after the civil war, Mozambique experienced a new conflict, between the rebels and the government, which lasted until 2019.

The site was a rebel stronghold. And during all these years, the massif served as a reserve of natural resources. The combatants cleared the forest to cultivate the land there and ensure their livelihood, and some still live in the mountains.

“The militiamen came down to see us, and ordered us to stop the exploitation”Juliasse recalls.

“Agricultural nomadism”

On the eve of the last fights, the director of the park, Peter Muagara, an agronomist by training, had planted the first coffee trees. Upon his return, the plants had grown amid the indifference of the occupants of the place, mostly militiamen and their families.

“These people depend on subsistence agriculture, because they do not have the resources to acquire machines such as tractors, and that creates agricultural nomadism”Muagara says.

“They clear several areas and deforestation deprives the soil of its nutrients. The land is getting poorer, and now they are going to clear more land”, Add. But “When they cut down a tree, it is their own livelihood that they lose with it”.

To try to include the inhabitants of the mountains, the project mixes coffee cultivation, which takes several years before producing the first grains, with essential food crops.

Some 300,000 coffee trees and 400,000 cashew trees were planted, creating 300 jobs and benefiting 200,000 inhabitants of the region, according to the World Bank.

The Gorongosa coffee, whose sales are fully reverted to the project supported by the American millionaire and philanthropist Greg Carris now exported to all parts of the world.

About 70% of Mozambicans work in the agricultural sector, according to the US Agency for Development (USAID), but only 16% of arable land is cultivated.

With the war in Ukraine, “Inflation in the price of basic products also affects Mozambique. We must ease this pressure on families, and our only solution is to increase production”explains the minister of agriculture, Celso Correia.

One of the great challenges of the local sector, which suffers from a lack of mechanization and technology, is its modernization.

“Agriculture is an essential sector. We cannot depend on international projects, we must be self-sufficient”Correia concludes.

Source: Gestion

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