Women's Association Helps Drive Agricultural Engagement
Cecília João is a mentor and inspiring leader in Teterrene. Her path to success began in 2015, when Associação das Mulheres Olhasana (AMO), the local female association that she co-founded, began fighting aflatoxin through the USAID-funded project Aflasafe. Community farmers then began working with the CGIAR Consortium on a seed business development partnership through the Feed the Future Mozambique Improved Seeds for Better Agriculture project (SEMEAR, its Portuguese acronym).
Although it is a women’s association, AMO accepts members’ husbands and does not prevent them from participating in any activity. “Husbands are helping wives instead of the customary situation in which women help men,” says Cecília.
At present, AMO is composed of 15 women and seven men that follow simple principles: to never hide what they are learning, to encourage other farmers to observe and engage in agricultural practices, and to use improved agricultural technologies. AMO’s members confirmed that the SEMEAR initiatives have already raised awareness and interest in improved seeds among farmers from many other communities. Consequently, local demand for improved seeds has increased, and AMO is, for now, the only supplier in Teterrene. From the three tons of certified seed harvested during the 2015/16 season, AMO reserved 500 kg for nonmembers to purchase and reproduce. Therefore, each association member was able to save 10,000.00 meticais (approximately USD 145.00): “No one within the association suffers from hunger due to inputs and specialized technical support provided by SEMEAR, (…) we never have had such good production.” Moreover, various farmers have expressed an interest in becoming AMO members.
Cecília João represents one of the anticipated 100,000 beneficiary households of the project. Due to her collaboration with SEMEAR, Cecília was able to pioneer improved seed production and commercialization in Meconta district in Nampula province. Just three years ago, Cecília considered herself a common smallholder farmer struggling to find good quality seed, facing difficulties in producing enough for her family’s needs.
Due to the SEMEAR initiative, Cecília has increased her cowpea yields five times, and in a couple of years, Cecília’s life shifted. She is no longer a shy rural woman; she has become confident in front of cameras and large audiences during project events. Now, besides being a trusted and motivational leader among her community, Cecília’s family hosts a demonstration plot with four cowpea varieties –– three improved (IT-16, IT-18 and IT-1069) and one local. The field is regularly visited by numerous farmers who often become interested in applying improved agricultural technologies, as they are able to compare the resilience and productivity of each variety.
Cecília’s family was blessed with her firstborn, and they are looking forward to a second child. She affirms that “now I feel glad to be a farmer because it truly represents food for my own children.” Cecília trusts that “an empty sack cannot stand upright” and prioritizes food crops since only well-nourished farmers are able to produce efficiently; therefore, the crop varieties being promoted by SEMEAR represent the perfect match between highly nutritious food and cash crops.