Planting forests remains off limits for most women in Mozambique, especially commercial plantations where investment is not only risky but the return requires a long-term perspective. But there is one group of women who are willing to take this challenge head on.
From a very remote community, roughly 70 km from the village of Altó Molócue, in the province of Zambézia, Central Mozambique, the Nathelaca Women’s Agricultural Association makes revolving credit savings to purchase improved seeds and increase agricultural output and productivity to better support their families.
When they heard about an opportunity from the Planted Forest Grant Scheme (PFGS) to receive a grant to support the planting of small and medium commercial plantations, a majority of the group (17 of 22 members) stepped forward with a plan to plant eucalyptus in an area of 22 hectares divided into 17 compartments so that each member enters the scheme with her own compartment.
We don’t want to fail. We will do everything to comply with the recommendations and do our best to make sure our tree crops are up to standard. We want to make money.
Some land, a lot of will and technical support from NIRAS
Part of the World Bank-funded Mozambique Forest Investment Project, PFGS is a project of the Government of Mozambique and managed by the National Fund for Sustainable Development (FNDS), an entity of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The scheme’s objective is to generate sustainable rural income through the promotion of small and medium commercial tree plantations while restoring priority degraded areas. PFGS contributes to a dynamisation of the forest sector and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Vitória admits that, like her, other women have no experience with tree planting from a commercial forest perspective. But there are three important things they do have: 22 hectares of land, a lot will and technical support from NIRAS. “The technicians have been very important to us,” she said.
PFGS encourages commercial plantations by paying a monetary grant based on the beneficiary's performance. The incentive is demand-driven and the first of its kind proving an impetus for SMEs and smallholder associations to plant trees. To access a grant, the investor should have the right of use and benefit of land (Direito de Uso e Aproveitamento dos Terras or DUAT for short) to plant from 20-250 hectares as well as a plantation forest management plan in place.
NIRAS provides all the necessary technical support to scheme beneficiaries through five extensionists and nine specialists who work in close collaboration with FNDS locally. It is these technicians who, three months after the establishment of the plantation, will make a performance assessment that will culminate in determining the beneficiary's eligibility to receive (or not) the grant.
“We want to sell firewood and improve our homes”
The Nathelaca Agricultural Association has an ambitious business vision. They want to supply firewood to tobacco and tea-processing companies operating in the region. To this end, they plan to plant eucalyptus with support from the scheme.
In addition to selling firewood to these companies, the women also want to use wood to improve their homes and lives. “It is a suffering we are going through. Our houses have no quality, with a little wind they are collapsing. With this opportunity that the project offers us, we think we will have better conditions”, explained another female founding member of the Nathelaca.
To acquire seedlings, the women will follow a pre-financing model suggested by the World Bank and agreed between NIRAS, FNDS and Portucel (an integrated forestry project), which will allow them to purchase inputs from Portucel on credit, with the reimbursement of the value deducted from the first grant payment. This pre-financing should not exceed 50% of the value of the first grant.
As the PFGS wants to promote investments in plantation forests that take account of inclusivity and gender equality and enable communities to pursue forest businesses as alternative source of livelihood in a healthier environment, NIRAS has proposed the inclusion of a new financing window for associated smallholders to establish commercial forest plantations in areas less than 10 hectares.
The scheme also aims to ensure greater participation and equal treatment of women and girls in stakeholder cooperation of the companies it finances, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups. In preparing grant decisions and monitoring the performance of investments, both direct and indirect impacts of business operations on women and girls’ livelihoods and everyday lives and, in particular, the inclusion of communities in restoration activities will be taken into consideration. Each grant decision includes social safeguard mechanism and due diligence. This supports socially responsible business as well as risks management related to commercial forest plantation development in Mozambique.
For more information about PFGS, read the impact statement: https://www.niras.com/development-consulting/projects/planted-forest-grant-scheme-pfgs-project/