We are in Namarebo, a small village in the district of Mocuba, in the province of Zambezia, Mozambique. Observing the inherent contrasts of rich natural resources and rural poverty, we ask ourselves how can the management of these natural resources translate into improved livelihoods for the community?

When it comes to promoting rural development, securing land rights is one of starting point to sustainability.  Security over land tenure incentivizes communities to adopt land use practices with longer-term benefits. This is of course, quite logical – people will only invest time and capital if they know they can reap the benefits that come further down the line. While this is the foundation, it is certainly not the finish.

Smallholder farmers tilling their land

In order to generate value from their land and natural resources, poor communities and smallholders often need technical assistance, access to inputs and to credit. Take the case of agro-forestry. While it is widely recognized that this type of land use can contribute to increased production, reduced erosion, and ultimately to reduced deforestation, its adoption among smallholders in Mozambique is still very limited. This is the mainly due to lack of widespread technical assistance to smallholders, and access to inputs needed to start the activity, such as quality seeds and tree seedlings.

So promoting rural development in Namarebo and rural Mozambique needs a long-term and integrated set of interventions.  These range from securing land rights, to promoting access to agriculture inputs and markets, to technical assistance on adding value to forest products.

This type of integrated approach is exactly what the World Bank’s USD $47 million Mozambique Forest Investment project[1] is trying to achieve, in collaboration with the Climate Investment Funds’ $758 million Forest Investment Program. The project aims to improve the overall enabling environment for forest management (transparency, benefit sharing, law enforcement capacity), to promote more sustainable land and forest management practices. Together, these are expected to have a significant impact over large ‘landscapes’, in terms of reduced rural poverty and better management of natural resources, including reduced deforestation. Interventions cut across several sectors, including agriculture, biomass energy, forestry and land management.

Forest fires are used to open new land for small-scale agriculture

MozFIP will be implemented on a pilot basis in two provinces in Mozambique: Cabo Delgado and Zambezia. This type of integrated operations are innovative in the country, and are encouraged by the recently-created Ministry of Environment, Land and Rural Development (MITADER), itself an attempt to promote further coordination to achieve sustainable rural development. If the efforts in terms of reducing deforestation are successful, the Bank will also pay for the reduced emissions associated with deforestation, through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility – Carbon Fund. These payments would be used mainly to reward smallholders and communities for their efforts in managing natural resources sustainably, and represent yet another revenue stream associated with sustainable forest management.​

Community members learn new charcoal-making techniques

But back to Namarebo - what would MozFIP look like? How is equitable and sustainable development delivered in practice in this context? 

Essentially, Namarebo would receive different types of support, all of which are necessary in the complex interdependent world of forests. And it’s this nuance and context-specificity which means communities are empowered to choose from a number of paths to development.  For example, technical assistance is available to those engaged in agro-forestry as well as charcoal-making (from practical techniques to marketing.)  Community-based forest enterprises can forge partnerships with private sector actors in everything from sawn-wood to honey to cosmetics.  There will also be training in land use planning, allowing communities to ensure they are fit for the future and can make better informed land use decisions.  And – crucially – documentation certifying people’s land tenure gives them the security and stage to flourish.

As a result, we expect to see healthier forests, wildlife and soil, and a brighter future for the present and future generations in Namarebo and elsewhere in rural Mozambique.

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