SEEDS No. 17
Supporting Women Farmers in the Green Zones of
Story by Ruth Ansah Ayisi
No. 17 1995 ISSN 073-6833, © 1995 SEEDS
This edition of SEEDS has been developed in cooperation with the United
Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Development Programme for Women in
New York and the UNICEF country office in Maputo, Mozambique.
Publication of SEEDS is made possible by support of the Ford Foundation,
UNICEF, and the Population Council.
Women throughout much of the developing world are farmers, not only producing the food crops
needed to feed their families, but seeking to generate the cash income necessary to gain access
to education, health care, and a better way of life in today's world. However, in many countries-particularly in sub-Saharan Africa--women farmers must deal not only with the inherent difficulties
of gender inequities, poverty, and the vagaries of nature, but with the consequences of war and
civil strife as well. This case study focuses on efforts that are helping women farmers to survive
and prosper in the Green Zones of Mozambique--and to provide desperately needed foodstuffs
for the local market--despite years of brutal warfare in what is currently one of the poorest
countries in the world.
This case study is a result of a collaboration with UNICEF/Mozambique and UNICEF's
Development Programme for Women in New York.
For the first time in over a decade and a half, Mozambicans are enjoying peace--a peace that
was a long time coming.
For over 500 years, Mozambique (a nation of 16 million people situated on Africa's southeastern
coast and bordering on Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa) suffered under Portuguese colonial
rule. This was a time of virtual slave labor, when Mozambicans were forced to neglect their own
food crops to grow cash crops for export, primarily to neighboring Rhodesia and South Africa.
Then, in 1975, after ten years of armed struggle, Mozambique gained its independence. The
Portuguese finally departed, but they left bitterly, taking with them all their belongings and
destroying much of what they could not carry off. The economy was in shambles and social
services were all but nonexistent. At independence, less than 10 percent of the population had
received any formal education and over 90 percent could not read or write. Adequate health care
could only be found in the capital, Maputo, and potable water was only available in or around
urban areas where only about 30 percent of the population reside.
Worse still, the euphoria that accompanied independence proved to be short-lived. Fighting soon
recommenced between the new Government of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO)
and rebels of the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO). Sixteen years of civil strife were
to follow, resulting in the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, including many women and
children. The country's already precarious economy was further crippled, reducing Mozambique
to one of the world's poorest nations.
Estimates of the conflict's costs, in the 1980s alone, go as high as US $15 billion. The country's
infrastructure was devastated, and agriculture--the country's backbone--declined as people fled to
the safety of the urban areas and coastal districts. Some 1.7 million Mozambicans crossed into

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