Last summer, Ron Overmyer ventured as a volunteer to the Kasese District in Uganda where he assisted maize growers on subsistence farms.
This year, he was back in Africa to work with the Agricultural College of the Catholic University of Mozambique where he helped prepare a feasibility study for developing 750 acres into a commercial farm operation.
One of the goals the college has set for the farm is to have it generate enough income to become self-sufficient.
Planners hope it will then serve as a model for commercialization of agriculture in Mozambique and then become a teaching and research facility for students and faculty, Overmyer, a former extension agent in Ottawa and Sandusky counties, said.
He was in the country from Aug. 14 through the end of the month.
“Around 80 percent of Mozambique’s population is involved in subsistence agriculture which means that most people grow just enough for their families and try to market any production that they do not use,” he said. “The average farm size is less than five acres for an average family of five. Almost all of the farm work is done by hand.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there are 3.2 million small farmers producing 95 percent of the nation’s agricultural output and about 400 commercial farmers producing five percent.
The annual per capita income is equal to about $885.
A high soybean yield in Mozambique is about 22 bushels an acre, compared to 50 bushels local growers in the U.S. produce.
High corn yields there are just over 80 bushels – about half of what local growers produce.
“Most of the corn and soybeans are raised without high quality seed, fertilizers, or pesticides,” Overmyer said. “The soybeans are mainly sold to large poultry producers and the (white) corn is sold locally for making flour.”
In the past two years, about 100 acres of soybeans have been raised on the university farm, averaging about 18 bushels per acre without using fertilizers or chemicals, he said.
Overmyer estimates another 200 acres can be developed into farmland and the other acreage is covered by a mountain and stony areas.
Cattle and goat herds are also kept on the farm.
“I worked closely with the university farm manager to develop a farm business plan and a projected cash flow,” Overmyer said, adding he also helped prepare a crop rotation plan for the 100 developed acres and budgets for the grain and livestock operations.
“The immediate focus will be on perfecting the commercial farm cultural practices for the 100 developed acres along with establishing markets for the farm production,” he said. “There are many wonderful people in Mozambique who want to improve their quality of life and appreciate the sharing of expertise by people from the United States.”
His visits to Africa are sponsored by the Farmer-to-Farmer Program administered by the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs, which operates under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
After his plane landed in Nampula, Mozambique it took another seven hours on a dirt road to reach Cuamba, a town of about 10,000 residents where the college is located.
He has also worked with farmers in Tanzania.