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Whose Wealth Is It Anyway? Mozambique's Outstanding Economic Growth with Worsening Rural Poverty


  • Benedito Cunguara,

    1. is a visiting research associate at Michigan State University. Part of this article was written when he was a PhD student at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, and a member of the Centre for Development Research. He has been working on poverty reduction issues since 2005. In 2011 he published three papers (in Food Policy, Agricultural Economics and Journal of African Economies), several working papers, magazine articles and a book chapter.
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  • Joseph Hanlon

    1. is a visiting senior fellow in the Department of International Development of the London School of Economics and an honorary research fellow in the School of Environment and Development of the University of Manchester. He has been writing about Mozambique since 1978, including Do Bicycles Equal Development in Mozambique (2008, with Teresa Smart). His most recent books are Just Give Money to the Poor (2010, with David Hulme and Armando Barrientos) and Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land (2012, with Jeanette Manjengwa and Teresa Smart). He can be contacted at e-mail:
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The authors thank the Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture, Michigan State University and USAID for financial support in data collection and processing, and for permission to use the data. The financial support from OeAD through the North–South scholarship programme in Vienna is highly appreciated. Comments from the journal's referees are also acknowledged with thanks.


Despite rapid economic growth and massive inflows of aid, rural poverty in Mozambique is worsening. Agricultural production and productivity have not increased in the last decade. Use of chemical fertilizers and other modern technology is at a low level and decreasing. The present development model emphasizes that the role of government and donors is to provide human capital and infrastructure, while the private sector is responsible for economic development and ending poverty. The most recent national surveys confirm what is being seen elsewhere in Africa — that this non-interventionist strategy does not raise agricultural productivity or reduce poverty. While 80 per cent of Mozambique's population is engaged in agriculture, this sector contributes only 20 per cent of GDP. This suggests that investments in agriculture are likely to generate pro-poor growth, both to rural and urban dwellers. This policy failure is increasingly recognized, but donors and government have invested too much political capital in the current policy to change easily.