MAPUTO, The government of the Netherlands has signed an agreement with Mozambique’s Zambezi Valley Development Agency on financing of the second phase of the sustainable and inclusive development of the Zambezi Valley, budgeted at 20 million euros (about 21.3 million US dollars).

The agreement was signed here Thursday by the Dutch Ambassador, Pascalle Grotenhuis, and the general director of the Zambezi Valley Development Agency, Roberto Albino.

Grotenhuis said the first phase of the programme ran from November 2012 to December 2016 during which the agency and some of its strategic partners were established in the four provinces of the Zambezi Valley — Tete, Zambezia, Manica and Sofala.

“The first phase of this programme ended last December, and covered about 39,000 farmers”, said the ambassador. She expected the second phase, which will run until 2021, to cover 44,000 farmers.

Grotenhuis said implementation of the first phase enabled an increase in agricultural production and productivity, and the income of farmers. It also generated new jobs.

“Agriculture, which ought to be the basis for inclusive development, has had a very modest performance, characterized by low productivity, deriving from a poor level of investment, although it is responsible for a quarter of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product),” she said. “It is a sector to which due attention has not been paid.”

Albino said food security is the agency’s top priority and he hoped that, by the end of the second phase of the programme, the Zambezi Valley would be producing 70,000 tonnes of processed rice a year, and 150,000 tonnes of vegetables.

The Zambezi Valley covers 225,000 square kilometers, which is 27.8 per cent of the total area of Mozambique. Thanks to the Zambezi River — the fourth longest on theontinent — and its tributaries, it has the largest reserve of water in the country, and the largest source of energy, in the shape of the Cahora Bassa hydro-electric dam and its power station.

The valley is regarded as possessing excellent conditions for producing grain — maize, rice and wheat — as well as cash crops such as tobacco, cotton and sugar cane.