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Feasibility study on skill development needs and implementation of a vocational training program using a Business for Development approach within the forestry sector

Niassa, in northwest Mozambique, is the country’s largest and least densely populated province. Historically, Niassa has been one of the poorest and most isolated provinces, with deficient infrastructure connections and long distances to the country’s main economics centres. Based on Mozambique’s latest National Household Expenditure Survey (INE 2010, MPD 2010a), consumption poverty in Niassa has steadily decreased, falling from 69,4% in 1996/97 to 54,1% in 2002/03 and 31,9% in 2008/2009, though discrepancy in poverty between male- and female headed households is very high. Agriculture comprises approximately 36% of the province’s GDP and represents the largest source of income and employment.

The socio-economic landscape of Niassa has seen considerable change in recent years, with growing investments in large commercial forestry plantations by international companies. Though this development has created job opportunities, it has not been uncontroversial, resulting in conflicts with the surrounding communities regarding land, employment and participation. This increasing trend of foreign investments in Niassa - and the rest of Mozambique - has led to continuous discussions and diagonally opposing views regarding the purpose and impacts of these investments. Aspects surrounding inclusion of the poor, environmental sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility and transparency & participation have come to forefront in this discussion, as the potential for positive impacts from private investments in developing countries depends on how the business models succeed in incorporating the above aspects.

Mozambique´s Poverty Reduction Plan 2011-2014 (PARP) and its Strategic Plan for Agricultural Development 2011-2020 (PEDSA) both highlight the importance of investments in agriculture and forestry in order to increase output and productivity and generate employment. In this context, collaboration and partnerships with private sector is considered vital to attract capital and expertise. A priority for both the PARP and PEDSA is improving employability of the workforce, particularly in strategic and rapidly expanding sectors such as forestry, through vocational training and capacity development. The Embassies country strategy is closely aligned to Mozambique’s PARP and one of the central collaboration areas is economic development with focus on the agriculture sector and economic development in the Niassa region. Responding to changing global and national landscapes, the Embassy is seeking to extend its engagement with private sector actors under Sida’s Business for Development (B4D) program. The focus of the B4D program lies on identifying win-win opportunities, where partnerships with the private sector can contribute to development goals by joining resources, building on complementary expertise and sharing risks.

In Niassa, investors in the forestry sector have expressed that the lack of local personnel with skills ranging from basic work skills to more advanced supervisory capacities is one of the central challenges they face. Difficulties recruiting personnel with the different required skill-levels represents a hindrance to the industry’s ability to contribute to job creation in the area and could be a potential obstacle for future investments in value-adding forestry industries that could generate more employment and increased incomes. As a long-term partner in the development of Niassa through the Malonda Program, the Embassy of Sweden has entered discussion with the Forest Owners Association (FAN), which includes five of the larger forest investors in Niassa plus the Malonda Foundation, to evaluate the establishment of a vocational training program that addresses the sector’s needs for increased skilled labour through a partnership between the Embassy of Sweden, the forestry association and relevant stakeholders.

The purpose of the study was two-fold:

  1. Provide the Embassy with an analysis of the different skill development needs of the forestry sector in Niassa, as represented by FAN, and propose a vocational training program to meet those;
  2. Analyse and propose how a partnership between the Embassy, the FAN and pertinent partners identified in the study, could best be structured and articulated to carry out the proposed vocational training program.

The output of the study constituted an important input for the Embassy when making a decision on whether to support a vocational training program in Niassa and determining how the Embassy could do this through a partnership with the forestry investors.

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