Mozambique: Woman builds lychee fruit export business (UN Women)

| October 24, 2016

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Isabel Deitliens owns a large farm, lined with fruit trees. She has 1,500 lychee trees and also grows bananas and strawberries.

Mrs. Deitliens counts herself lucky. She got into farming more than 20 years ago, and has built a fruit empire, selling lychees to the national market and internationally.

Last year, she exported fruit to Holland, Germany, Lebanon, and Russia.

She says government policies in Mozambique have made it possible for her to be successful, because, unlike some African countries, these policies “give privilege to women.” She adds, “Not that they exclude men, but they give privilege to women because of the history of women in Africa.”

In many countries, local customs or laws make it difficult for women to own land or control their income.

Mrs. Dietliens says she had another big advantage: an education. She adds, “I did not have as big of challenges as women who are uneducated, because being educated is part of an advantage to get a piece of land in Mozambique.”

Mrs. Dietliens has a degree in law, which gives her an advantage over women who may not know that they are guaranteed equal rights with men.

She says it is never too late for women to take on this challenge. She adds: “My advice to women in Africa and all over the world is that they have to believe in themselves. It is never too late to start something in their lives. It is never too late to be educated.”

She speaks from experience. Mrs. Dietliens says, “I was married too early—actually I was 18…. I had my kids and afterwards I went to school just to set a good example to my children.”

But after receiving her degree, she returned to farming, which is her passion. She keeps cows and pigs, but mostly runs a fruit farm. She says: “Growing fruits, to me, I find it easier than growing vegetables, for instance. Because it gives you less work, you need fewer workers. You need less water, because you only water your trees during a certain time of the year.”

Growing lychees has taken patience. Depending on the technique for reproduction, lychee trees take three to five years, or longer, to produce fruit.

Mrs. Dietliens has been growing lychees for 17 years, but had to build her business up before she could start exporting the fruit. She says support from USAID, which helped provide an irrigation system, helped her enterprise.

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Photo credit: CSIRO