During a trip to Nampula for a meeting with AGIR (Action Programme for a Responsible and Inclusive Governance) and its partners, we were told that we would visit the community of Nacoma in the village of Mele, Meconta district, about 83 km from the city of Nampula, where, with the support of the National Association of Rural Extension (AENA), the community formed an association composed of 20 members (13 women and 7 men) to improve their crops. This association would be presented to us as a good example of a farming, savings and literacy project (for the community even created a school in the farm area itself).
After an almost two hours journey, we finally arrived to the place. Several women with colourful scarves and capulanas, clapping and singing welcoming songs for us, greeted us at our arrival. There were barely any men, only three were present.
From there, always singing and clapping, they led us to a small plot of land next to a dirt road where they showed us an example of the good practices and crop improvements they had learned for a more efficient agriculture on poor soils. These women, with the help of a partner of AGIR in Nampula who shared its knowledge with them, improved the soil of the area, which was not the best for agriculture, through the practice of techniques such as the use of dry grass to conserve soil moisture and thus retain its nutrients. From AGIR’s partner, they mentioned they also learned that setting fire to a plot before using it, a widely used method in the area to prepare the soil, when done systematically ends up reducing the nutrients and weakening the soil. They further demonstrated, using only water grass and sand, rudimentary examples of other methods used to enhance and improve their harvests, and showed us how they had arranged between them to monetize the goods they produce (cassava, pigeon pea, sweet potato, peanut, etc… ) and thus increased their income allowing it to improved their lives and their families. Finally, they showed us a peanut dryer made by the association, made with simple poles and grass where it was protected from rain, insects and other animals.
After visiting the peanut dryer, our group informed that visitors would also like to see and know the method of collecting income from all who were part of the association. Then showed us a wooden suitcase, where not only they deposited their earnings, but where they also kept the register of their loans, as well as their savings, each amount in its place (in three man socks of different colors). They explained to us that the suitcase had two keys and that they were never in the same place or with the same person. The keys were handed over to two different people in the group and when the suitcase was opened everyone should be present to count the money together, a measure of security for all.
We were impressed by the organization, methodology and capacity of a group so small yet so effective in managing their own interests. A good example of community empowerment, with which all present were astonished. However, for us it was more than that. It was once again a confirmation of the power of the people of Mozambique and Mozambican women in particular, their ability, courage and perseverance in trying to resolve their difficulties and strive for a better future. For us it was a true life lesson!
To finish, we would like to leave you with some food for thought: What will happen to these women in the community of Nacoma when the giant and controversial ProSavana is implemented? We know that Meconta is one of the areas covered by it… Will it be the “early death” of another good example in Mozambique? Or will it survive?