Mogovolas District, Nampula Province
September 16-22, 2010
Bit by bit I am starting to learn about the system of government organization and am now better able to pinpoint exactly where I am at any given time. Of course I often get quite mixed up as there is always a shorthand way to refer to these places or nicknames that I don’t quite catch. I am also easily confused when a few names of Agricultural Associations are thrown into the mix. Last week for example I was in Localiadade Muvuruta, Posto Muatua, Mogovolas District, Nampula Province, Mozambique. Today we stayed in the Posto de Nametil,
but we could have been almost anywhere in the Mogovolas District as far as I could tell. Sometimes we come upon a surprise such as this abandonned mission.
One day we drove at least 60 kilometers to reach an agricultural association, the final 18 kilometers of which were quite rough and included several washed out bridges. We do most of our driving on what my map says are secondary roads, but some are nearly impassable.
Today we had to walk a kilometer or more after the road, or track, became impassable.
During this assignment I’ve tried my best to frame my questions to the farmers in a positive manner in an attempt to avoid the endless string of complaints which I spent a month listening to last year in Manica Province. After I am given a tour of the vegetable production area and explanations for what they are doing in the fields which often include details about the spacing of their neatly laid out rows we retreat to the shade to talk. At this point I try to steer the conversation by asking “what kinds of things would you like to learn about that you think would help you to become better farmers” and “what are your plans for the future”. Sometimes the response is complete silence, and I need to keep asking questions, other times they are far ahead of me. Today as soon as we reached the shade Jose Mario, the president of the association, began explaining how he would like someone to come and teach him how to build a proper dam.
During the rainy season his dam often collapses and needs to be rebuilt. With Jose Mario and the other members of Ndowe Naphavele, or Let’s See Association, we discussed how to transport their produce to market in Nametil nearly 20 kilometers away. I asked them to describe what they are doing now and they described the typical overloaded bike seen on every Mozambican road. I asked if they had ever considered building a cart for their bicycles and this began a animated conversation among the members, some needed to know what a cart was, others thought there would be no materials to build it, others thought they needed to know what it looked like and then Jose Mario spoke up once again and said something that surprised everyone “I saw those types of carts in Macao and in India when I was in the military. I think we could build them”.
So if anyone reading this knows of plans to build a simple bicycle trailer please post a link in the comment section and I’ll see they get to Jose Mario and the Let’s See Agricultural Association of Localiadade Mecutamala, Posto de Nametil. This conversation was encouraging as many farmers tell me they could grow more and would like to grow more, but they have a difficult time getting their produce to market. This might be one simple solution.
Mainly farmer’s ideas for the future have included expanding production areas and creating and improving irrigation systems.
Things they’d like to learn more about include crop rotation, insect and disease identification, how to use a plow and care for oxen, seedling production, and specific crop production information.
Often they seem skeptical when I talk about organic soil improvement techniques, “The plants need food in order to grow well” I’ve begun to exclaim in Portuguese, but they do listen carefully and seem willing to soak up any knowledge and ideas that are offered. My impression is that in general the farmers and extension agents in Mogovolas District would take off if given training in basic organic production methods as they all recognize that something needs to be done in order to improve and that they simply can not afford chemical fertilizers and pesticides much less travel to Nampula City to o\purchase them. Because of the cost of fertilizers and lack of knowledge about other methods many simply choose to not use any regular or systematic soil improvement methods. Overall my impression is that these farmers are much more open and less jaded than the majority of the farmers I met last year in Manica Province. At times I wonder if this is due to less contact with NGO’s or if it is simply how Macua people are. Right now there is no way for me to know. One farmer when I commented that 20 kilometers on a bike hauling vegetables to market was a lot of work he said well I get it there “poco a poco”, little by little or bit by bit. Later in our conversation when we were talking about compost, he exclaimed “how could I possibly do that on 6 hectares of land!” and I replied well you already told me the answer, “poco a poco”, and he cracked up.
I’m not sure if this more positive attitude is actually true or if it may partially be attributed to my new method of asking questions and the slightly different nature of this evaluation. However, my gut says yes the people here are still excited by farming. They see the opportunity to increase their income since vegetables are not readily available in the markets and are expensive. They haven’t forgotten how to work hard, don’t expect handouts and want to learn as much as they can as market vegetable production is not a traditional income earning activity. This positive vibe is having a good effect on me as well so that when hearing a complaint such as “the pigs around here keep getting into my land and eating everything what should I do?” I am able reply easily and naturally, “I think you should go to those people and tell them ‘if you keep letting your pigs get fat on my vegetables I have the right to eat your pig!’” Don’t worry. The local extension agent gave the proper answer before mine “go to the chefe de posto and tell him what is happening and make him tell the people to keep their pigs in a corral”. Anyway the chuckles all around made my day as we laughed about little pigs growing so rapidly in the vegetable fields that they could not make it home.