New assignment in Mozambique

September 9 I will travel to Mozambique for the fourth time. I will once again be working along the Beira Corridor and be based in Chimoio. It looks like I’ll  get to travel to Manica near the Zimbabwe border and to Gondola back in the direction of Beira fairly frequently to visit the production areas. This trip I will be working with two agricultural associations, Macate and Mahene,  on their marketing plans for processed food products. As during my last trip I spent so much time talking about the potential of processed food products and spent much of my time in Mexico bemoaning the loss of Sapotes rotting on the ground I’m excited to see where this project can go. I;m curious to see what if any products they have developed, hoping reconnect with and visit the processed fruit project at Gorongosa, and see how much spending three months in Mexico has screwed up my Portuguese.

I’ve also promised my friend Stephanie not to write  about Africa, the way so many others have done, as brillently described in the article from Granta, How to Write About Africa. Please pardon me in advance if I do write about the view or the sunrise/sunset if I finally get to climb Cabeça do Velho, which according to the article Who Will Save  Cabeça do Velho? in Moçambique Magazine, is slowly being destroyed by people mining rock from its face. As this article was published in 2005 I’ll have to find out if the local government has managed to stop or at least curb this practice. If you would like to have a tour of the town of Chimoio see this You Tube video. However, be warned Cabeça do Velho only makes an appearance at the beginning despite its billing in the title of the video. I’ll do my best to get photos of it this trip and of course post them here.

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A Recipe for Matapa

After consulting with several on-line cookbooks, an article entitled Hungry for Adventure in Gourmet Magazine and my own memory I created a rough recipe for Matapa (also spelled Mathapa), my favorite Mozambican dish. In Mozambique you use young cassava (my preference) or pumpkin leaves. Here I’ve substituted collard greens. You might also try it with spinach. This dish can be served over white rice, coconut rice or xima, a thick maize porridge which is somewhat similar in consistency to polenta, but made with white corn flour. If you prefer vegetarian, leave out the shrimp. It will still be tasty.



2 bunches collards

28 ounces unsweetened coconut milk

1 pound raw peanuts

garlic, chopped fine

salt to taste

1 pound small shrimp, shelled and deveined (reserve shells)

  • Place the shrimp shells in a pot of cold water and boil for 5 minutes. Strain and save liquid.
  • Wash the collards; remove the tough stems and cut into small pieces. Purée collards in a food processor. Traditionally this is done with a large mortar and pestle.  Cook the collards in 2 cups of shrimp water with 1 can coconut milk over medium heat for about 30 minutes.
  • Cook the shrimp for five minute in boiling water. Strain and save liquid.
  • Grind the peanuts in the food processor until they resemble powder. Place the peanuts in a saucepan with 2 cups of shrimp water and 1 can coconut milk over medium heat. When it begins to boil, pour the mixture over the greens. Add the garlic, salt, and shrimp; stir; reduce the heat and simmer for 1½ hours. Serve over rice.

Variations include serving with piri-piri, and adding tomatoes, onions, shaved green papaya or cassava flour during the final simmer


Fresh Piri-piri peppers, chopped fine

(in the US try small Thai Hot or Habanero Peppers. I’ve also used dried red pepper flakes)

Garlic, chopped fine

Lemon juice

Olive oil

Parsley, chopped fine (optional)

Combine all the ingredients and let sit for one day before serving. For basting chicken, substitute coconut milk for the lemon juice.


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Begingings and Endings- Beira, Day 28


I’m having mixed feelings at the end of my assignment. In Moldolva I was sure I had some kind of impact and that I was appreciated. Here I’m not so sure. Part of the the problem was the nature of the assignment. I had to interview many different types of people in order to assess the entire Beira corridor horticultural value chain so I never really had time to get to know anyone on a personal level.  I learned and gained so much insight by getting to know on a personal level my host family, my interpreter, the local extension workers, and the farmers I worked with in Moldova. Here I’ve spent a lot of time observing how things have changed and why they have changed. It was difficult for me to listen to endless complaints when I could see so clearly have much better it is here now in Mozambique. I often wanted to say don’t you remember the war? Don’t you remember how it was? But I always bit my tongue. Previously it seemed to me that people never complained and just worked hard and managed to do so much with so little. This way of being really inspired me and after I returned to the US and completed an internship on an organic vegetable farm in West Virginia I started my own organic vegetable farm in New Hampshire. Whenever things got rough there I remembered all the people I had met in Mozambique and how they just kept persevering with a very practical down to earth attitude. I keep wondering if this spirit has completely disappeared. And this makes me sad. I am sad that I am somewhat relieved and looking forward to going home. Before I came I was sure I would not want to go home to face the reality of my never ending search for employment. A luta continua…

On the other hand, it is still a very beautiful country. And small moments here have brought me great happiness. Hearing the neighbors sing in Chimoio, visiting and talking with the farmers, smiling at the small girl who was staring at me and receiving an enormous smile in return. Yesterday after wading in the Indian Ocean I tracked down a artisans shop in Beira. It was completely unorganized and crammed with wood cravings, beaded jewelry and batiks. I spent nearly two hours there browsing and talking with the owner. I couldn’t have had that conversation a month ago. My Portuguese has improved. Later I returned to the hotel for a beer and chatted with the waitstaff about Mozambican cooking. I am sure now that the best matapa is in the south and it is just not the same in Sofala and Manica.

I head for the airport in two hours and will get through the forty hour trip by visualizing both the beach and Indian Ocean and my own bed in my own house.



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Pickled Carrots and Zambezi Chicken- Beira, Day 26

On my first night back in Beira I had one of my best meals so far. Without asking I was served spicy pickled carrots as an appetizer and instead of sending them back I ate them and then asked for more. I conferred with the waiter and the following is an approximate recipe.

First slightly cook the carrots in boiling water. Then slice into rounds. Chop some garlic into small pieces and mix with the carrots, olive oil, vinegar, and pimintao (slightly spicy pepper- something like hot paprika) and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.  Before serving salt lightly and garnish with parsley.

Frango a Zambeziana consists of ½ chicken (breast, leg and wing) marinated in coconut milk and then grilled. It was served with coconut rice. I have memories of other ingredients such as piri piri sauce, tomatoes and parsley, but this was simple and delicious as served. Tomorrow I go in search of the best matapa in town.

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International Workers Day, Chimoio, Day 22

Friday was Primeiro de Maio, International Workers Day


which recognizes the Haymarket Massacre in 1886, when Chicago police fired on workers during a general strike.  Nineteen years ago I marched with the workers in my uniform along the Maputo streets. You can see me in the same uniform in the photo “walking and talking” in the post on photos from 1990 and 1994. This year I watched and took photos of many of the companies I had visited and talked with in the past weeks. I even recognized people I had interviewed.




Unlike before when everyone marched and sang, now there were many companies driving in trucks displaying their products- the water company had a shower running,


the electric company was “repairing” the electric lines, and the hospital had a complete set up including a “sick” patient in bed..


The schools all marched and some sang and danced, but not the entire time. Two non-traditional schools had displays on the back of trucks.

driving school

english school

This was one of my better days in Chimoio as people seemed to be in a festive, friendly and talkative mood and all the aggressive mCel recharge card sales guys were taking the day off. I was also very happy to see a lot more street food for sale. Quite a few people approached me to ask me what I thought of May 1 and did we have it in the United States. I explained that we did not, but we had a similar day called Labor Day on the first Monday in September. I explained that workers day was due to an event  in the US in 1886 and it was because of politics we did not celebrate it. People really understood the political ramifications of this and the explanation always got a good chuckle.

My favorite signs were the ones that said things like “Workers Refuse to Pay for the International Economic Crisis”.

economic crisis

And just like anyplace in the world I spotted this guy in the Che Guevara t-shirt.


In contrast Coke was the final company in the parade.


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Data, data, data, Chimoio, Day 19

Many times it seems what is holding things back is the lack of information, the lack of data from which to make reliable assertions and then good decisions. My assignment is about collecting data but it feels more like a shot in the dark. Will I find the person who has the answers? During my escape to Gorongosa National Park I learned that the park is setting up a fruit drying factory at Vila Gorongosa with financial backing from the Carr Foundation and USAID. If I hadn’t taken then vacation when I did I would not have learned this information. They are already drying tomatoes and hoping that the local communities increase in income will dissuade them from cutting down the trees on Mount Gorongosa which changes the ecosystem on the mountain and the water flow into the national park.


It was a fluke that I found this out. Hopefully I will be able to visit the project before heading back to Beira next week as they are already drying tomatoes and looking for an export market.

I also wonder if the people I find to interview give me their honest answers or tell me what they think I want to hear. In the first week with when some of the farmers told us they could not get reliable price information we asked if they had a radio. The answer was yes one person in the association did have a radio, so at first we thought maybe this person did not share the information or perhaps could not afford to buy batteries, but then a long story emerged that the price information radio show did not happen on the same day of the week at the same time so they never knew when to listen to the radio. A week later we found out that this was not true, but rather a story to cover up their mistake or their inability to understand the radio show.

As an interviewer in English I  can gauge pretty quickly how someone is answering and ask the necessary follow up questions, but here in Portuguese there is a delay in my reaction time and often I am unable to ask the necessary follow-up questions in a timely manner. Half working with a translator both helps and hurts as sometimes the interview gets out of my control and important details are lost, but we can go much faster if she asks the questions and I listen to the answers only interrupting for clarification as my comprehension is coming back much more quickly than my ability to speak fluidly. Sometimes she is impatient with my follow up questions because she thinks she understood what I wanted to know and that I am the one who misunderstood. When we have to work with the three-way translation things get really complicated. Overall I think we have been doing a good job but it hasn’t been easy.

On the positive side here in Mozambique I have not felt that I’ve had to struggle against information sharing. For the most part people have been quite willing to answer questions, have their photographs taken and if there is any hesitation it is erased after we explain the project and what were are doing. Only one older woman buying vegetables at market refused to participate in our interviews. She glared at us suspiciously and told us we were from the government and she did not want to get thrown in jail. She then follow us to the next person we chose to interview and listened in while giving us the evil eye before going on her way.

My greatest struggle has been trying to find out vegetable production data. The Mozambican Agricultural Extension and Research Service does not collect data on vegetables, after many questions and interviews I feel I have an accurate estimate for the income generated by tomatoes for all actors in the value chain. The cost side is another matter completely. My data says things like “pesticides cost a lot, so we buy them and use them when we have money” and ” seeds cost a lot so sometimes I save them from last years crop, I have no idea how many tomatoes I plant per hectare”.  So here in my last week in Chimoio I am facing the same problem I often faced in the US- how to lay out an argument for collecting data. Will I be able to find the words that will convince the agricultural association trainers and managers to collect production data from farmers and encourage and train farmers to collect their own data?


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Forty Baboons and…, Gorongosa National Park, Days 17-18

Yesterday I got my first glimpse of Mozambican wildlife when more than forty baboons scattered from in front of the car to effortlessly ascend tall trees or hide in the long grass by the side of the thirty kilometer dirt access road to Chitengo Camp at Gorongosa National Park.


I had been quite happy and content to drive away from Chimoio and watch the countryside slide by, but at the moment I saw the baboons I began grinning in awe- two old dreams realized simultaneously- the original childhood dream of coming to Africa to see the animals which developed from watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Sunday evenings- and the dream of coming to a restored Gorongosa after being occupied and destroyed by RENAMO during the war.


Species 1972 1994 2007
Elephant 2,200 108 300
Cape Buffalo 14,000 0 185
Lion 500 0 40
Hippopotamus 3,000 0 160
Impala 2,000 0 560
Waterbuck 3,500 129 4,615

The afternoon only got better. After a quick lunch I went on a game drive through the park and saw warthogs, Vervet monkeys, impala, eland, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, guinea fowl, oribi, fish eagles, herons, crocodiles, more baboons, hippos and elephants.


In contrast to Chimoio, the air here smells alive and fresh. The shades of green and blue are stunning.


This has been a much needed break from moving around dusty Chimoio everyday and having to ignore the ubiquitous street sellers selling everything I don’t need or want. In Maputo in 1990 I bought many things on the street- fried cassava root, spicy empanadas, chocolates, commemorative capulanas, matches, and interesting crafts.  Now most often a strip of MCEL recharge cards is shook a few inches from my face or I’m offered high heeled shoes and clothes far too small for a woman almost six feet tall. There are also many more beggars who quickly spot the tall, blond white woman. Early on Sunday morning a man who had come to do some small chores for the family I’m staying with called through my window to ask me to give him 10 medeicais. Needless to say I’m not used to someone peering in my window and asking for money. I jumped and yelped.


This morning I also jumped from excitement. I saw a sleepy lion just settling in for a nap as he had been up all night roaring in defense of his territory.


His roars were clearly heard in Chitengo Camp. He is about twenty-five years old and lost all the toes on his right front paw to a poachers trap about two years ago. On the drive back he was still there but had come out of the grass to enjoy the sunshine.


We stopped and sat with him for about 15 minutes.


When relaxed he crossed his front paws like my calico cat Izzy, stretched on his side and rolled around like Mac, and looked like Annie when he intently stared at the work truck that arrived just as we were about to leave. So like at home, I am spending my down time watching cats.


I’ve been very lucky in just two days I’ve seen nearly all the animals in the park. I’ve only missed seeing the two rarely sighted leopards, and the zebra which are currently living on the other side of the lake can not be accessed until June or July. My only disappointment (and it is a very small one) is that while the food is tasty and quite fresh it is not Mozambican nor is it quite Portuguese. At every meal I’ve had to ask for piri piri (sauce made from chopped small hot peppers, mixed with oil and salt), but it is by far the best I’ve had this trip.


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Made in Mozambique, Chimoio, Day 16

In an earlier post I wrote about how I hadn’t eaten much true Mozambican food (other than the produce I’ve bought and prepared myself) and the few Mozambican made food products I’ve been consuming have been limited to beer, mineral water, and piri piri cashews. Since then I’ve found the lemon cream biscuits I used to eat that are still made in Machava, a suburb of Maputo,


bought a bag of Mozambican sugar, and discovered Gouda Cheese made right here in Chimoio. The cheese is excellent and is packaged just as if it were made in Europe. The fancy packaging made me walk right by it in the store and it took Christina, my ShopRite tour guide to point it out to me. I bought some Gouda flavored with caraway seed. The milk for the cheese is produced on a Holstein dairy farm owed by a woman about 20 kilometers outside of Chimoio. Later I found out that the farm also produces milk and yogurt for sale, but have yet to see it in a shop. I did however have the opportunity to try the yogurt and it was delicious.

The cheese, like the lemon cream biscuits and the sugar carries the Made in Mozambique promotion symbol.


To qualify for certification, the product must be completely made in Mozambique, and the company must pay fair wages and enhance their workers quality of life. One hundred forty-four companies are currently certified. Very few food companies have yet to be certified, partially because very few exist, but the program is a promising sign for future products from Mozambique and has only been in existence since June 2006. To date the program has generated more than 45 billion meticais in transactions.

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The Best Coke in the World, Chimoio, Day 15

Today I imagined a joint advertising campaign from the Mozambican Tourist Board and Coca Cola. Come to Mozambique, relax on our pristine beaches and drink the best coke in the world. I don’t drink much coke when I am in the States. I don’t really like it, but when I lived here nineteen years ago it was a regular habit. I always bought it in a bottle rather than a can because the bottled coke was made in Mozambique and the canned was made in South Africa. It was somewhat of a political statement, but I often joked that the bottled stuff really did taste better. We I returned to the States I quickly lost my coke habit as it just did not taste the same. After having my first coke here a couple of weeks ago I thought wow this really does taste good. It must be all those great memories influencing my taste buds. While getting a tour of the Chimoio ShopRite and talking about products made in Mozambique we passed the soft drink display and both Elizabeth and I said something about how we liked coke in a bottle. Christina our ShopRite tour guide told us that we were absolutely correct. Coke made in Mozambique is made with mineral water with a Ph value of 6.0 which when mixed with the same Coke syrup used all over the world brings out a slight different flavor than Coke made in the United States or Europe. I’m not at all certain if this happens in other developing countries, but if you think Coke tastes better somewhere else, you might be right.

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Profiles of Vegetable Wholesalers- Chimoio, Day 10

Eliza and Elaida have been in the tomato and cabbage wholesale business since 1997 and buy and sell year round.

Eliza and Elaida at Mercado 25 junho

December and January are they best months for business. In order to start the business they asked their husbands for a 500 mt. (about $17) loan. In the beginning they could only afford to purchase two boxes (about 30-35 kilos each) at a time. Now they purchase 20-30 boxes at 130-150 mt/box three or four times a week and sell them for 400-500 mt/box.

Fernando only buys and sells onions (both dry and green) and runs his business year round.

Fernando at Mercado 25 Junho

Unlike Eliza and Elaida he has a fixed space at market, but it is unclear how he got permission for this space as he only pays the 5 mt/ daily vending fee. He built a shelter over his vending space. This year he is working with five farmers in Nampula. To get there he takes a chapa, and then transports the sacks (80-95 kilos each) of onions to the main road using the farmer’s ox cart.   He waits on the road until a large truck comes along and picks him up. This is a side-business for the drivers so he usually does not have to wait very long. According to another wholesaler it takes two days to get to Nampula and two days to get back. He pays 80 mt/ 80 kilo sack for transport which cost him 600 mt. each. He sells these sacks for 1,500 mt/sack or in smaller amounts for 20 mt= 1 kilo.

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