Hope Through Development: Life in Rural Mozambique
In the rural northern Niassa province, residents of the border town of Mandimba rush to greet Mozambican President Armando Guebuzza who is on the campaign trail and up for reelection. Mozambicans stake their hopes for development on the government, hoping their lots in life will improve through various public-sponsored initiatives.
Frelimo party faithfuls excitedly drum up support for their candidate around the bairros of town. Mandimba is a town in transition, still small yet with big plans for the future. Hope is alive yet often falls squarely on the shoulders of outside influence.
Thirty kilometers north of Mandimba, Yao villagers outside of the government post of Luelele gather to watch a youth group perform a skit warning against the dangers of HIV/AIDS. Misinformation runs strong. Sexual practices remain unchanged. Every household is deeply affected.
Young children head to school early in the morning in the town of Mandimba. Primary education is free to all, but many children still do not attend, especially from the Muslim Yao tribe who have traditionally shunned government education due to the belief that they may be “Christianized”.
By the time children reach adolescence, the future can seem quite limited. Most will become subsistence farmers like their parents. Boy/girl relationships become the foremost concern for many. Here in the government post of Mitande 35KM southeast of Mandimba, the national Radio/TV network films a community program aimed at youth. A local singer, donning a Mozambican flag, entertains while secondary school students dance.
Over 140,000 living mostly in rural village settings must rely on the government to send volunteer workers to them for vaccinations and well baby checkups. This mother of twins receiving a vaccination is fortunate to have a healthy set as twins are often mistaken by traditional birth attendants as full-term pregnancies long before their real due date.
Development projects often come and go depending on various projects financed by foreign aid groups. Fish farming, like this project run by the Mozambican NGO Estamos, offers involved villagers a chance to grow fish for sale or as a source of much-needed protein.
Tobacco offers the main source of income for many in the area. Mozambique Leaf Tobacco, a part of the Philip Morris corporation, collects tobacco grown by villagers and processes them in grades where they are then packaged and shipped by truck to the factory in Tete (western Mozambique). Cash crops come and go depending on the market, but tobacco remains a stable crop…at least for now.
Foreign aid has the potential to do great things, but plenty of well-intentioned programs fall flat and even destroy aspects of local culture and practice. Free condoms can be found throughout Africa, but it is nearly impossible to find men who use them as the belief is strong that materials added to condoms actually make people sick. Many condoms end up in use by children as soccer balls, balloons for play, or even skullcaps. Mandimba is a hotbed for the transmission of HIV/AIDS as truckers moving between Malawi and Mozambique frequently stay in resthouses overnight.
Mozambicans wait patiently for development. Some will not see it in their lifetime, but hope still remains. The nation is working hard to rise up from the devastating aftereffects of two recent wars. This cloud of dust kicked up by the President’s helicopters during his campaign stop in October represents the reality of how people are willing to withstand the dirt and grime in hopes that they will get to see what they want: job creation, better healthcare and education… a better life.