Several narrators, particularly women, speak about the central role of cooperatives in their lives. Jorgina vividly remembers her perilous existence during the civil war. It was then (1977) that she joined a cooperative, which 30 years later still enables her to “alleviate my poverty”. Through her membership she has also received help with livestock, which “work the field for my survival”. Others mention assistance with fertilisers and seeds.
Cooperatives are formed by individuals deciding to join forces, and do not have to be legally registered; organizações de camponeses can be made up of individuals or groups of people who formally identify themselves with the organizações’ constitution. Narrators speak positively and at length about these organizações, which are supported by UNAC (União Nacional de Camponeses), the national small farmers’ movement.
Ucilina explains that they were encouraged to form cooperatives and organizações de camponeses “through the FRELIMO government’s awareness campaign after independence”. Her group are planning to set up their own market, “which would help us a lot, because then it would be us fixing the prices”. She also says that UNAC has “been supporting us in terms of oxen for animal traction, and cattle re-stocking”.
Pedro, who introduces himself as “a camponês, and a son of a camponês”, is a field official and national trainer for UNAC. He is aware that young people who have benefited from some education are developing a different attitude to working on the land and prefer jobs in cities. Yet, he says, “with such a rich land as ours, how can people ignore agriculture?”
His work with UNAC has included creating drama groups and using song to teach young people “the importance of agriculture”, to convey information to illiterate farmers, and to raise awareness about land rights.