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Most narrators say that without some land to cultivate they wouldn’t have survived. Some have their own plot; others work collectively. Some narrators farm at subsistence level, growing mainly sweet potatoes, while a few produce enough crops for the local market or to sell to middle men.

People are proud of their relationship with the land. Antonio says that although he highly values education, he still wants his children to learn and be close to agriculture because it is so important. Pedro, who trained as a teacher but defines himself as “a camponês, and a son of a camponês…” is disappointed that many young people don’t want to farm any more “because it requires some effort… and many people think ‘Because I’ve been to school…I would rather find an office job.'”

Amélia says: “The soil is good; the only problem is drought, because sometimes it goes on for years, and so… there are no good results…” Although she has successfully introduced cashew and mango trees, recurrent drought has forced her and others to turn to charcoal-making for survival. She, like many in Mabalane, also highlights the problem of wild animals eating their produce, which has been exacerbated by the establishment of the nearby Limpopo National Park three years ago.

Antonio agrees with most narrators that harvests are much less abundant than in the past, and less predictable. Many talk about the need to use fertilisers and other products and their difficulty in affording them.

Antonio explains that in order to buy fertiliser he needs a bank loan – but he has no collateral: “…we do not have enough money to buy the products because we are just small camponeses… The big farmers are the ones who have access to the banks… who have the power… When I look at myself I see that I have nothing that the bank can take from me if I fail to repay…”

Many narrators speak highly of local cooperatives and organizações de camponeses, which have schemes in place to help their members. They also say some NGOs also help with seed and livestock provision. Cattle are important economically to those who are managing to rebuild their herds since the chaos of civil war.

Boafesta is unequivocal about the importance of livestock: “There are many things that we lost because of the war. And at this moment in our life what will help us… what gives us hope is cattle…” Gomes recalls “Mine was a family that… had livestock; we had a sustainable life.” He too is working hard to rebuild his herds of goats and cattle. Both say that cattle rustling is a major problem.


Farming is a key theme of the Living with poverty: Mozambique oral testimony project.


Amélia: women are leaders

Antonio: collective responsibility

Arnaldo: teachers sell marks

Boafesta: cattle are hope

Gomes: working with youth

Jorgina: the value of cooperatives

Maria: totally forgotten

Pamira: great suffering

Pedro: importance of agriculture

Raquelina: only me

Rafael: worth nothing

Ucilina: living from agriculture

Key themes

Conservation conflicts

Trade and economics


Women’s status







Support for development

Livelihood and migration

Collective action




Collective action

Conservation conflicts