There are few mentions of government intervention, although narrators do recognise progress in building health clinics, in the occasional supply of food aid, and in promoting adult literacy and the farmers’ associations and cooperatives. In general, they feel effective support is lacking. “The government does not help camponeses properly, although they say that agriculture is the basis of the economy,” states Arnaldo.
The narrators in rural Mabalane feel particularly let down by the government because the Limpopo National Park is compounding their problems by allowing wildlife into their fields, yet barring the community from the forest and its products. They do, however, mention some NGOs, such as PROMUGE (Promoçao da Mulher e Género), which help in different ways, including improving water supplies, campaigning around HIV and AIDS, and supporting farmers with agriculture and livestock.
In Marracuene, Ucilina mentions ActionAid and the Associação Positiva Juvenil (APOJ), “which gave us seeds… and gave us a motor pump for irrigation”. But generally, she says, there is a “lack of machinery to help us in the fieldwork, lack of assistance to purchase inputs, and many other difficulties”. The irrigation pump supplied by APOJ now lies idle because of missing parts and “that makes us very sad”.
There is frustration at the lack of support from state services such as the police, especially among those slowly rebuilding their livelihoods through livestock. “Rustling happens on a big scale here…” says Boafesta, who is angered by police indifference: “They never pursue the thieves.” Gomes describes a government attempt to improve the situation by making everyone have documents to prove ownership. If he sells an animal, “I am obliged to go to the village chief to get a document to certify that [the buyer] purchased it.”
Arnaldo also mentions police indifference in the face of crime and – like several narrators- corrupt practices over land ownership. He feels that people in authority are implicated in these deals: “[Such people] increase our poverty”, while “those without power continue in absolute poverty.” However, in contrast to other Living with Poverty collections, few narrators speak negatively about politicians or elites, or of continual abuses of power and wealth.
Pedro feels strongly that poor people need to be heard; at present Marracuene has no community radio. In Mabalane, Radio Limpopo is widely listened to, says Amélia, and is an important source of news and education. Pedro’s argument is that access to new ideas is crucial for development: “What we lack most is not only technical knowledge; it is experience, of course – exchange of experience with other districts, with other provinces.”
He also argues forcefully for better communication between generations. Without a more thoughtful response to the past, he stresses, the current generation will be unable to take the best of traditional knowledge and customs as well as taking advantage of modern developments.