Lack of access to markets is a huge problem according to most narrators, especially those in Mabalane. Travel to markets is difficult because there is so little public transport. Ucilina is 65 and says it can take her several days just to gather a sack of sweet potatoes and get them to market. Once there she is vulnerable to buyers beating down her prices: “In the end they buy a bag… for 70,000 meticais, because if I refuse they will… buy from someone else.”
This is why she and her fellow farmers have come together into an organização de camponeses, created as a result of the Frelimo government’s awareness campaign: “…we are planning to open an agricultural market, which would help us a lot, because then it would be us fixing the prices. Despite many difficulties we are sticking to this plan…”
Some middlemen come to the community to buy corn or livestock, but lack of information about prices weakens the community’s bargaining position. Gomes describes the situation in detail, saying that when it comes to maize they “all go to a meeting where we agree on the same price” but explains that this is more difficult to achieve with cattle and the many other animals that people raise. Women sell small quantities of maize too, he says, and “…they also accept bartering in goods; for example, soap for maize and other products.”
Several talk about the great difficulty of securing loans because, as Antonio points out, they lack property to act as collateral: “The big farmers are the ones who have access to the banks… I have nothing that the bank can take from me if I fail to repay…” For most narrators, any progress has come about through being members of cooperatives or organizações de camponeses, and some NGOs have provided seeds and other inputs.