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Antonio: collective responsibility

Antonio: “For me, poverty is now reduced because I have joined the organizações de camponeses where I find help and a field to cultivate...”

For Antonio, having a field of his own has been an escape from “the midst of poverty”, even enabling him to send his children and grandchildren to school. While he sees education as a priority, he also wants them to appreciate the importance of agriculture and is teaching them “to work in the field”.

He observes that his parents would simply plant “and crops would just grow”, whereas now fertilisers and other inputs are required. But such things are largely beyond his reach as he has nothing to offer the bank, “such as a television set, radio, furniture…” as security in return for a loan.

Antonio strongly believes in community and collective responsibility and is proud to be secretary of his local organização de camponeses. He stresses that community and family support are essential for those, like his own daughter, with HIV: “a way of loving people suffering from this disease is to live with them… we must never isolate them…”

I am living with my wife. I had 11 children, but I lost two of them and was left with only nine. They live with me at home…

I grew up [living] with my parents in the midst of poverty, because my parents depended on agriculture… I tried to attend school, but because I had to work in the field, I ended up losing the opportunity to study…

The “poor in mind”

Poverty is when a person has no ideas inside him. Because when a person has ideas, even if he is not working for a boss, he manages to survive, even if it is just working in the field or any other kind of work – because there are a number of things that people can do, such as sculpture, or making agricultural tools, grinding sticks… But a person who has no ideas about doing such things will just sit around waiting for someone to help him, and thus poverty grows for that person…

The absolute poor are those who just stay doing nothing. They do not use their heads for thinking and they do not use their hands. They only wait to be given something… They do not realise they are poor in mind…

I work in my field; myself and my wife… I teach my children to work in the field, because it is from this that we get some benefit and are able to send our children to school, take them to hospital, feed them and buy some clothes – all this thanks to working in the field.

Working collectively

For me, poverty is now reduced because I have joined the organizações de camponeses where I find help and a field to cultivate… I plant and manage to sell my produce and feed my family, though our agriculture is not very significant, because we are few; [and] we do not manage to cultivate large fields because we have no more labour power…

In the past… things were good because whatever you planted you would have a good harvest. But now it is different… One has to work in the field with knowledge [derived] from school [and] also with the help of technicians who know about the soil and the best way to plant and other things.

In the past, my parents would cultivate without using fertilisers or other agricultural inputs. They would plant, and crops would just grow, depending on the season and rainfall, or even the dew.

“I have nothing [for] the bank”

With the little I produce, I buy fertilisers and other inputs necessary in the field so that our crops can yield a good harvest. The problem is that… we do not have enough money to buy the products because we are just small camponeses. We are still unable to get the money [we need] or to borrow money from the banks and repay it after the harvest, because even those who get those loans suffer very high interest rates, and we fail to repay the interest…

The big farmers are the ones who have access to the banks… who have the power – because if you go and ask for a loan they will impose conditions, so that if you do not pay [the interest owed] they come and take [your collateral] from you, and because we have so little we do not go there…

When I look at myself I see that I have nothing that the bank can take from me if I fail to repay within the time period they set, which can be short or long; and if I fail to find that kind of money, what will they take from my house, because I have nothing? I have nothing valuable enough, such as a television set, radio, furniture…

Health concerns

[Outbreaks of] cholera occur sometimes, but not very frequently. Malaria is the most common disease. There are other diseases, such as this one that has now appeared, called HIV and AIDS… When this disease comes, our development is slowed down because not everyone can continue working to help us develop…

This disease is of great concern to us, but thanks to the government, we are being given the means of survival, such as tests. People [are encouraged] not to be ashamed when they learn they have the disease, [and to] hurry to the hospital to receive the necessary drugs so that they can live longer and more safely…

In my opinion, people are ashamed of taking tests because they think that if they do the test they may find somebody who does not keep a secret and who let it be known that such and such a person has HIV and AIDS. So, when a person hears such a thing he or she may be ashamed, thinking they are guilty… for failing to take preventive measures, or… [having] many sexual partners…

But currently people do understand and agree to have the test because they can see now that this disease is killing many people… Now they have brought some equipment to the Marracuene health units for the tests. So I feel the situation has improved. Even in the more remote communities, they are building health posts for people to be treated there…

“We must never isolate them”

I can say that I am lucky because I still have nobody in my family who has died of this disease. But currently I have a daughter suffering from this disease. She went to Manhica and she is now doing fine. She is restored to her normal state because she followed the medical recommendations… I cannot give her everything she needs, but when I have a little money I manage to buy something for her to eat, according to the amount of money I have, even if it is not every day… Since I have a field where I cultivate, I always manage to give her some vegetables.

We were urged to treat [HIV-positive] people well, not to isolate them. We must stay with them. We must feed them properly, and live with them, so that their hearts do not feel isolated, thinking that because they are suffering from this disease they are no longer people like us. We are being taught that a way of loving people who are suffering from this disease is to live with them… When someone in the family happens to get this disease, be it your son, your wife or your daughter, we must never isolate them… And even in our associations we must take care of those people…

For me it is not difficult to get to the hospital… it takes us less than 10 minutes…  In the past, health units did not give us good treatment, but currently the government and the health staff are trying to work for the people, because you can see them busily [moving] around in the consulting rooms and other places, treating the patients – though sometimes we are too many in the health units, and you will find people queuing for up to 11 hours…

Pressures on schoolgirls

Girls have access to education, but there is one problem that arises, which is getting pregnant. This makes us sad, because you, as a father, you may sacrifice everything to buy exercise books and textbooks for your daughter to go to school, but in the end she comes home pregnant. And the worst thing is that, this pregnancy… it may have been at school, and you never know if it was a teacher, the director or one of the other students. But when we look at these problems, teachers and directors say that these pregnancies are not got at school, but from somewhere else, outside. But the truth is that teachers and educators must fight against this ill…

I do [send my children and grandchildren to school], though with great difficulty, because, for instance, the school year is coming to an end, and registrations are coming, and I don’t have the money [required], and I don’t even know how I will manage. But I tried to get something from the field where I am working in order for my children to go to school, so that they do not become like me, who did not go to school because of poverty…

The schools we have here in Marracuene will only teach up to Grades 10, 11 and 12… After that they have to resort to Maputo schools… [It] is difficult for us to get the money for transport every day because of the high fares, and not everyone can afford that kind of money…

Taking responsibility: “I would be listened to”

I am not a leader, but you may call me a leader, because I am involved in [various] organizações de camponeses and I am working close to the leadership of those associations as a secretary… I was a volunteer in that work, and I can say that whenever I spoke, and gave my opinion on many things, I would be listened to.  And people started getting interested, to the point of thinking that this person could be promoted to a certain level.

Initially I was the chairperson… When the war came, I had to abandon [that role] and move to Maputo. When I came back… they appointed me as secretary, since there was a chairperson already. Since then I have been the secretary and I like this work…

Poverty: the importance of family

There are some people who are poorer than others. This problem comes about… when they lose their husband or their spouse and have nobody to take care of them…[or] they no longer have the strength to work… There are such cases here in Marracuene of old people who have been abandoned, though they are not that many…

Lack of care… is what leads some aged people to abandon their homes and go on the streets to beg in towns… It is up to us, who are their relatives to solve that problem, and not to abandon them, because when the person is taken care of very well, they will never think of going out on the streets to beg.

Poverty in my family, compared with other families, is still critical, because, as you can see, my family is still far away. Even my brothers – eight of us were born, but only two are left. One of them settled in South Africa and so I have no one to ask for support. I look at the world and I see that I am alone.

“My heart is no longer sad”

I see that my life is better now because there were times when poverty was extreme in my family. We could not afford to do anything. What would help us in those times was that food was cheap. If it was now, when food is expensive, maybe I would be dead…

I was suffering [in the past], because I did not have anything that I could call mine, but now my heart is no longer sad because I have a field where I work…

Currently, when I look at my family, the lifestyle that we lead, I can see that it is better… not that I have many things, but because I can still wake up in the morning and go to work… and feed my children and send them to school and to hospital.

Maybe life will become harder for my children, because I can say that life for me has been more or less easy. But for my children – those who I have now – and for my grandchildren, life may become more difficult.

There is no place where poor people can get any support. But there are some, particularly the aged ones, who are lucky enough to receive support from the government, which is supplying them with something every month in terms of money. But it does not find anywhere for them to live. It only gives them some money to buy some bread that day; or in the hospital the government’s social services will give them one meal or another every month, which is not frequent.

“We are trying to give everyone equal rights”

Our problems are channelled to the neighbourhood secretary or to the Organização da Mulher Moçambicana (Mozambican Women’s Organisation), and if a solution is not found there, the problem is channelled to the court. Some people have the habit of taking their problems direct to the court, but there is not always a need for that. The court will intervene only if the secretaries fail to find a solution to the problem…

Myself and my wife [share decisionmaking], because we discuss and decide how we can overcome our problems. She will make a suggestion and I [will make] another suggestion until we reach a solution. In this community it is the same… This means that gender issues, of which we are talking, will take us forward. Here, we are trying to give everyone equal rights.

That is the right thing to do, because, for instance, the secretary should call people and inform them that, on such and such a date, there will a meeting, and ask everyone to be there. But what is happening now is that our way of life makes things difficult. People, when they wake up, they take their hoes and go to the fields, and will not make the time fixed for the meeting, and then those people are not there to give their opinion…

The time has come for women to give their opinions. We are trying to find ways to put women in the lead, in order for our lives to improve, because women can think and have good ideas. All the work is in the hands of women, and they can lead us…

Women here in Marracuene are respected because they can be found everywhere; even in leading positions you will find women. Sometimes one will be appointed the chairperson of an organização de camponeses or other positions. Everywhere you find women. Currently, women come first, in my opinion, before men; we are lower than women. We respect them and we deny them nothing.

This interview has been specially edited for the web and cut down by more than half. Some re-ordering has taken place: square brackets indicate ‘inserted’ text for clarification; round brackets are translations / interpretations; and dots indicate cuts in the text. The primary aim has been to remain true to the spirit of the interview, while losing questions, repetition, and confusing or overlapping sections.

Project

Antonio: collective responsibility is produced as part of the Living with poverty: Mozambique oral testimony project.

Testimonies

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

Infrastructure

Conservation conflicts

Collective action

Overview

Infrastructure

Introduction

Collective action

Livelihood and migration

Support for development

Conservation conflicts

Family

Farming

Education

Health

Conflict

Women’s status

Poverty

Trade and economics