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Pedro: importance of agriculture

Pedro: “...the majority of poor people do not have access to a means of expressing what they feel; they are not heard.”

Pedro is proud to be “a camponês, and a son of a camponês…” and feels a strong connection to the land. He survives by “working in the fields left by my parents and my grandparents”.

He is also a field official and a trainer for UNAC, the national small farmers’ movement. An official recognised his ability during the emergency programme to help flood victims in 2000 and invited him to work with the union. He now volunteers for UNAC full time.

He has been on many free UNAC training courses and has gained valuable knowledge and experience. He has also created a soccer team and a drama group to teach young people “the importance of agriculture”.

Pedro has ideas for spreading technical knowledge in rural areas through the regional organizações de camponeses. He feels strongly about the need for poor people to express their own views and also wants improved communication between the generations.

I was born in Marracuene, in Maputo province. I am a camponês, and a son of a camponês…

I am working here at UNAC (União Nacional de Camponeses; national small farmers’ movement) in Marracuene as a field official, and also as a national trainer at the UNAC headquarters. I give assistance to the organizações de camponeses: technical assistance on production, improvement of production and marketing, that kind of thing.

When I was still at school, I would work with my parents in my grandfather’s field. I would go to school, but I had always dreamt of having a training that would benefit the peasants, because I could see the difficulties that my parents and grandparents were having. And in that area of my life I was lucky enough to grow up and be trained as a teacher. But because that profession was not my dream [I looked for another opportunity].

In the year 2000, after the floods, there was an emergency programme to help the families affected… and through a conversation with friends of mine, that was when Senhor Paulo learnt of my talent and my experience in agriculture.

He invited me [to join them], while advising me not to stop working in the education sector as a teacher, but he wanted me to work with them in my free time. I started here in 2000 with the emergency programme, but as time went by, I felt that I was really at home here, and I quit the job as a teacher and started working full time with UNAC.

“It is not money that solves our problems”

Even now, I am working as a volunteer. We don’t have any wage or allowance. First of all, I want to tell you that money is not everything. It is not money that solves our problems. I am a camponês. I work in the fields. My mother is now old. My older brothers are living in town, and I am working in the fields left by my parents and my grandparents. And I have my wife there – she is providing support in the fields…

Most people do not like working – particularly the youth, they do not like working in agriculture. I have three employees that I’m assisting. My firstborn is now 10, and he is able to help his mother water the crops in the field. He cannot yet hold a hoe, but he can do those light tasks that his mother would do; those he can help with…

“A fight against poverty”

I am talking about many training courses I received, for which I did not pay a single cent, and now I have knowledge and experience. Now I know the entire country, and if I have had the opportunity to exchange experiences with other colleagues, it is thanks to UNAC… I had training as a teacher. I also received training as a trainer at UNAC in matters relating to organizações de camponeses: leadership, accounting and management. I was also trained in developing small projects – drafting and implementing; another training was on Participative Rural Development, conflict resolution and spreading information about laws…

Anything you do for the development and support of your family is a fight against poverty. This is my understanding, because what I am producing in my field is not only for my wife and my children, it is production that will help more than 50 families. I have those three employees, who are working in my field. So that is fighting against poverty by reducing unemployment…

Young people’s expectations

Crime is not caused by the lack of employment, because we do have jobs. The thing is that there are some people who will ignore certain activities. I’ve been speaking about agriculture. It is mainly young people [who] do not want to do it, because it requires some effort. It is a job that requires you to be there, dirty, and all that, and many people think “Because I’ve been to school, I made Grade 10 or higher, I will not go to the field, I would rather find an office job.” But with such a rich land as ours, how can people ignore agriculture?

So, what happens? That person does not work, he does nothing… What will that person do? He will steal, and may have to kill to get what he needs. So that is the kind of thing that people will say: “Ah…it is because of the lack of jobs.” It is true that there is a shortage of jobs –we shouldn’t talk about a lack, but a shortage of jobs. But what we have been speaking about is self-employment, yes. I am here doing a certain job, and I know that when I get home I will have something to eat; when my child is sick I will have enough to send him to hospital. I know that I will get something to support my children and send them to school. So I do not agree that crime is caused by the shortage of jobs…

Poverty: “this is another war”

When you say that we must fight against poverty, and that young people must return to the countryside, maybe with the youth it may be difficult.  Because when we had this war, many families retreated to the towns… to seek refuge… but people must believe that there is no longer war in the country. That armed conflict is over…

But there is another struggle. The war brought us many problems, like, for instance, we are talking about absolute poverty. This is another war, and we must be able to win, and in order to win we must first change our mentality, because most problems start with our mindset.

“What we lack most is…exchange of experience”

What I want to see here is the community developing. Yes, developing – because I work a lot in agriculture, and I would like to see improvements in terms of production quality, marketing, and the opening of some markets…

What we lack most is not only technical knowledge; it is experience, of course – exchange of experience with other districts, with other provinces. One can see that by implementing such experiences here, we can be successful. Now we have thought of that and we have suggested it to the agricultural authorities, up there…

I would go a little further and say that we already do employ ourselves, since the district has a shortage of technicians, but we can train people through direct contact within our organizações de camponeses.  Each of the 38 associations would bring one person to be trained, and so there would be 38 people to go back to assist the others in the organizações.

“The majority of poor people…are not heard

I have had a lot of experience; I have participated in many events. I can say that my voice has been heard. I have only mentioned these two areas [of teaching and technical assistance], but my colleagues have been calling me a jack-of-all-trades. I have appeared on TV, my voice [has been] on the radio…

They say that of the 18 million inhabitants here in Mozambique, 80 or 90 per cent live in the rural areas – and those are the absolute poor… the people who do not have an opportunity to have either a radio or a TV set… Marracuene does not have a community radio…

There are even some people who start protesting, people in the rural areas, when they hear [someone talk] on the radio, they protest and ask: “Are those people really poor? That person who was interviewed, is he really poor?” That is why I say that the majority of poor people do not have access to a means of expressing what they feel; they are not heard.

Work with young people

For most of my time I am here, at the União [Nacional de Camponeses], and we have a youth group at the União. We have four groups of young people. But what happens here is that there are some young people who do not want to go to the fields, as I told you before. We have some mães (literally ‘mother’; term of respect for older woman) who go to work in the fields, but their children do not want to work.

What do we do then? We created a soccer team belonging to the União, we have a song and dance group of young people… We also have a drama group – that will facilitate the transmission of information within the associations… most camponeses in our case have problems with illiteracy, and [so we] use that group, and the singing and dance group, who will compose some songs that convey information to the camponeses. For instance, we are now making people aware of the law on legalising the farming associations, and for that we use the drama group…

There are dances and dramas to show them the importance of agriculture, its value, and that is an encouragement for them, because they must understand that our parents are getting older by the day and it is we, the youth, who must continue the work of our parents.

The lure of city life and of South Africa

We are near the city – and this is the capital city – and its influence is something different. What happens is that after completing Grade 10, because the youth must continue their studies [in the city], they end up involved in city life, and it is very difficult for them to come back to the rural areas. They stay there, looking for a sophisticated job, and do not come back to the field…

We have many young people who go there, but to go to the city one must have something, some money, to pay for the expenses, because it is not easy to live in a city. Some of them after completing Grade 10 – because we are near South Africa – they would rather go to South Africa where they look for a job. Because here in the district, it is very difficult to find a job that measures up to the knowledge that they have…

Few of them are successful. The positive success that I have seen is of those adults who work in the mines. Because we know that young people, when they go to South Africa, most of them are illegal, so they can only work in part-time jobs, for a short time, and they do not have a future. When they return, it is just to enjoy themselves, thinking that “I must show them that I have been abroad”; when they return they try to show off that they are no longer Mozambicans – some of them, anyway.

Factors fuelling HIV and AIDS

These [migrations] are among the factors that contribute to the spread of HIV and AIDS, because if we look closely we see that Mozambique is a corridor: it is not only Mozambicans migrating abroad, but many foreigners come for holidays here in Mozambique, and this is one of the factors that contributes to the spread of HIV and AIDS.

There are many tourist resorts here, and we have beaches here. Now what happens? It may happen that my mother does not have money to help me and my father does not have money to help either, and I can see a foreigner over there, with girls running to him, [and I am] thinking that “Maybe if I deal with him he will help me somehow to survive”…

What happens is that, in terms of education, some of the girls are limited. They cannot study further because some parents say that if the girl acquires knowledge that will only benefit other families. Others simply do not have the money to pay for school for their daughters. And so some of the girls end up involved in vice, and they will find boyfriends as a means of survival…

I would say that in this way we are not fighting against poverty but in favour of poverty, because what will happen is that we will have many HIV-positive people and [there will be] many other diseases, and in the meantime the government will have to stop development and assist the ill people and their parents.

What I can say is that here in Marracuene there is much information about that HIV and AIDS. There are many organisations working in that area. If we count, we are talking about 4,200 members here. And every time we go out to work in the field we always devote five to 10 minutes to talking about HIV and AIDS. We have many organisations that do awareness campaigns on HIV and AIDS for young people, and the youth have been heeding that information. If they did not, we would have larger numbers of ill youngsters.

The value of age and experience

[Conflict between generations] happens because parents are not open with their children, and maybe they do not have frank conversations, do not debate ideas. A parent must be a friend to his or her children, he or she must be open to debate and [show] transparency… just like a good friend, then children will get good information. Because when we create a barrier, thinking that “my child is a child, and I must give him orders, and my child cannot give any ideas or suggestions”, then that child becomes limited and thus many things that would help to develop our lives are lost.

The youth are our future. So, if young people are empowered, sensitised, we can wait for our elders to come to the last days of their lives, to give continuity to our lives. And everything our elders can give us to help in development should be welcome, and we should take advantage of it… We should not wait until something is beyond repair to start repairing it, because then we have to start from scratch. We should be making use of the experience of older people [now]…

I would like to advise young people that our future is in the hands of our parents, because they have the experience, and that if we do not follow them and do not take advantage of their knowledge we will be lost…

Choosing the best from the past

Of course it is not everything that a parent will say that we must accept. We must analyse what they say, and choose what can help us, according to our lives. Even though we understand that he belongs to another era, we should find a way of using those ideas to make our current lives easier.

We should give ourselves time to analyse and to think deeply and plan our lives… because when we say that our pai (literally ‘father’; term of respect) is no longer ‘worthy’ we are missing many opportunities that would help us in life.

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

Pedro: importance of agriculture 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