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“My poverty and that of others here in the village is much greater because there’s a lack of transport.” Maria echoes the feelings of many narrators in Mabalane as she makes the connection between inadequate infrastructure and poverty. Trading opportunities, education and health care are all hard to access: “Even when we have something to sell there, we suffer… We have to walk for 15 kilometres just to reach Mabalane town… Pregnant women walk to Mabalane to give birth…”

The situation is worse in the rainy season, when roads deteriorate and the Limpopo River rises to dangerous levels. And, as Rafael points out, it is then that diseases tend to proliferate: “The most dangerous thing is that [cholera] has always appeared during the rainy season, and it is then that the river is in spate and boats cannot cross.”

The Mabalane narrators also struggle to maintain their inadequate school buildings, a task which demands much time from mothers. All say that teachers and nurses rarely stay in the community for long. “There is a building that was constructed to be a health post. The government built it,” says Boafesta, “but there is no nurse to attend to the patients…”

Perhaps, reflects Rafael, teachers and nurses are reluctant to live in isolated rural areas: “I can’t explain very well the reason why [they] don’t want to stay here. [Maybe] they are afraid of living in a village, with people who only live by means of the hoe.”

One facility that has improved in Mabalane is the water supply. “PROMUGE (Promoçao da Mulher e Género)… helped us a lot, because they brought us water, so I am very thankful to them,” explains Boafesta but maintenance is costly: “… the machine to lift the water is often broken, and when it breaks there is nothing else to do but to spend money to buy rope…”

Marracuene narrators live much closer to Maputo and take advantage of the trading opportunities it offers, but they too mention lack of public transport as a hindrance. And in a terrible irony, the fact that they are close to Mozambique’s main highway has exacerbated the threat from HIV and AIDS. Arnaldo links the high incidence of HIV and AIDS among young people to the fact that the main road through the area is the “Mozambique corridor” to South Africa. Many truck drivers stop there and pay for sex.  The girls “get involved” he says, “because of poverty mainly, because of not having anything at home.”


Infrastructure 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