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Boafesta reflects on the multiple difficulties he and others face in Mabalane and suggests that isolation and neglect underlie many of their problems. Teachers and nurses rarely stay in this impoverished rural area and there is little public transport so markets and other economic opportunities are hard to explore. Most narrators from this region say they feel “forgotten” and excluded from development.

With so little access to credit, and declining harvests, farmers are living on the brink. Boafesta highlights how ill-health can stretch a fine balanced survival strategy to breaking point: “When you get sick you cannot work… thus it creates poverty”, he says. Yet to cure the sickness, you have to spend money: “there is no way out but to… sell one of the cows.”

Many narrators survive through the support of family networks, and those without relatives are generally agreed to be among the poorest. Maria was abandoned by her husband when he went to work in South Africa and sees this as the main cause of her “extreme poverty”.

Jorgina says she first really got “to know what poverty is” when her husband died. Since then, with the help of her cooperative, she has just managed to survive, but continued family breakdown is pushing her resources to the limit. Her daughters are separated from their husbands, and “…this makes me live in poverty again because the children of my daughters are supported by me…”

Amélia observes that the migration of young people in search of jobs, though understandable, also increases the poverty of those left behind. She agrees that those suffering the most “extreme” poverty are “the people who have nobody…” However, she says, no one in her community “has the courage to see an aged person alone, under the shadow of a tree, and not help him”.

Marracuene is closer to urban facilities and markets, and narrators recognise the advantage this brings. Nevertheless, similar issues preoccupy them, particularly the lack of jobs which, Ucilina says, means young people “just get involved in drugs, theft and other crimes”.

The need for changes in attitude is raised by Antonio, who believes that tackling poverty often requires an individual, psychological shift: “…a person who has no ideas… will just sit around waiting for someone to help him, and thus poverty grows for that person.”

Palmira is one of several who describe the stress caused by the never-ending battle just to survive:  “Poverty means… living without any inner peace…”


Poverty 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

Collective action




Collective action

Livelihood and migration

Support for development

Conservation conflicts






Women’s status


Trade and economics