pics from ilha

i think this MIGHT work…

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La Tierra de Mangas y Cajus

Any road around Nampula takes you by villages, houses, and farms surrounded by mango and cashew trees.  Mozambique was historically one of the biggest exporters of cashews – since the time of the civil war, Brazil and Indian have overtaken it, though Mozambique is beginning to be viable competitor again (thanks in some part to work by Technoserve!) – and Nampula is cashew central.  Though I think I can now recognize a mango tree from afar, I no idea what a cashew tree looked like until this week.  Now, I see them everywhere!  Nampula should practically be renamed – Cashew Land.

My work this week was supposed to take me down to Zambezia – the province south of Nampula – however, because that forestry company is at even MORE of a beginning stage than this one and isn’t even set on where they will be working yet we’ve cut it out of the baseline and have instead increased the numbers we need from each site.  This meant that I had some time up here to fill; so, we decided I could remain to make sure that the team that is working in the second district up here continues to work smoothly and also so that I could begin some of my qualitative interviews.

I was a bit anxious because I know gender can sometimes be a poignant and explosive topic and also because of the translation challenges I was afraid I wouldn’t understand what was going on and wouldn’t be able to keep a conversation flowing enough to keep some of the women talking.  After several hassles this morning and forgetting the tape recorder, we were finally on our way – only a couple hours late!  I put some music by Zimbabwean musician Chiwoniso onto my ipod in the hopes of calming myself down a little and also centering myself around the group I was about to try to understand – African women.

Needless to say, my nerves were a bit unnecessary.  As we drove BACK to Nampula city at the end of the day, at that time of day when the bottom of the clouds are glowing like the dying embers in a campfire and the African plain looks a bit like it could be one of those old timey museum dioramas with stuffed animals in it, I thought “This is the kind of day that make you forget the crazy travel, bumpy roads, struggle to make friends and a community, and lonely meals in bars alone when you get back to America!”

I started by interviewing a group of women.  My colleague, who is translating for me into Macua – the local language – introduced me and explained what we’d be talking about.  We then talked to them for a bit under an hour asking questions about decision-making, autonomy, education, health, leadership skills, businesses skills, and what their husbands do around the house (or, as the case may be, don’t do!).  They were friendly, full of laughter, and happy to talk.  I didn’t get most of it translated yet, but at breaks in the conversation Belchion would tell me what was said and ask which way to go next.  I think tomorrow we’ll need to do even more of that – but for day 1 I was satisfied.

Then we picked 5 or 6 of the women who had spoken a bit more to ask more specific questions about business, education, children, family-planning and more.  These I tried to video-tape, with my camera, which was new and foreign to them.  They all smiled when I started to show them their images talking back to us.  Digital cameras are such a great “in” for the contemporary development worker – men, women, kids all love posing and being able to see themselves.  It’s such a great way to enter a community and make people calm and feel approachable.

Anyway, all of the women talked about businesses and skills they would like to start or need.  They all talked about how credit wasn’t available and that since there was no bank in town it was hard to save.  Now, micro-credit has books and papers and studies written extensively about it at this point – and I haven’t done enough research to be educated in these opinions – but credit constraints have at least been proven as a market failure in this type of village.  There is no way for people to borrow or be entrepreneurs.  It’s easy to argue that many of these women wouldn’t be great entrepreneurs or that most micro-credit for these women would be used for consumption and not business, but some of them would be able to do something real with it and trying to understand who would be able to capitalize on it, what skills they have already or still need, and which markets they might serve is a key question.

In today’s conversations I really only touched the surface and sadly don’t have much more time (if any!) in that village.  However, some of the ideas women suggested were selling dried fish, opening up a restaurant in town (where there actually aren’t any right now – cause we were looking for one ourselves!), running a maize mill (because there isn’t one anywhere around so all of the women pound by hand – though one woman described walking to the nearest one while she was pregnant and giving BIRTH on the way!), or studying to be a local health worker or traditional birth attendant (probably not much money in that though many people would pay in-kind somehow).

After the women, we talked with a group of men.  I was a little bit more overwhelmed with the men – they were more organized, the older leaders of the community were more vocal, and I was afraid they’d be a bit more suspicious of me – so I didn’t stop Belchion as often for translations.  That said, again, I probably shouldn’t have been nervous because the little old man who is the “secretary” – the government created post for the head of the village – was a very kind man who later said I should come back and teach in the village school!  His counterpart then gave us a bucket of groundnuts as we headed out!  The only thing missing was a meal of xima and village chicken!  ☺

Later, in the car, Belchion translated more of it for me (and it was all recorded).  One of the most interesting things THEY said was an acknowledgement that any decision they make they have to discuss with their wives – one person said if he wanted to buy a motorbike, even knowing that he would be the main user and caretaker of it, he would have to ask his wife.  This may seem obvious to us, though in a traditional Mozambican, or even southern African, concept of gender suggests that the man is the head of the household and makes all financial decisions.  They also said that a couple years ago men would have been uncomfortable with their wives working but today they recognize that their wives can help the whole family if they work… sounds like good progress!

Finally, we sat and talked with a group of 7th graders (who ranged in age from 10 – 18) and talked with them all (boys and girls) about whether or not they like school, if they want to continue to secondary school (all said yes), what they want to do when they finish school, how they will pay for it, if they want to get married and have kids and if so, at what age.  It was very interesting.  ALL of the students said they wanted to have between three and five children and gave ages for marriage between 20 and 27.  That said one is already married (the one who was 18) and has a kid, with a second one on the way! (He also said he only wants three kids – to which I suggested to Belchion that we help take his wife to the clinic to get some birth control pills or condoms!)

Interestingly very few of them knew much about AIDS – they’d heard of it of course but, to us at least, didn’t know much about how it was transmitted or how to prevent it.  It made me want to find a Peace Corps Volunteer somewhere in the area and say – GO teach!  Oy, it’s scary and sad, and also particularly heart breaking to think that that smart, eloquent boy with the kid will, at least statistically speaking, probably be HIV positive in the coming years… He’s young, smart, sexually active, and probably will have (if he doesn’t already) more than one sexual partner, which will exponentially increase his likelihood of contracting and then passing on the virus.  It’s hard to not want to just drop everything and head into these villages and start preaching about HIV – though I’m not sure what’d I say or even what language to say it in!

That all said, the interviews, the comfort I felt being back in the village, the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, and the need to try to tell a story from all of this make me think more and more that I should get a PhD.  I think that better understanding the linkages to health with women’s economic empowerment are exactly what I want to study more and then get out to policy-makers, or be one myself.  Anyway, I’m getting more and more used to the idea and less and less intimidated by the whole process.

Ilha de Mozambique

This past weekend I went to Ilha de Mozambique – the Island of Mozambique.  For its small size, Ilha has played a much larger role in Mozambican history than you would think.  Before Vasco de Gama made it around the Cape of Good Hope, Arab traders (and probably traders from India, Madagascar, and Persia as well) had been working along the East African coast for years.  Swahili, spoken throughout much of East Africa, was a language created out of the native African Bantu languages and Arabic and is a remnant of those earlier trading relationships.  From Mombasa in northern Kenya down to northern Mozambique Arab and Muslim culture have been in Africa much longer than European.  Ilha, this small island of the coast in a natural harbor, was one of these trading centers and has long melded its African-ness with Arab, Indian, and Muslim influences.

After the Portuguese made their way around the southern tip of Africa, they made Ilha the capital of their southern African presence.  They built churches and a huge fort (apparently the largest complete fort in southern Africa today) on the island and it remained the capital of Portuguese East Africa until the late 1800s.  They shifted the capital to what is today Maputo (and was then Lorenzo Marques, named after the Portuguese explorer who “discovered” it) in 1898.

Today Ilha is a UNESCO World Heritage site and consists of two parts – the older “Stone Town” is the old Portuguese part and has the fort, a museum in what was once the governor’s palace (and is meticulously maintained, with some of the original furnishings!), churches, and other old colonial buildings.  The other half, which I didn’t see as much of, is Makuti Town – where most of today’s islands inhabitants live. Makuti Town consists of more traditional thatched houses, though many are also cement and have iron roofing, and is where many of the island’s fisherman and dhow sailors live.

After the Portuguese left, the historical Muslim presence came back a bit and today the majority of the people on the Island are Muslim.  As the church bells and the call to prayer ring across the small island you can sit and watch the sails of the dhows out on the water and it’s hard to not feel like you could kind of be in another century when the ships coming in from Goa or the southern Mozambican coast came with stories of new adventures and carried all sorts of treasures.

One of the museums on the Island is the Maritime Museum and goes into lots of detail about a shipwreck that has been excavated off the island – probably a ship coming from somewhere in the Middle East carrying gold, spices, and lots and lots of Chinese porcelain.  Though the spices have washed away in the years between the ship sinking and the excavation much of the gold and the porcelain have stayed and in the case of the porcelain, have stayed in remarkably good condition.  One can see how even in the mid-1500s the global trade was bringing goods from all over the world to East Africa.

Difference-in-differences (written June 30th)

It’s always exciting when you learn stuff in school and then you ACTUALLY use it in real life!  This week I’m up in Nampula – it’s the province that is just below the northern most province in Mozambique (Cabo Delgado) and it’s also the name of the city that is the capital of the province.  We are up here because one of the forestry companies that we are working with is just beginning operations up here and we are trying to pick intervention and control villages for our quantitative survey, I trained our enumerators on Monday and we’re hoping to start implementing the survey tomorrow!

It’s been a bit of a challenge up here, but a really welcome one as I feel like I’m getting a better sense of both the project and the country.  Also it’s incredibly refreshing to be back in rural areas.  I find myself remembering so much of Zambia and feeling surprisingly comfortable.  Another friend’s blog today mentioned something about not being a true adventurer but relishing the ability to truly settle in different places.  I couldn’t have felt more like I wrote that and I feel like my comfort in the village stems from this a bit – I KNOW how to play with kids here (though it is such a challenge to not be able to communicate – unless they went or are in school they probably don’t speak Portuguese), I know those routines and styles of communication and I miss that sense of routine and the feeling of being settled.  Being in these villages is a reminder that I probably won’t ever live that life again and it makes me miss my little hut and my iwes (children).  Of course most people spend their lives trying to get OUT of the village and here I am missing it – though I’m sure they miss it to as they move onto higher standards of living.

Anyway, Nampula town is a dusty little city that also happens to be either the second or third largest city in Mozambique – I’ve been told, read or seen both.  It has paved roads and we’re in a hotel in a fancy shopping center in the middle of town.  The sidewalks are busy in the morning but evening falls and the town is quiet.  There’s delicious Indian food around the corner at another hotel meant for the increasing number of business people working up here, there are ATMs on almost every street corner, and we’ve found some fun places to watch World Cup matches – with a brief respite from football today and tomorrow!  Finally!  I can’t believe how much football I’ve watched in the last three weeks.

The areas where we are surveying are about 70 km away, I think.  It has taken us just over an hour on the dirt roads that are National Road Number 8 (pictures in the slide show that I hope I can attach on this slow internet) to get out to the first part of the forestry plantations.   EN8 is a dirt road that goes from here (about 150 km from the coast) all the way to Malawi.  My colleague mentioned that it will, supposedly, be paved in the coming months.  It’s crazy to think that one of the roads that is literally labeled a national road and leads to a border crossing is still a dusty (or muddy in the rainy season!) bumpy road.  Our drivers seem to know it pretty well and drive along the well-carved ruts switching over the bumps if a car coming in the other direction has the right of way – meaning the ruts have moved to the other side of the road.

This forestry company is literally JUST beginning operations – we stopped by the little “demo” plot in one of the villages on Tuesday (pictures also attached hopefully) and were a little surprised by how this might possibly mean the 2,000 jobs Technoserve is hoping for.  Luckily, at 20 hectares it really IS just a demo and in the next ten years the company aims to plant thousands of hectares.   Also, the other companies we’re working with are further along in their projects and may hire more people more quickly.

Anyway, I flew up on Sunday with a Mozambican colleague and we spent all of Monday training our enumerators, along with another colleague is from Nampula.  This meant going over the logistics of the project, explaining the goals and impacts/outcomes, and then going over question-by-question our 27 page survey.  It was a challenge because there were several mistakes and the trainees were good at pointing them out to us, but even more so because my Portuguese is definitely not at training-level yet and I had to have those two colleagues translate for me throughout the day.  This has been good for my Portuguese as I find myself understanding SO much more; though by the end of the day I was in that “I have spent the whole day trying SO hard to be understood” mode that I was ready for a beer and some World Cup brain-deadness!

Yesterday and today were spent out in the villages.  We came up here under the assumption that the company had a clear village that they thought would be an intervention village, though as we discussed with them and traveled out to the area with one of their reps we realized they had an area that was a project area and not a specific village in mind – and in fact are really very much at the beginning stages with commitments for numbers of trees but not necessarily locations yet.  This meant we needed to come up with a village that really WOULD be affected by the forestry project through increased jobs or increased services or support businesses that grew up because of increased people with increased money to spend from wages.  Also we needed to factor in choosing an area that would be suitable for poultry production and the agricultural support for soya and maize that Technoserve will help arrange.

Then at the same time we needed to come up with a village that could be similar and act as a comparison village that had similar population, and similar economic status (school, shops, distance to town and railroad stations etc).  We visited five villages yesterday that could all be intervention villages and finally settled on one this morning, after meeting with our bosses and the company again.  Today we visited several villages we thought might be able to be control villages.  We gave up on the last one when the road became too tough to continue on, even with our four-wheel drive truck.  We may have had more luck with a bicycle!  We finally choose to go with the very first village we went to as our control – though this village is in the area slated for expansion in the company it won’t be in the next couple of years.

So, how does all this relate to difference-in-differences and what I learned this year? Difference-in-differences is the idea of measuring the increased improvement in an intervention area – this means that it’s possible that both an intervention and a control area in a project can generally have an improvement in living standards over time but the intervention area has increased improvement.  We expect to see this in our study because we expect their to be “contamination” of the control area as people in that area really are close enough to the forestry plantations (they cover several districts in many different directions) to get jobs.  SO, they probably will benefit from jobs and thus wages and maybe even new business growth – in fact we’d like it if they did.  What we’d like more though is to see that the areas that we also support with agricultural technical support and poultry production do EVEN better and even that those concepts start to trickle in – with a bit of a time delay – into the control areas and that in several years time we see agricultural techniques that are more environmentally sound and efficient and out-grower poultry producers who are buying the soya and maize from the more efficient farmers.  Wishful thinking?  We’ll see in a couple years when we compare it to the baseline we’re doing now!


let’s see if I can get this work!

here are more pics from joburg, including the artwork I forgot yesterday, and also some pics from Maputo.

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Survey update

We are finished with our survey and this week is going to be a bit quiet for me I think.  I’m hoping that I can get out of the office a bit early for the next couple days so that I can explore Maputo a bit more while it’s still light out.  It’s been hard to get to know the city because it’s practically dark by the time I get home and as a woman in the city alone I haven’t felt too confident wandering into neighborhoods I don’t know at night.  Probably a smart decision but also means I’m getting to know my 4×4 square blocks QUITE well!  I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to explore a bit this weekend too.

The survey though is very comprehensive.  It aims to gather baseline data on the communities we’re working on and covers general household data, production, employment, labor, access to credit, gender, phone usage, and more.  We are aiming to answer questions like:  How much education have people had?  What crops do they grow?  What farming techniques do they use now?  Have they ever used cell-phones to price crops?  How much autonomy to women in the families have to make decisions about spending money or if their kids should go to school?  Have they had access to and taken out a loan in the past year?  What did they spend the money on?  Do any of the people in the family work outside the home?  And if so, where?  For how long?  What kind of food do they consume regularly?

It’s been interesting to shape the survey and think about what data we are really trying to track.  I think the areas we will be working in will be similar to Zambia in a lot of ways – so I have hypotheses about what we will find, but we need to have this baseline so that Technoserve can compare in a couple years when the project is completed.  Though our techniques are not JPAL-style in rigor they will allow Technoserve to have a better sense of impacts and changes.  In an ideal world, it will be different in a couple years after this project has been finished!

So, what now?  This week is pretty quiet and next week we head up north.  The whole team will start together in Nampula province and we will test the instrument and make changes if there are questions that don’t work or translation errors or other miscommunications.  Then the following week we’ll each split up and head into provinces on our own to finish the survey in all four provinces.  I will be headed to Zambezia while my teammates will head to Niassa and Manica.  Then we gather to in Maputo before heading off to South Africa for the official launch of the project.  We will hold a workshop with all the stakeholders in an area of South Africa that has successfully combined agriculture, forestry, and wildlife tourism – just as we are trying to do here in northern Mozambique.  I’ll try to get updates and pictures up regularly!

Johannesburg, Joburg, Jozi

I’m going to try to get two blog updates out today – one about my work and one about my weekend trip to Jo-burg.

Many thoughts and images come up these days when Johannesburg is mentioned; however, from the crime statistics and fears of violence to its image as a World Cup host city, Johannesburg is maybe most importantly a cultural and emotional capital (though interestingly not a political one).  It is an historic symbol of the struggle against apartheid with Nelson Mandela’s and Desmond  Tutu’s homes (the single block with highest number of noble laureates), the museums to Hector Peterson (a 12-year-old boy who was the first person shot dead by police on in the Soweto student uprising on June 16th, 1976) and apartheid, and the Constitutional Court (South Africa’s highest court).

I’ve attached some pictures below of the Constitutional Court, which is built practically on top of the ruins of one of the famous old prisons and an old fort.  It symbolically represents a change from the past and a new future and has a theme of trees – under whose broad leaves African justice was traditionally decided by the elders of different communities or tribes.  You can see in the pictures the slanted beams that represent tree trunks, the different colored mosaics representing different trees found in South Africa, the leaves and breaks in the ceiling that allow sunlight to dapple through, and the silhouette of the tree standing out in the tower that towers over the remains of the jail – itself a museum today.

The main room where cases are heard has walls built by the bricks of the old jail – the lack or mortar representing the freedom to form new shapes.  There are people in the crowd who can sit above where the justices sit symbolizing that the judges are not above all.  Glass that makes it possible to see the world outside the court is behind the justices and also allows one to see the remains of the stairwells of the building that used to be a part of the jail and where black Africans were kept while “awaiting trial”.  The cowhides along the front of the judges stand represent particularly the Ngoni connection to cows – the black and white of the hides should not, of course, be ignored.  Also, the fact that each has its own pattern symbolizes that the judges are similar in many ways but also, importantly, very different and individuals coming from different situations and life experiences.

The old prison (now museum) with the tower of the new court and its symbol of a tree

The doors to the court, listing all of the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and written in all 11 official languages AND sign language

The beams of the court meant to suggest tree trunks and convey a feeling of African justice

The leaves and windows in the ceiling that allow the dappled light to shine through

The Symbol of the Court

The hallway of the court with the walls of the old jail on the other side of the stairs coming up the hill

The walls of the court chambers, built with the bricks from the destroyed “awaiting trial” block from the old prison.  Also note the small windows that remind you a world outside.

Me in the court chambers.  Note the: stadium seating, the cowhides, the walls, the window, the flag.

I couldn’t help but feel a similar power to when I was at the Israeli Supreme Court for the first time.   It seems like countries that have the opportunity to build modern buildings for their courts do so with so much kavannah (intention).  Especially after my Supreme Court spent the day deciding that even academics that who offer support to terrorist groups to try to mediate an end to their conflicts, this building made me feel like the power of creating this new understanding of law and order in South Africa is clearly still a work in progress, but one that is most definitely headed in the right direction.

Other than going to the Court, I stopped by the school where an old camper of mine from Seeds of Peace is working – the African Leadership Academy.  It’s a new school with students in 11th and 12th grades aiming to educate African youth leaders with an innovative and interactive curriculum, small classes, leadership training, and preparation for college.  I saw the beautiful campus and imagined it teeming with students!  I also saw some incredible artwork at Museum Africa where Michael’s mom new the artist, who happened to BE there when we went to see the exhibit.  I’ve attached some images of his works as well.  Many are historically themed and most are made from wood, bone, stone, or recycled metal – one of my favorites being a sculpture portraying the image of Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying Hector Peterson on June 16th made out of the handles of wheelbarrows and spades.

Also, of course, football.  I watched the US game from a fan park in Sandton.  It was FREEZING the whole weekend so with the temperatures and, I think, a bit of disappointment that Bafana had lost to Uruguay and was probably (now definitely) out, it seemed there was a bit of lull in the South African World Cup excitement.  The US game was exciting though, even with just the brave few who dared to go out in the cold.  Though we were all pretty disappointed when our last goal was STOLEN from us!  The next day, I went with Michael, my classmate and host, and his girlfriend to Soweto to watch the Ghana game.  To contrast all of my expectations we met some of Michael’s friends at a very classy restaurant where we had a South African FEAST!  Lots of yummy food, South African wine, and a bit more disappointment that none of the African teams seem to be able to pull through in this World Cup when Ghana tied 1-1 (though they may still go through).

The view from the restaurant in Soweto where we watched Ghana and got out of the COLD!

A World Cup billboard, captures some of the excitement for Bafana Bafana!

South African flags were EVERYWHERE

Overall, a very interesting weekend and though Jo-burg is obviously still a place where you need to be careful and not stupid, I came to see it as a vibrant and historically significant center.  I want to go back and am excited that I’ll, at the very least, be back through on my way home.