2001 Monitoring Delegation to Mozambique
This is the third year of our 'De-mining and Post De-mining Development' project in Mozambique and on this monitoring mission, you could really see the progress of the various parts of the project.
In addition, we also visited two other projects that we support in Mozambique that are not related to the original landmine removal initiative.
This is the second delegation we have had visit Mozambique since our project was approved by CIDA in 1998. The first one was in February of 2000 which coincided with some of the worse flooding the beleaguered country had seen in living memory. It was on that trip that we received our initial briefing on Mozambique from prominent investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso. He was in the process of exposing major corruption in the national bank and was subsequently murdered. While we were there this time, a number of bank officials were arrested and charged in connection with his murder.
The delegation consisted of two local union leadership, Malcolm Allan from CAW local 199 and Leila Harding from CAW local 3000 and two CAW staff members, Mike Reuter and me. This was a tough trip with participants having to deal with physical stress because of the rough roads, jet lag, a gruelling schedule, the heavy side effects of the anti-malaria drugs; and the culture shock of experiencing an African country for the first time - a very poor country where we are 'rich' just by virtue of coming from the northern hemisphere. Understandably, the sheer size of the problems Mozambicans need to overcome and the constant setbacks they face can be overwhelming for even the most committed social justice activists. In spite of all this, the delegation co-operated enthusiastically, never complained once, represented our union admirably, and the logistics of the trip went off without a hitch.
The following is a summary of what we saw and heard:
On our arrival, we were met by the COCAMO representative who works on our project, Samuel Senge and he saw us safely to our hotel in Maputo. We were later met by the CIDA representative in Mozambique, Alberto Silva. Both Samuel and Alberto travelled with us throughout the mission as did our translator, ex-Canadian, Ken Hanson.
The delegation took a small plane up to the central Mozambican town of Vilanculos where we were met by Handicap International staff including the head of the de-mining program in Mozambique, Aderito Ismael.
We visited the transit centre and prosthesis centre in Vilanculos where the disabled are housed while they are receiving treatment and being fitted for their prosthetic device. We were unable to make a visit with the last delegation because the roads had been washed out as a result of the flooding. As we read in the reports, there are ongoing problems of co-ordination between the Centre and the Ministry of Health. These problems include a chronic shortage of supplies such as wood and difficulties in securing transportation for wheelchairs. CIDA has been aware of these problems and together with Handicap International have been trying to resolve them.
The delegation made good use of the mosquito nets at this location as the accommodation was basic and the bugs plentiful.
We drove to Mamelane for a visit to the mine field where our project is presently supporting a brigade of de-miners or "sappers" who are removing the mines that surround the village.
Our group was divided into two and after being fitted with full protective equipment went onto the mine field for a demonstration of the work that the sappers undertake. The attention to detail and painstakingly slow nature of the process was impressed upon us as we got a small taste of the heat and discomfort that goes along with the danger of the job. We learned that with the thick vegetation that has to be cautiously cleared by hand, that a snakebite is the biggest cause of injury to the de-miners - and here the snakes are deadly. The clearance of this area will allow the village that sits beside it to return to a normal pattern of activity.
We then got in the vehicles again and drove for many hours along unbelievably bumpy roads. Every time we even considered complaining, we just looked out the window at the constant stream of women, men, and children walking along the roads carrying what seemed impossibly heavy loads of firewood and water, often on their heads. This was the day that we stopped at a place for lunch and were given the choice of cheese or gazelle sandwiches. And just when we had overcome our Western preoccupation with extreme sanitation and were munching away, Aderito looked expertly around and announced "I can smell rats in this place"!
We stayed for the next couple of nights in the town of Tofu at a place owned and run by South Africans. There is a growing influx of white South Africans who are setting up businesses related to the tourism industry. This is because the cost of land and buildings on the unspoiled and fabulous beaches in Mozambique is much less than in South Africa and also the level of crime remains much lower than in South Africa. The high rate of poverty means an availability of low paid and desperate workers - something that the South Africans also know how to exploit. There is also a returning wave of white Mozambicans who identified with the Portuguese colonial government and left during the revolution. Between the increasing number of white South Africans and the white Mozambicans an old and ugly racism is slowly growing once again.
We visited the National Training Centre for Community Health Workers in Massinga, an SJF project that is not related to our original De-mining and Post De-mining Development Project. The town of Massinga is a poor, dusty, truck stop of a town that is home to the families of many male workers who migrate to the mines of South Africa for most of the year. The fact that the National Training Centre is located here will be a huge boost to the region.
The driving force behind this project has been Antonio Tanda, a Mozambican health ministry official who was determined that the only way health could be improved in his country was with a community health model. With the support of an equally determined group of Saskatchewan international development activists, who have been committed to Mozambique for years, the centre has become a reality.
The five year program has seen a core of Mozambican health facilitators receive training at the University of Saskatchewan and now they have returned to put their training to use. While CIDA has paid the bulk of the costs for this $3 million project, they needed a last fund-raising push to complete some staff residential housing.
Our delegation was treated to a personal tour by Antonio Tanda himself, as he described the beginnings of the project when he learned how to make bricks and then taught others.
We also went on a walk around the nearby community and adjacent villages and had a privy to a close look at every day Mozambican life that few outsiders have the privilege of seeing. We saw some of the damage left to the area by the massive flooding that occurred last year including the destroyed water pumping station.
It's hard to convey the struggle that daily life is in a poor country like Mozambique where nearly every moment is consumed with a fight to just survive. Rising at dawn to fetch water and gather wood for cooking; growing enough to feed the family and maybe a little more to trade with the neighbours; walking miles to everything and back again. But the dignity and determination of the people impressed our delegation once again; people who are self sufficient in a way we cannot imagine being and just need our solidarity a little longer to get back on their feet.
In all of this we were also accompanied by an extraordinary couple from Saskatchewan who have devoted a good deal of their lives to health issues in Mozambique - Gerri and Murray Dickson, a nursing professor from the University of Saskatchewan and a dentist. They will stay with the project for another two years, living in very basic conditions in Massinga. They are both middle aged, Gerri is recovering from her latest bout with cancer but they both exuded an optimism and excitement about the difference the project could make. At a time when a typical Canadian couple like this would be thinking about their own comfort, vacations, and a retirement these two are continuing to put themselves on the front lines of change. When we mentioned this they were amused and said "well we could be at boring meetings about this kind of stuff or here actually working with people doing it!"
Their praise of our union for the support we gave the project right at a critical time was humbling and a reminder of how much good our fund can do with even small amounts of money.
The delegation visited the Transit Centre in Inhambane where persons from the surrounding countryside who are receiving treatment from the adjacent orthopaedic centre are housed. The centre was not at its maximum capacity and as with the centre in Vilanculos there are chronic problems with shortage of supplies. Having Alberto Silva with us from CIDA was helpful because he has been following the issue of lack of co-ordination with the Health Ministry and knows it is a larger problem than just the Transit Centres that has to be solved.
We returned to Maputo in the afternoon.
Oxfam-Canada was our host for the whole day and gave us an overall tour of the projects that have been supported by donations our union made last year. Last February, at the same time as we had a monitoring delegation in the country, some of the worse flooding in 50 years occurred. The National union, local unions, and the SJF combined their resources for a total contribution of $320,000.00 for flood victims in Mozambique. Oxfam, working with the National Peasants Union, and the General Union of Co-operatives put together nine programs that assisted Mozambican families in putting their lives back together. These programs covered recuperation of agricultural production and reconstruction of housing.
We were accompanied by the Oxfam country Director, Sylvie Desautels, a Quebecer who has lived in Mozambique for over seven years. Our union has worked with Sylvie previously, when she was the CUSO director in Mozambique and we have enormous respect for her knowledge of Mozambique and her ability to work with in-country organisations and move a project ahead. What we saw over the course of the day just reinforced that respect.
After a bumpy ride in from Maputo we arrived at the newly resettled community of Mali-Marracuene. Here there were 293 houses built, seven bore holes with pumps dug for water, and a small health post set up with a visiting nurse. When we arrived in front of the new settlement we were told "welcome to Barrio Canada". These families were moved from an area that is still under water from last year - even prior to the flooding was a constant location of malaria carrying mosquitoes. While the residents still have transportation problems to work out, the new location is much healthier and not in an area that will flood in the next heavy rains. One of the women living there explained that they were now growing extra produce but could not get it to market. She had a stall set up with a few onions, tangerines, and dried fish but there was no one going past who could buy.
We went around the corner and met a group of nursery school kids who spontaneously regaled us with singing and dancing. Mike Reuter handed out gum and we soon had a vision of puffy cheeks stuffed with gum, chewing away. We also made use of the instant photo camera that we brought and were able to leave behind photos with the delighted teachers.
We then drove to the small nursing station that is just about completed and the nurse told us that the main health problems were malaria, diarrhea (cholera), and bad chests -all the predictable diseases of poverty.
After another bone rattling ride, we arrived at a village where sitting patiently beneath a huge tree waiting for us were the representatives from the nine districts that had received the 540 replacement head of cattle and seeds our program provided. We were on a rise looking out over a huge river valley and were told that last year the whole valley was a sea, awash with destroyed homes and dead, bloated farm animals.
Then one by one, the leaders from each of the districts, some of whom had travelled many miles to get to the meeting, stood and spoke to us. They explained that after the flood they had no idea how to start again and then found that people from as far away as Canada knew about their problems and cared enough to reach out a helping hand after their 'calamity'. In the most serious terms they told us about how well the seeds were doing and how welcome the hoes were and went on to explain that the ground nuts had thrived and then withered in the drought that followed the flood.
There was a herd of cattle that had been rounded up and were munching on the grass close to us. The representatives explained to us that the cattle were thriving although they hadn't been here long. The cattle were from South Africa and Zimbabwe and had been held up at the border because of the foot and mouth disease scare. Each one has an ear tag and is registered - they are for pulling ploughs, not eating. Each owner explains that they will be cherished and eventually bred so that others can benefit as well.
All of us were a little uncomfortable and tried hard to dispel the impression that we were some kind of 'inspection' team. But they told us so sincerely how important it was to them that we came so that they could meet the real people who had helped them when they needed it. They said they had explained to each of their communities that they were coming to meet us and that we had come all this way just to see how they were doing. It was very moving and we were all proud of what a critical difference our union could make through assistance like this. They spoke their native language which was in turn translated into Portuguese and then into English.
We ended the day by driving down onto the huge fertile river valley that is used to grow crops so we could see the last aspect of the work we supported. After the flood waters started to recede the irrigation canals that helped drain the land were completely filled with silt which meant the land would remain a swamp and couldn't be planted. At one point, we were told, about 400 people, mainly women, were out there with hoes trying to re-dig the channels. What our support meant was that a back hoe could be brought in and the land was finally drained. The woman who showed us around insisted that we had to walk along the canal so she could proudly point out the crops that were now growing there and how they were still continuing to reclaim the fields by slowly digging by hand more channels to drain the land.
June 2nd and 3rd
The delegation flew to Nampula in the North of the country, joined by Bryce Fieldhouse, who is a representative for CIDA's Southern Africa desk. This is the poorest part of the country and where COCAMO has its offices and concentrates most of its programming.
We spent some more time on the bumpy roads and got some well earned time-off for a visit to the historic Isle de Mozambique. This was an Arab trading post and fortress from the late 1400's that saw a lot of misery with the slave trade and the place that the country was named after.
We left the city of Nampula early, bumped along the roads for a few hours and arrived in the district of Mecuburi where we were greeted by the new district administrator - a young woman of 25 with a background in community health. She was appointed by the Provincial governor as part of his determination to bring fresh ideas to the bureaucracy.
Our first visit in Mecuburi was to the school we supported, which is now not only completed but has desks in the classrooms and is in full use. The new buildings have meant that the community has been able to also establish a secondary level school. This is very important because older children wanting to continue education often have to leave their homes and live in residence far from their families. This means that there is not only dislocation but there is an added expense with the result being that they finish their schooling too early. The establishment of the secondary school in buildings needed for younger children before we built the new facilities is very important to Mecuburi's future.
We were part of the unveiling of a plaque that will go on the school building that reads "Supported by the members of the Canadian Auto workers Union in solidarity with the people of Mecuburi". The children were all out in force as was the entire faculty and we were all proud of the contribution our union was able to make to improving the lives of these families. We all sat in the desks in one of the classrooms as the school Director read us a message of welcome.
Then we were off to meet with the district 'water committee' and see one of the bore holes that had been dug. All that was needed to complete it was a pump and the community themselves were collecting the money for that. We were proudly told that they were just about there and had put a deposit of 600,000 metacish ($35.000) down that morning. The river which is now the source of water is not only dangerous because of sewerage run-off but because there have been a number of crocodile attacks. We took photos and the group complained that they never got to see any so we were able to make an impression when we brought out the instant photo camera and presented them with the results!
We were then hosted at a lunch that was truly a feast: fish, chicken, goat, matapa (local greens with crushed peanuts and coconut milk) and sweet potatoes with shredded coconut with rice! Sweet potato is an important crop that has been introduced into Mozambique by aid agencies because it is easy to grow, tasty, and very nutritious. It is an attempt to replace the more indigenous cassava root that is a staple food here and has no nutritional value what so ever.
The left-overs from lunch were brought down the trail to our next stop which was the opening celebration and inauguration of the newly reconstructed Nancula Women's Co- operative.
This co-operative, with women headed households as members, helps single parent families supplement their income with projects like sewing. They are hoping to work on providing school uniforms (basic blue cotton shirts or dresses). Inside the new building are two foot powered sewing machines also provided by our SJF project.
The women had done a lot of preparation for the celebration and there were flowers strung around the building, a ribbon waiting to be cut, and a ceremonial beer brewing for us. There was a plaque on the building that said it was donated by the members of our union.
The women were also decked out in new colourful capalanas which are the clothes that are traditionally still worn in many parts of the country. There was a lot of excitement, speeches, singing, dancing, and on our part, a gut wrenching understanding of how important this small chance to improve their lives and the lives of their children is to these sisters with so little.
The ceremonial brew was passed around in a hollowed out gourd and we all took a small sip so that we could truly be part of the event.
The builder had ensured that there was a ramp to make the small building wheel chair accessible because one of the main leaders of the women's group depends on a chair. This is probably the first ramp of its kind in the whole region!
We presented a wind up, solar energy storing radio to the co-op with the intention of them listening to it as they worked. They in turn presented us with two protesting chickens that were promptly tied to the top of our landrover. When we took the instant photos the children went wild but immediately became orderly when we asked them, squealing with delight, if they recognised friends faces in the pictures.
We had to leave when the party was just getting started but the need to get off the bumpy trail and the roads of Nampula before dark was a good motivator. The highest cause of death for foreign-aid workers in Africa is car accidents after dark and we try to avoid night travel whenever possible.
The delegation visited with the disabled rights group we are working with in Nampula (ADEMIMO) and visited the orthopaedic centre. We then met with the director of the Transit Centre and toured the facilities. We were very impressed with how busy and well used the facilities are and remarked what a shame it was that the Vilanculos and Inhambane Centres are not as successful.
There is currently construction going on next to the centre for a new hospital office. The director hopes it won=t mean that they will lose the facilities that they now have. When the staff remarked that the residents could make good use of a radio because of all the power failures we were able to present them with our second wind up radio and they were delighted.
Later in the day we left by plane to return to Maputo.
Prior to the flight to Johannesburg we visited the Workers Health and Safety Centre that has received Canadian union support, especially from the Grain Workers in Saskatchewan, for many years. Ken Hanson, our translator, was one of the originators of the project and was able to set up a meeting for us on short notice. We had received a call from the CLC the night before to say that it would be helpful if we could just meet with them because they had heard that CIDA no longer considered the project a priority.
We had a good meeting and the work that they were doing around training for workers on basic health and safety is of course very valuable. They said that the only employer that has really resisted their attempts at training is Coca-Cola and of course, Mike, could relate to that corporate stubbornness since he has to confront it often in Canada. With all of the multi-national corporations that the government gives money to for international 'work' it would be a real slap in the face if this project lost funding. I have since relayed to the CLC that we would be willing to speak up on the project's behalf with CIDA.
Johannesburg. For the morning we thought it was important to leave our nice hotel and see where so many of the important South African political events took place so the delegation toured SOWETO outside of Johannesburg. This black township of over three million people still impresses you with a sense of awe because of both the living conditions that human beings were subjected to and the courage of their fight back.
It was here that so many of their leaders were formed. Mandela himself lived here before his arrest. It was here where the rallies and battles occurred and where the police rolled over children in their attempts to crush the fight back against apartheid.
In spite of the new upper middle class neighbourhoods of the new black middle class it is the old hostels and 'tinny houses' and shanties that predominate. All this in a landscape that is barren, dry, and ugly. The economic apartheid that has replaced the political apartheid is embodied in SOWETO.
The delegation had the chance to meet with the new General Secretary of NUMSA, Silumko Nondwangu and he was very generous with his time and hospitality. After briefing us at the NUMSA offices on some of the unions upcoming challenges we went to dinner where we talked about many issues.
Summary and Recommendations
- All the COCAMO staff and the staff from Handicap International were professional and helpful. The details of the visit were very well thought out and prepared. Thank you especially to Samuel Senge and Chris Pupp from COCAMO and Aderito Ismael from H.I.
- CIDA's Alberto Silva's assistance was invaluable and Bryce Fieldhouse was helpful to us all.
- Sylvie Desautels from OXFAM went to a lot of trouble to set things up for our visit and we appreciated it a lot.
- Our translator Ken Hanson was always pleasant and willing to go beyond the normal duties of a translator and added to our experience of the country.
- The size of the group was good and manageable in a country like Mozambique.
- A way must be found so that the air travel, when going this distance, is not as difficult. The extreme discomfort of two overnight flights in cramped conditions was not acceptable and made recovery from the travel longer. Our experience with South African Airways was better since the seats were not as crammed together.
- Small gifts like the instant camera photos were excellent and much better than the pins and t-shirts we sometimes take.
The longer term nature of this project and the increased familiarity with the country and the players is evident on this trip.
We would highly recommend the usefulness of continuing to develop projects and relationships in Mozambique.
More specifically we would recommend:
- The extension of the land mine removal project in Mozambique with H.I. is a valuable contribution.
- Continuing to take advantage of the expertise that COCAMO has in the north of Mozambique to undertake further projects with them.
- The field expertise of OXFAM is also a good vehicle for future work especially with the peasants union.