USAID Helps Small Time Farmers Achieve Their Dreams
Although giving aid to countries is a great way to lend support, giving small businesses the chance to grow is the best way to make a lasting impact. When small business owners are able to achieve their aspirations, it only motivates others to follow in their footsteps. Although it is possible for an individual to achieve the dream of sustaining their own company, many require financial assistance in order to make that happen.

In the country of Mozambique, small time farmers and entrepreneurs regularly struggle to expand their businesses because the banks view them as a high risk investments. The local banks do not have copious amounts of money to lend out and that forces them to charge outrageously high interest on their loans.

Carlos João Tovela Sigue, a small time farmer in Maputo, Mozambique, has been able to support his family by growing a variety of different crops. Although he has been able to sustain a healthy lifestyle for his family, Sigue had aspirations of owning and operating a much larger enterprise. The giant hurdle standing between him and his dream was financial support. Sigue stressed the difficulty of expanding production without a bank loan, which is a problem many farmers and small business owners in Mozambique face.

One of the main factors hindering the banks from loaning money to Mozambican entrepreneurs is the country’s struggle with inflation. Statistics reported by the National Statistics Institute (INE) showed that Maputo, Nampula and Beira — the three largest cities in Mozambique — had inflation rates of 11.25 percent from Feb. 1, 2015 to Jan. 31, 2016. Additionally, the Mozambican Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee reported “an increase of 100 base points in the Standing Lending Facility (the interest rate paid by the commercial banks to the central bank for money borrowed on the Interbank Money Market).”

This caused the interest rate to increase from 9.75 to 10.75 and marked the highest interest charged in Mozambique since September 2012. Even though the interest rate decreased slightly for a whole year, it only took three months for the interest rate to revert back to the 9.75 mark once again.

Thanks to a collaborative effort from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), several Mozambican banks obtained the Agency’s Development Credit Authority (DCA). The DCA provided the banks with a partial guarantee on loans and pushed for them to loan money to entrepreneurs and small time farmers such as Sigue. The loan allowed Sigue to add another 12 hectares on to his farm, mechanize his framing methods and make improvements to his irrigation system.

Sigue not only paid back his loan in full, but was able to employ seasonal workers on his farm. Sigue’s prosperity over the first two years enabled him to take out a larger loan to sustain his dream for the long term. Sigue “plans to farm 350 hectares of family land, accumulate 700 cows, and buy a larger truck for taking crops for sale to the market.” The Mozambique government has recognized Sigue’s miraculous success and adorned him with many awards.

Sigue is the epitome of what can happen when small businesses are given enough financial support to better the lives of their families and evidently their communities. Mozambican entrepreneurs have been able to acquire 795 loans through the DCA program and the statistics show promising results as well.

Additional statistics show that over 160 thousand borrowers in 74 countries around the world have been provided with financing through the DCA program. When businesses are able to sustain themselves and better the future of their communities, even small time farmers can make monumental impacts.

Terry J. Halloran

Photo: Flickr

Education in Mozambique: Serving Children with Disabilities
Volunteers spent the day with disabled children and adults at the Matola Children’s Home. In Mozambique, disabled people may be abandoned by family members and are often seen as a financial burden.

Currently, the Matola Children’s Home houses 42 children from many local areas and has 67 young children in their daily preschool. The center relies solely on donations from the international community. The most difficult situation for disabled children is the limited assistance and opportunities they have to pursue an education in Mozambique.

According to the African Disability Rights Yearbook, 103,276 people with disabilities were children between the ages 0 to 15 years, which makes up approximately 21 percent of the total population of people with disabilities. One of the main problems within the confines of the country with such children is the issue of schooling.

Public schools aren’t developed with this demographic in mind making, which makes it difficult for these children to partake in education provided by the government. In 2013, UNICEF partnered with world-renowned photographers to create a collection of multimedia films that centers on the troubles surrounding the children of Mozambique.

In “The Rights Responsibility: Invisible Children” directed by Francisco Carlos Zevute and photographed by Patrick Zachmann, many children and families are interviewed in order to shed light on how grave the situation pertaining to disabled children and education is in Mozambique.

The film goes on to state “children with disabilities are almost twice as likely to fall victim to violence and are at heightened risk of abandonment and intimidation.”

One of the direst situations for special needs education in Mozambique is a lack of qualified teachers able to teach these children as well as the infrastructure of schools which is not conducive for a child with disabilities.

Mozambique is slowly but surely making an effort to improve education as a whole in the country. In 2015, 51 percent of the country’s primary schools taught all seven grades in one school, and in 2016 the proportion increased to 56 percent.

Although great strides are made toward improving the education in Mozambique, little is being done to help disabled children.

Poverty plays a pivotal role in the scarce resources and availability of appropriate education for the disabled community. Ending global poverty proves to be a catalyst towards the accessibility of inclusive education in the developing world.

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr

HIV in MozambiqueDoctors Without Borders (DWB) is an international organization that works to improve global health conditions. One of their current missions is fighting HIV in the sub-Saharan African nation of Mozambique. In Mozambique, one in ten adults is estimated to be HIV positive. DWB is focusing its efforts on increasing treatment and reducing the spread of the disease for sex workers and truck drivers — two demographics that are particularly at risk for infection. Their highway corridor project is estimated to reach and positively impact 3,800 sex workers and 4,500 truck drivers.

In the port city of Beira, cargo trucks are continuously moving through docks, loading and unloading cargo. The cargo is then transported to many areas of central and southern Africa. This highway corridor used for cargo transportation is also at risk for spreading HIV. DWB offers weekly HIV testing and counseling for truck drivers along the highway as far as the border of Malawi. Additionally, the organization is responsible for distributing free condoms at truck stops.

The organization has also implemented several strategies for sex workers, who are ten times more likely to be HIV positive than the general population.

Most strategies fighting HIV in Mozambique focus on educating these workers and increasing access to HIV prevention and treatment. Another important tactic includes distributing free condoms to women who engage in sex work. DWB also encourages sex workers to get tested for HIV and even provides on the spot testing in Beira.

If a woman’s test result is negative, she is offered the option to join a program called PrEp, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. In this program, patients receive an anti-AIDS drug that aims to block the virus in women who face a high risk of infection. Although PrEP is relatively new for fighting HIV in Mozambique, it has been shown to significantly reduce one’s chance of infection.

If tests results come back positive, women are referred to a clinic for further treatment. They also have a chance to talk with DWB’s “peer educators,” who are current or former sex workers employed by DWB to speak publicly about HIV prevention and treatment. Women feel comfortable talking to them because they do not make them feel ashamed of their work and all information discussed is kept confidential.

Hearing HIV discussed in public settings greatly reduces the shame and discrimination that is often associated with the disease. In 2010, Mozambique experienced a 58 percent increase in the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment for HIV. This does not reflect an increase in the number of people infected, but rather an increase in willingness to be tested and receive treatment.

To increase access to treatment, DWB employs people to speak publicly about their own experiences in order to reduce shame surrounding the issue, which is a key step in fighting HIV in Mozambique. The organization also offers a training program for nurses that will allow them to be able to prescribe antiretroviral treatments for patients. Not only does this increase access to treatment, but it also creates jobs and more self-sufficient communities.

Both sex works and truckers in Mozambique often engage in unsafe sex practices that make them vulnerable to HIV infection and transmission during their travels. Through the numerous initiatives mentioned above, DWB is working to improve the quality of life for these two groups as well as for all HIV patients.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Fighting TrachomaFighting trachoma can be a dicy and delicate task. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the trachoma epidemic is sweeping 51 countries and impacting the vision of about 2.2 million people globally.

Trachoma is an infection of the eyes that originates from the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection is most prevalent in low-income, rural areas of Africa, Asia, Central America and South America where people often lack adequate sanitation facilities and clean water.

Fighting trachoma matters in the fight against global poverty for a variety of reasons. Children suffering from the disease are often unable to continue studying or working due to the symptoms of the illness, which include intolerable pain and constant itching. Older family members experiencing the same symptoms may struggle to support and care for their families and be unable to continue in their lines of work. Eventually, if left untreated, the infection will cause permanent blindness which significantly impacts the livelihoods of its victims.

While trachoma is easily spread, it is both preventable and treatable. The case of ENVISION in Mozambique demonstrates the potential impact prevention and treatment measures can have in the spread of this disease.

The WHO recommends the combination of preventative measures and treatment through the SAFE strategy (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial-cleanliness and Environmental improvement). Mozambique’s government, with the help of USAID’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Program, launched ENVISION in 2012 and aims to end trachoma in Mozambique by 2020. While this timeline may seem ambitious, there have already been significant signs of improvement in Mozambique.

According to USAID, in 2013, ENVISION distributed and successfully administered the antibiotic Zithromax in the 10 districts of Niassa, the most remote province of Mozambique. Since then, rates of trachoma in Niassa have dropped to below five percent. This is low enough to end the mass drug administrations in the area.

ENVISION leaders are also collaborating with NGOs working in the areas of sanitation, water and hygiene to aid in establishing preventative measures. While trachoma has yet to be completely eradicated, the leaders behind the ENVISION initiative have made great progress in fighting trachoma in just five years.

Jordan Rose Little
Photo: Flickr

According to UNICEF data in 2014, child marriage in Mozambique is not uncommon: 48 percent of women in Mozambique aged 20 to 24 married before they were 18 years old; 14 percent of them were married by age 15.

Although the percentage of child brides in Mozambique has declined from 56.6 percent in 1997, Girls Not Brides reports that “population growth has meant that the actual number of married girls has increased.”

To address this issue, Mozambique has launched a new, multi-organization plan to end child marriage, led by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Affairs. According to Girls Not Brides, one of the most important pillars in this new plan is reforming the legal framework surrounding child marriage. Although child marriage is officially illegal, it is not punishable by law, making its illegal status more of a symbol than a tool and failing to hinder the practice.

The plan also involves increasing girls’ access to education and creating a social mobilization campaign, as well as increasing sexual and reproductive health services to young women already in marriages. This education is vital, as UNICEF reports that women married young are likely to become pregnant shortly after, and that these young mothers have higher rates of maternal mortality; their children are also more likely to be underweight, underdeveloped and more likely to die young.

One of the biggest issues Mozambique still has to overcome is ending poverty. Often times, young girls are married off for economic reasons—their parents get money from the husband’s family, known as the “bride price,” and the poor families of these girls now have one less mouth to feed. According to Girls Not Brides, Mozambique requires continued outside support; though there are renewed efforts to end child marriage in Mozambique, it will be an uphill battle.

Emily Milakovic

Photo: U.N. Multimedia

Mozambique entrepreneurs have created the award-winning social enterprise Mozambikes builds low-cost bicycles to improve the livelihoods of thousands of people in Mozambique. Affordable and efficient bicycle transportation can greatly impact the pace of development in a country with 54 percent of citizens living below the poverty line, especially in rural areas.

In addition to bringing economic opportunities, Mozambikes is committed to improving the lives of 50,000 Mozambicans by 2018. The company and affiliated non-profit Mozambikes Social Development intends to reach this goal through the sale and donation of affordable branded bicycles.

Mozambikes’ unique branding strategy has created three avenues of distribution. The first allows customers to brand and purchase bicycles for their own business needs, such as employee incentive programs. Other customers choose to brand bicycles sold to low-income markets.

Branding customers allow Mozambikes to sell the bicycles at a subsidized rate. For advertisers, it is an opportunity to tap into remote rural markets. Bicycles can also be donated through Mozambikes Social Development for about $100.

These bicycles are purchased at cost from Mozambikes and donated to those who still cannot afford a bicycle. Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Lauren Thomas said in an article published on The Guardian, “A bicycle may seem like such a small item to many, but it is quite literally life-changing in rural Africa.” Mozambique_entrepreneurs

The bicycles are specifically designed for use on the bumpy roads in Mozambique with large luggage racks for transporting goods. The design also accommodates traditional skirts with a diagonal crossbar. Local technicians assemble the bicycles and after-market maintenance has created a demand for more bicycle technicians.

In comparison with regional competitors, Mozambikes’ product is better quality and more affordable. The company hopes to improve the bicycle industry of Mozambique through these innovations.

Bicycles can have a significant impact in low-income communities and aid development. In Mozambique, two-thirds of people walk more than an hour to the closest health center. Bicycles provide increased access to education, health care and are a clean energy solution.

In five years, Mozambikes has sold or donated over 7,000 bicycles and plans to increase that number to 125,000 by 2020. In rural Africa, a bicycle is generally considered a household items aiding not only individuals but also entire families.

It is estimated that 70 percent of Mozambicans rely on income from what they can produce, largely through subsistence farming. Transportation is essential in this informal economy. Fetching water, maintaining crops and getting products to market are all made easier with access to bicycles.

As a Mozambique business, Mozambikes employs about 12 workers and pay salaries above minimum wage. The company also strives to empower women, provide training for bike technicians, and educate cyclists about safety.

Mozambikes hopes to benefit a million Mozambicans through low-cost, efficient transportation. Each bicycle improves another Mozambican’s livelihood.

Thomas affirms the company’s long-term vision: “Some people come and go, but we are really committed to making this an ongoing, sustainable business, and there is still so much more we can do.”

Cara Kuhlman

Sources: The Guardian, How We Made It In Africa, Mail & Guardian, Mozambikes, Mozambikes YouTube Channel
Photo: Wikimedia, Flickr

FAO in Mozambique
In Mozambique, 95 percent of the country’s agricultural production comes from farmers owning small pieces of land. Previously these farms were for subsistence, but the recent U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization initiative has helped to improve post-harvest practices enabling farmers to sell their crops for profits.

Because the vast majority of farms in Mozambique are small-scale subsistence farms, the communities relying on them are more vulnerable to the shocks of events such as conflict and climatic change. In addition, because yields are low, these farms barely cover subsistence needs, let alone enable families to save any income for the future.

One-third of the Mozambique population is chronically food-insecure. Half a million children are reported as being undernourished and 43 percent of children under five are considered malnourished.

Issues contributing to the lack of food security in Mozambique include a lack of diet diversity, poor agricultural yields and high rates of HIV infection impacting worker productivity, thus affecting agricultural efficiency and production.

It should be no surprise then, that with the high levels of food insecurity and HIV infection in Mozambique, poverty is widespread. The country ranks 178 out of 187 on the UNDP Human Development Index. Mozambique is receiving significant amounts of aid from the U.N.; the country is also a U.N.

“Delivering as One” country, meaning that the country is part of a pilot initiative to improve the partnership between the U.N. and the national government.

As part of Mozambique’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, the country along with the U.N. are working to help farmers absorb less of a loss with regards to climatic shocks and protracted natural disasters.

One way to help farmers is to increase the length of time crops are able to be kept, eaten, and sold. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is teaching farmers how to store crops for maximum post-harvest storage. With the present technology, farmers lose an average of 30 percent of their harvest.

Currently, farmers sell the bulk of their crops immediately after the harvest. This is because farms in Mozambique often lack storage facilities to keep crops for a later sale, during which they could have a later price. By being able to control when crops are sold, farmers have greater potential to earn an income.

The FAO in Mozambique is teaching farmers about various post-harvest techniques; specifically, the FAO is training artisans in the construction of Gorongosa silos, which are durable, prevent crops from pests, and utilize locally developed technology. The Gorongosa silo is made from clay and mud. With proper care, it can last for twenty years.

This silo is a more valuable option than the traditional silos used in Mozambique, which offer little to no protection from pests or the elements. The Gorongosa silo keeps crops viable for ten months post-harvest, which gives more control to the farmers over their sales and reduces the need for chemical treatments.

This FAO initiative began in 2013 and intends to be a five-year project. Since its inception, 260 artisans have been trained in Gorongosa silo making in fifteen districts throughout Mozambique. Ultimately, the project hopes to train 20,000 farmers in the usage of Gorongosa silos and build 10,000 silos.

This initiative, in conjunction with other strategies to reduce HIV/AIDS in the region and promote economic growth, offers much to improve the livelihoods of those in Mozambique. With greater crop volume post-harvest, farmers can earn more of an income and reduce food insecurity for their families.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: FAO, U.N., World Food Programme

Photo: Flickr

The Peace Corps is a unique opportunity for people of all walks of life to give back to the world and help communities develop sustainably. Founded in 1961, the mission of the Peace Corps is “to promote peace and friendship” around the world.

The structure of the Peace Corps has evolved greatly to advance with the rise of globalization and the development of new strategies and technologies that address the challenges developing nations face. Peace Corps volunteers often have very rewarding and fulfilling experiences. Volunteers gain community level development experience and new perspectives of life.

Here are just five examples of the hundreds of unique Peace Corps volunteer positions available:

1. Teach English in Micronesia– Volunteers teach English literacy to children in elementary school who speak the languages of their local islands. They work with host teachers to motivate and teach the children. While living with a host family, a volunteer in this position will experience exciting local development work.

2. Work as a Community Health Outreach Volunteer in Mozambique– Volunteers work at the community level to address needs for HIV prevention and treatment, malaria prevention and community health facility support. Volunteers live in a home with other volunteers in a rural setting with a thatched or tin roof.

3. Help Manage Coastal Resources in the Philippines– Volunteers work with local fishing communities, the government and partner organizations to implement conservation and sustainable use for marine resources. The sites are often rural and local transport is primarily small boats and bikes.

4. Work with Youth in Morocco– Volunteers teach English and help youth gain leadership skills, environmental awareness and business skills. They work in youth centers and also partner with community programs that address health and education.

5. Assist in Agriculture Development in Paraguay– Responsibilities involve working with small farming families to help them optimize their resources to ensure food security and enhance quality of life. This is a specialized opportunity to utilize Spanish language skills and also learn Guarani in order to communicate in more remote areas.

While the two-year Peace Corps commitment may appear daunting to some, there is a reason why the application process is competitive and employers love to see Peace Corps service on resumes.

The experience provides meaningful, important service to people in developing countries, while helping you to gain valuable fieldwork experience and broaden your perspective on how people live around the world. Currently, the Peace Corps has 6,818 volunteers and trainees. You could soon be a part of this dedicated group.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Peace Corps, Youth Health
Photo: Flickr