16 July 2008 I woke up at 3:30am this morning, left my son Harrison in the hotel room, and headed for our 4:30am departure to Nampula, Mozambique. We flew in a Cessna Caravan of AIM AIR with Capt. Dan Spooner. Capt. Spooner had taken me in AIM AIR with Samaritan's Purse about a year and a half ago to Darfur from Nairobi, Kenya and then into northern Uganda into the area of the Lord's Resistance Army.
On the plane flying the length of Mozambique, we were able to capture the beautiful morning light with sun rising on a sharp horizon, red-orange turning bright orange and then a brilliant yellow. After about six hours of travel and one stop in Beira to refuel, we landed in Nampula city and were met by Mayor Castro Serafim who spent the day with us. He is articulate and is now running for reelection. He has been mayor of Nampula city for five years. We also had lunch with the Governor of the Nampula province, Felismino Ernesto Tocale. Interestingly enough, he was a former organic chemistry professor before entering politics.
We spent the afternoon with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Accompanying me were Cassia Carvalho-Pacheco, Resident Country Director of the MCC in Mozambique, and Paulo Fumane, Executive Director MCA-Mozambique, who will be responsible for implementation of the Compact.
We visited four different sites which ran the spectrum of the clean water, sanitation, and land tenure aspects of the MCC Compact. Since the MCC compact has been signed but not yet implemented, we went to the areas where MCC will have an impact before the program had begun, where the planning stages had started. Implementation does not start until mid-September.
Nampula is one of the four northern provinces (like states) in Mozambique that is targeted by the MCC. All $507 million dollars will flow to these four provinces which constitute the poorest region in Mozambique. They are the least developed as a consequence of almost twenty years of devastating war. This war was fought in the countryside, and its victims were Mozambique's subsistence farmers, millions of whom became refugees in neighboring countries in those years. New roads will link southern Tanzania to northern Mozambique which will open up commerce.
At each stop the routine was similar. Under a tree, in a field, in narrow alleyways, or just crowded together on a dirt road, we met local leaders and authority figures. And whenever I stopped to talk to residents, they were delighted to share something of their hopes and struggles with me. Whenever the Mayor introduced me, he told the people that I represented the MCC, and that America has come to help the Mozambique people live more productive lives...that America will help them realize their dreams.
I added that I, as a director of MCC, represented the American people and their friendship with the people of Mozambique. I told them that ordinary Americans- people just like them--- are investing their taxpaying dollars in the future of Nampula so that they will have roads, clean water, and property rights that they deserve in order to earn a higher income and better take care of their own families. I emphasized that MCC is their program, not ours. Our goal was to fulfill their dreams and hopes and make them a reality. I stressed that the American people chose Mozambique because the country met the objective criteria that suggested that they would use the money well and wisely. American officials do not implement the Compact, Mozambican ones do. And it is up to the citizens of Mozambique to hold them accountable for doing so. The responsibility is theirs.
Everywhere we went the people said, "Thank you for coming, and thank you to America."
At the first site, we went to a small village that had maybe 100 dirt brick houses, about 30 kilometers from Nampula (Nampula is a city of 400,000 and the province has 4 million - it is the third largest city. HIV is about 12%. Poverty is almost 51%). Here we focused on property rights (or land tenure). The local surveyors had plotted out carefully 600 new lots, all squared off, but still empty. Certificates will be issued to formally give ownership to those who applied and paid a small fee. These deeds will constitute formal title. This concept is new. Ownership has been customary, and the cause of frequent dispute and discord in the community. The lack of legal title also robs these poor people of their most valuable asset: their land. As Mozambique's financial institutions become more sophisticated, enterprising farmers should be able to use their title as collateral to get affordable loans to expand their business. This land tenure process is one of the 4 components of the compact.
We met under a beautiful tree, and 40 of the town families and representatives came out to meet us. They talked and interacted with me - one asked for energy, one asked for better roads. One asked for sanitation.
Then we visited a particularly blighted area of Nampula to see the seriousness of the sanitation problem in the city. The dusty streets were unpaved, of course, and I had to step around the gaping sewage holes literally collecting the sewage seeping out of adjacent homes. It is the perfect breeding ground for the mosquitoes that carry malaria.
We walked by a water pump and stopped. It was the only one within several kilometers. The people pointed to it: a nice concrete box with a hand pump. That said, it was put in by the government last year, but after a few months it broke down and now does not work. They pleaded with us to fix it, because the women now had to walk two hours each day to get water and that took them away from their children and families.
We traveled in car to another area, and we saw again a huge drainage ditch-a small canyon really-- with stagnant water. This was the result of rain erosion caused by a complete lack of drainage engineers in Nampula. Runoff from a nearby hospital trickled in. Garbage lined the floor of the ravine, about 30 feet deep and 40 feet across, adjacent to the houses. Children played in the ditch. Apparently two hours before, a large group of neighborhood women had been gathering the filthy water there to use at home.
Lastly we went to a beautiful setting, about 20 kilometers from town, with tall trees still standing, untouched by the ravages of the civil war. There we met with people in a new development that asked for clean water. There was one standing pump that they wanted to demonstrate to us. When we went over an old woman was tying pieces of cord together so that she could lower her bucket directly down about 30 feet into the well. The hand pump was broken, and there were no parts to fix it. The community was embarrassed that their water pump that they had come out to demonstrate was broken, but the encounter dramatized the fragility of the infrastructure and the importance of sustainable economic development with a goal of self-sufficiency and not permanent dependence. Fortunately, the quality of the water, once the woman had hauled it up, was excellent.
We saw today the "before picture" of what MCC is all about. In September the implementation of the MCC Compact will start right here in Nampula. We leave today with a realistic picture of the needs and challenges. We're also aware of the appreciation of the people of Mozambique have for the United States, but also the high expectations they have for us. We have to see to it that this investment achieves its intended effects. I look forward to coming back to these sites in a few years to check on the promises of progress.