Stopping hunger in Mozambique: Maria

In the field article written on the 16 Jun 2011

Photo: Joel Chiziane/OxfamAUS

Over the past month we’ve introduced you to some inspiring individuals who are working with our community partners in Mozambique, where years of drought have ruined farmland and created widespread hunger.

This week we meet Maria Mahamade Sirangue, from Mabawane in Gaza Province. Oxfam News editor Maureen Bathgate visited Maria to hear more about the gardening techniques she’s been learning from our local partner, and the difference it’s made for her family.

(Next week we’ll introduce you to Maria’s grandson Alberto – and his goat.)

How many people are in your household?
There are six — four children, the wife of my son, and myself.

How long have you been looking after Alberto?
Since 2004.

How did Alberto come to live with you?

After Alberto’s mother died, his father was not taking good care of him. So he ran away from his father to me. I am the mother of his mother.

What are some of the main challenges you face in taking care of the children?

The main problem I face is sometimes lack of food and lack of money to buy things to eat.

So how do you normally get food?

I have a small garden at home and a farm a little bit from here where I plough and sow some vegetables. I grow maize, sweet potatoes, cassava and peanuts; and at home, I grow cabbage and tomatoes.

What support has your family received from the project?

I was trained how to plough my fields properly, sow the seed in rows and use animal manure to fertilise it.

We were given hoes to plough the ground, seed, goats and bush knives. We were given peanut seeds, maize seeds, and vegetables like lettuce, cabbage and onions.

Did you receive any training in how to grow crops so you can get a good harvest?

Yes, we have been trained in techniques for ploughing and how to sow, in rows. And also we have been given animal manure.

Were these techniques that you have used before, or only since receiving the training?

The techniques were totally new to me. I didn’t know them before. I just ploughed the ground and threw the seeds anyhow.

Have you noticed a difference in the amount of things you harvest as a result of these new techniques?

Before, I used to lose a lot of seedlings because they were growing too close together, but now I get much more.

How much difference has the project made in how much food you have?

Before I started using these techniques, the maize that I grew wouldn’t even last a month — a month would be very good. But now, I harvest enough to last many months. Last year, it lasted us six months. There is a real difference.

In terms of lettuce and cabbages and onions, it has also improved a lot. Before, I would only grow these vegetables once or twice a year. I didn’t know that you could sow them throughout the year, and take care of them and give them water. So now we have these vegetables to eat all year round. We don’t have to wait.

Do you have to buy the seed, or can you keep seed from what you grow?

I keep some seed when I harvest, so that I always have some for planting and don’t need to buy it.

What do you hope for your grandchildren’s future?

I would like Alberto to study and get work so he can take care of his own life, and maybe take care of me as I get old.

Want to help make a difference? Donate to our Stop Hunger appeal and support our work with poor communities in Mozambique.