Life is tough in this landscape and there are few opportunities for people to earn money. So, one of the top priorities for Micaia is help diversify the local economies of the landscape and open new and additional opportunities. We continue to work closely with BPM on consolidating all the gains made in recent years in the baobab value chain, including strengthening the capacity of the women Collectors Association to play its part in the company and benefit from its success. Baobab, however, is not the only NTFP with a market. The LZV landscape has thousands of marula trees (scientific name) and developing the marula value chain is a top priority in Micaia’s work. We also have commercial partners interested in the supply of various medicinal plants that are found in the landscape. In some areas, beekeeping has potential. In other areas we plan to expand the production of Bambara Nut and lead the development in Mozambique of the commercialization of this value chain.
Away from natural products, Micaia’s principal focus is on stimulating micro-enterprise especially in small urban centres – the larger villages to which some people are migrating, attracted by better services including water and electricity. Micaia will be offering training and mentoring programmes, particularly for younger people, to help them develop and test ideas for small businesses.
Less than 5% of the (2,700) adult women engaged in the baobab value chain and BPM can write their own name. These women, and thousands more, live in a patriarchal and polygamous society where women are oppressed and given few opportunities to learn, to grow as people, or even to have their say. On the back of work on baobab, Micaia introduced its Capabilities approach, focusing initially at least on baobab collectors. The approach uses mostly visual images and a local facilitator, trained by Micaia, to facilitate discussion about a range of issues grouped loosely under two themes: ‘My Good Life’ and ‘My community’. Since 2018, thousands ofwomen have taken part in discussions on topics as diverse as domestic violence, family health, and climate change. With more knowledge and confidence, women are steadily gaining a stronger voice in their homes and communities – and with more money coming from their baobab sales, these women can be more independent too.
In our current programme, while continuing the capabilities work, Micaia is developing a new approach to enabling people to learn to read and write words and numbers that they need. In other words, we are driven not by a standard curriculum, but by context. In 2021, the focus is on developing materials by working with people in communities to explore what words and numbers they feel they need to know, and why: for instance, the weight of baobab fruit and money owed on a BPM voucher when the Collector delivers fruit.