Rare Voices: Angelica Dengo
Rare: Generally, how has COVID-19 affected Mozambique relative to the rest of the world?
Angelica Dengo: In Mozambique, we are still one of the least-affected countries. As of May 10, official data reported 103 cases of infections with zero deaths so far. The country is still implementing all the emergency alerts and preventative measures. We have been moving to extend the restrictions up to May 30.
Rare: How has the pandemic changed daily life in the communities in which we work?
AD: I’m really glad to see that the communities are still motivated and that they’re going out fishing. The government recognized that small-scales fisheries is important for the local economy, and encouraged the artisanal fishermen to fish to continue to supply food for the communities and for the big markets. So there’s no shortage of fish in Mozambique to feed the population.
Rare: What are the main COVID-related Challenges in these communities?
AD: At the moment, we talk with communities over the phone on a regular basis. The communities, at the moment, fear that COVID may have a big impact. They fear that they will not have enough buyers coming from the main cities to the production centers to buy the fish, and of course this can really have a strong impact for households and income.
They also fear that with COVID they may not be able to buy manufactured goods from the town, which they really need, like rice, sugar, and all those basic needs that they have to feed their families. So, in summary, the main challenge or fear they have is related to value chains and food supply.
Rare: How has COVID made Rare’s work with these communities challenging?
AD: The way we implement (programs), we put a lot of emphasis on intensive, site-based (activities). We’re always communicating with communities, training communities, training local governments, so we are always in the field. But now, with COVID and the restrictions on travel, and with the internet connectivity (challenges) in remote areas where we are, it’s a real challenge to continue working.
Rare: How is Rare helping these communities? Has Rare’s work in anyway contributed to the resiliency of these communities?
AD: We helped communities establish a functioning communications structure so they can help manage their natural resources. We strengthened communities’ ability to organize and obtain consensus on decision-making for the fishing areas. So we are happy that before COVID, we managed to organize women in savings clubs; they know the procedures, they know how to continue doing the savings cycles without too much support from our program implementation managers. And we also helped communities to start up community projects, which brings a lot of resilience: small business enterprises, agriculture for conservation, and a set of alternative fishing activities, which are now being implemented. So with all this already established before COVID, (the communities) continue working on it without too much support from Rare.
Rare:How are you staying in touch with the communities?
AD: We are trying to connect with (the communities) virtually using social media, but especially using the local capacity we have in the sites. Because some of our program implementation managers are site-based. They live there, nearby the communities. So they often go out and speak with the communities and collect some photos and record some great stories just to showcase that the communities are motivated. (The community members) say they really miss those training moments where they are gathered and can share ideas for their development and resilience.
Rare: What gives you hope?
AD: From what we see on our sites, there’s a lot of hope. It’s good to see that (although) they are facing a pandemic situation, they’re not panicked about the pandemic. They’re just trying to follow the preventive measures. Because we have provided so many trainings, you feel that what the communities miss really is more training. Although they live in rural, remote areas, they have this feeling and they understand the importance of being educated so they can continue managing a small business, and they continue identifying alternative livelihoods to feed their families and children. So it’s very good what we see in the field.