Okala Sana- One Man’s Perseverance Helping an Entire Community
Marcelino José Pussabe, from the community of Saua Saua in northern Mozambique, used to spend hours every day carrying his crops to neighboring markets in an attempt to sell his produce to earn money for his family. While searching for new markets, he saw several groups sitting together and discussing new agriculture techniques. He approached them and learned that they were some of the pioneer groups for CARE and WWF’s Primeiras e Segundas (P&S) program. “When I saw other communities meeting, I had hope that they would have a solution to our problems. Life here is very difficult, but I felt that this was an opportunity that would bring success to my family and friends.”
Marcelino then took matters into his own hands by biking several hours to the P&S program office in the town of Angoche. He laid out the reasons why he thought his community of Saua Saua should also be included in the project, and how they would benefit from the conservation agriculture trainings. He was told on his initial visit that several other communities in need had already been chosen for the initial phase of the program. But Marcelino did not give up. He organized a group of interested community members himself and returned to the office. A project officer agreed to discuss P&S with the community. He was so impressed by Marcelino´s commitment and the dedication of the other members of the newly formed group called Okala Sana (which means “Stay Well” in the local Makua language), that he agreed to include them in the first phase. So the group started out in 2008 by choosing 12 members and organizing their first activity of collectively planting a farm.
When Okala Sana first began, the members wanted to band together to share the brunt of the work in prepping and planting their fields. They had the ultimate goal of increasing their yield while working with others to shoulder the physical labor required. Their first endeavor was successful and they decided as a group to use their profit to start a second farm. Unfortunately that year the farm was unsuccessful because many of the seeds they received did not germinate. But Okala Sana did not lose their motivation. They had money saved up to support their families even though the risk they took on their second farm did not initially pay off. The next year they set out to work even harder than before, and they reaped the benefit of their largest yield to date.
They worked with the Primeiras e Segundas project officer, Afonso Gomes, to create bylaws, organize their group internally, and in 2011 they were officially recognized as an association by the local government. This was an integral step because it then allowed them to apply for government funds for local incentivesthat are awarded to local entrepreneurial groups demonstrating management skills and good project ideas. They received 100,000 meticais (about $3,700) to help them expand their endeavors and better develop the initiatives they had put into motion. They used the money to buy four cows, fifty sacks of groundnuts, different varieties of seeds for their farms, and a bicycle to allow them to take their crops to different markets.
As Marcelino sat in the shade of a papaya tree telling the history of Okala Sana, he started speaking quickly in Makua to the other group members. They all smiled and nodded as he translated into Portuguese: “The things we have learned, we need to teach others. This knowledge can’t stay with just us.” He went on to describe how Okala Sana has helped several other groups in the community by giving them small financing and seeds. He concluded the meeting by saying “We have been helped so much by the Primeiras e Segundas program so now it is our responsibility to help others.” One man’s persistence is helping the entire community of Saua Saua to work together for a better future.