‘Now I am a Person!’: A success story
Of everything that Dinis Maqui saw and learned “the most important for me was to discover that I was a person!”
Maqui, a 37-year-old father of eight, is the president and community agent of the Mozambican Guru district community association “Kumuda” – which means Awaken in the Nyungue language.
His own awakening happened during learning opportunities offered by UNAC, the National Union of Smallholder Farmers, an Oxfam Canada partner in the 2005-2011 Sustainable Livelihoods and Agriculture Program to improve rural life in central Mozambique.
“I am a peasant farmer, my father was a peasant farmer, and I was always a peasant farmer. Before I had no knowledge and I did things by myself, just out of my head.”
Invited to a UNAC general assembly, Maqui saw how people discussed their problems. He travelled to other regions, sharing their experiences in farming practices and organization. He created an association in his own area. With his new knowledge he improved the quantity and quality of the onions he grew for market and fetched better prices. He could afford to buy a pump to irrigate his onion field and replaced the straw roof of his house with zinc.
“Now I am a person who has knowledge.”
Maqui used to work alone on a tiny field, 50 by 100 meters. His farm now is eight times larger and he employs people, two permanently and another half dozen for the harvest. “My life improved so much that people started to say that I had been to a traditional healer. They don’t know that the witch doctor is UNAC!”
Maqui was thrilled to participate in the UNAC General Assembly with more than 100 delegates. “I had never been to the capital, it was my first time. Not even my father had been to Maputo! I saw that we smallholder farmers have a lot of weight in this country, and that our opinion counted a lot. I learned that we have the right to be heard. I also learned that I am a person not just on paper, but that I have a voice.”