Mobile connection with family living in extreme poverty in Mozambique

Posted December 10th, 2008 in development, Technology & Innovation and tagged , , , , , , , by Frerieke

By Frerieke van Bree

I just spoke to Nico, my young friend in Mozambique. He goes to grade 10 (15 years old). He and his family live on a small farm near Prado de Xhai Xhai. They live in extreme poverty (< 1 dollar a day), but are happy! Nico is a very clever and hard working young man, who told me he really needs a bicycle to go to school. His family shares a mobile phone. I have been trying to reach them the past weeks and finally got through now, so great! It is just incredible to know that this young man (Nico) has the ability to reach out and create possibilities through new technologies. I am so enthusiastic about Mobile Technology in the 3rd World!

So now what?
a. I want money for Nico’s bicycle and
b. I’ll figure out a way to get the money/or bicycle there

When and where did I meet Nico?
…a few weeks ago I was very lucky to be taken on a holiday by my mum and brother, who flew in from The Netherlands. We’ve rented a car and basically drove to the places that inspired us at that moment. One of the things we did was a visit to Mozambique. Our rental car was having a hard time on the roads full of potholes, our eyes enjoyed each and every bit of it. What a wonderful country! What an extremely friendly people (especially compared to South Africa…I guess the absence of the the fear oppression -Apartheid- provided space for a community to be developed, rather then a culture of segregation and aggression)Stepping in a different world, separated from this “luxury” South African world. No big shopping malls, not a lot of cars (yeah sure in Maputo), mostly:…no running water, no electricity, no money, no technology. Rural, like really rural. Small villages, compiled of traditional woven or clay houses, fruits and small farms.

Coconuts and palm trees all along the road, just like ..cashew nuts…in plastic bags floating in the wind, lots of them connected to a tree. The roads are full of Potholes, women and children walking. Baskets of fruit and wood on their heads. Some bicycles. Lots of Vodacom and Cell C. Mobile phones everywhere! no landlines. no computers. but hey…they all have mobile phones…can you see the potential!

Mozambique has been independent since 1975 and was colonized by the Portuguese (you don’t come far with English!…I was lucky to being able to communicate in Spanish). The civil war (between ’82 – ’92) has its scars visible all over the country. Firstly all the do-not-enter signs everywhere….the land mines dangerously waiting for some innocent child to play freely. Secondly the ruins all over the place! Each little village has the remainders of what used to be a great and wealthy place, beautiful buildings, not being touched by anybody at the moment.. the informal trade gathers around the previous villages.

We met Nico while setting up our tent in Prado de Xhai Xhai. He wanted to make some extra money for his studies, which he got by assisting us to set up camp. After that he invited us over to his house in a small rural village, where we met his father and little brothers. They climbed up the palmtree to get us some fresh coconuts! (check video!). It was such a delightful surprise to being able to connect with a family, together with my family from a completely different back ground.

More video will follow. Pictures are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9399948@N05/sets/72157608360281208/

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