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A Productive Turn-Around For Rostalina In Mozambique

Rostalina Viana with her bank card ready to withdraw cash received through her participation in the Productive Social Assistance Programme.

Copyright: WFP/Leonor Fernandez

Rostalina Viana doesn’t remember her age, but she does remember the day that her husband was killed during the civil war more than two decades ago. Left alone to care for three children, Rostalina struggled to make ends meet. 

She has had to work hard to feed them. "I used to work nine hours a day in other people’s fields to earn 150 meticais per week (around US $4),” she says.

Lacking a regular source of income due to the seasonal and sporadic nature of her work, Rostalina spent nearly all her income on food. Without additional money to invest in profitable endeavors, there was little chance to improve her situation.

Although her children have now left home, Rostalina still has to care for her 10-year old granddaughter. The challenge of providing for herself and her grandchild has been amplified by her advancing age and decreased ability to meet the physically-demanding requirements of her work.

Disaster-prone areas

Rostalina’s prospects turned around, however, when she was selected by her community to be part of a Productive Social Assistance Programme (PASP). Supported by the UN World Food Programme, this Government-run social protection initiative guarantees a minimum income and food assistance by way of cash transfers to food-insecure households participating in public works. Targeted at disaster-prone areas, the scheme addresses recurrent seasonal food gaps, while enabling the creation of productive assets to protect communities against shocks.

Moamba district, where Rostalina lives, is the largest cattle breeding area in Maputo province. However, most of its infrastructure - including water tanks, corridors for cattle treatment, water dams and water pumps - is not operational.

“Our community was in need of a reservoir for the cattle to drink during the dry season,” says Rostalina, who has been working with other PASP beneficiaries to construct a waterhole.

Debit card

Rostalina works for the programme four hours a day, four days a week during the four-month period between harvest and land preparation for the following season when it is most difficult for people to find work. In return, she receives a cash transfer through a debit card which she uses to feed her family and make home improvements.

“I’ve saved enough to invest in my house,” she says. “I’ve paved the floor and bought straw to repair the roof.”

With the support of PASP, beneficiaries like Rostalina can begin to break the cycle of poverty caused by lack of opportunity and the constraint of food insecurity.

In 2012, WFP assisted 20,000 beneficiaries in arid and semi-arid zones of Mozambique in a bid to reduce their vulnerability to hunger caused by drought. This initiative also sought to reduce the loss of human life and the destruction of property caused by disasters such as cyclones or floods. This year, WFP continues to support Mozambican communities. Rostalina’s is among the families that now has water for its animals during the dry season and a decent income for food and home repairs.