Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Let’s get this show on the road!

I think that it is high time that I gave an update on my work progress here in Mozambique. Now that I have signed this new contract with MEDA I have assumed the ambiguous title of HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator for the Mozambique Microfinance Facility. One of my main responsibilities now will be in directing from our end MMF’s HIV/AIDS project we have recently begun in collaboration with Development Alternatives International (DAI) and Economic Consultants International Africa (ECIAfrica) in Joberg. The development world is really just one big alphabet soup of various acronyms!!

This project that we have just begun in March involves the selection of four Mozambican Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) to receive more direct technical assistance from our team of consultants as well as some funding to be used towards the implementation of action plans for HIV/AIDS. We are happy with our four participating MFIs as they represent a good mix of different lending methodologies and geographical regions in Mozambique. The first is Male Yeru, an MFI that has about 1200 clients in Southern Maputo province specializing in microenterprise development loans for individual clients. Male Yeru is a close partner of MMF and we are tremendously happy to see them willingly take an initiative on HIV/AIDS.

The second is Banco Oportunidade, one of the biggest MFIs in the country serving urban clients in Maputo, Beira, Chimoio and Quelimane. They offer individual loans as well as group lending (3-7 members) and village banking (10-30 members) to their clients in some of the most heavily infected HIV/AIDS regions in the country. We are extremely impressed with their commitment and progress so far on HIV/AIDS as they have already begun to offer training sessions for their staff in order to have them better equipped to answer questions and confront the challenges of dealing with clients living with the disease.

The final two participating MFIs are the two from Nampula province that Cremildo and I worked with back in the beginning of February. Caixa das Muheres de Nampula (CMN) is an association of some 2000 women that focuses on issues of economic and social development while teaching these ladies how to properly utilize small enterprise loans. Since HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects women more than men here in Mozambique, as is the case in most other countries in Southern Africa, we are excited to work through this challenge with through a specifically female perspective. Finally, Ophavela is a microfinance operator that overseas the rotating savings and credit associations in the rural districts of Nampula province. They have a very interesting lending methodology and are eager to begin addressing the issue of HIV/AIDS in these rural areas where very few NGOs dare to venture.

We held our first learning workshop for the project last week in Maputo, inviting each of the MFIs to an intimate gathering where we could review our project objectives and begin to plan our courses of action for the next seven months. We also provided a brief overview of the HIV/AIDS and Microfinance workshop we held back in September to refresh the participants on the main focus areas associated with building a strategic response to the impacts of HIV/AIDS on the clients, staff and overall operations of MFIs. The participants were able to share some laughs as well as their experiences and insights into how their institution has dealt with this challenging issue. After a full morning of presentations, the participants were able to break into one-on-one groups to discuss their proposed strategies with our “tag team” of consultants, Dominique Brouwers from South Africa and Henriqueta Hunguana from Mozambique. We are especially excited to have Henriqueta as a part of the team as she is easily the most experienced and well respected microfinance consultant Mozambique has to offer!!

After the two day workshop, the whole project team went out to the Costa do Sol restaurant for a big wrap up party. For the past seven months I had been told about this legendary restaurant, rumoured to serve up the best prawns in all of Mozambique, but I had never been inside its doors. The meal was absolutely incredible and we all sincerely appreciated the opportunity to discuss non-work related topics over wine and sumptuous seafood. Back in July, while I was at my internship orientation at the MEDA offices in Waterloo, I had made a pact with Ruth Dueck-Mbeba that we would sit down and share a plate of prawns and a bottle of vinho verde when she came to visit here in Maputo. Well seven months later we finally fulfilled our promise. This picture above of Ruth, MEDA’s longest serving consultant, holding our precious bottle of Casal Garcia is truly priceless.

Then of course we have the lovely ladies, Frances Bundred my co-facilitator with ECIAfrica, Henriqueta Hunguana and Pauline Achola, HIV/AIDS project manager for MEDA. Without the input of these fantastic women this project would never have got off the ground. Everyone involved in this event put in a tremendous effort and we have much to look forward to during these coming months as we continue to work with our participating MFIs on pro-active solutions to HIV/AIDS.

7 Comments:

Blogger Elise said...

Best of luck! :)

5:35 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

I just got back from that beautiful area myself and came across your site. I really enjoyed your pics and they made me want to go back!

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

Woo Hoo Vinho Verde!! Congrats on the extended stay, and I'm happy to hear there is a rumour you may come back for Folk Fest!! Have fun!

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Dad said...

Jared, congratulations on the extention to your contract and your new position as HIV/AIDS project coordinator for the MMF. It sounds like this next stage of the overall project will be very interesting and enlightning. It seems to me that the four groups you will be working with, offer a good cross section of those providing and those receiving micro financing loans. No doubt you will learn much from this experience. Good luck with your work at finding proactive solutions to helping those affected by the terrible effects of HIV/AIDS.

Please give my greetings to Ruth and tell her that I wish her well. It does not seem that long ago that she and I worked together, but it was. I am glad that you are now able to work with her and that you were able to fulfill that commitment made seven months ago. It sounded like you had a great time.

Take care, Jared

11:05 PM  
Blogger Crystal said...

Hey Jared
I was in Maptuo for only a few days before flying home. I spend about 10 days in Zimpeto at a Children's Centre run by Iris Ministries. It was an incredible experience and I'm hoping to go back next summer. I also got to spend a week in Zimbabwe seeing Vic Falls, which has been my dream for forever!
Are you working with MCC? I am also a mennonite and didn't realize that they were in Mozambique.

1:33 PM  
Blogger jpmozambique said...

Nope I don't work for MCC but rather the Mennonite Economic Development Associates..close though. Glad you enjoyed Mozambique...Zimpeto is a pretty nice place!! Thanks for the post...Mennonites of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your borscht(?)

2:24 AM  
Anonymous Nyeleti said...

Jared, congratulations on the work, it sounds great and I would like to learn more about it. How to contact you?
Nyeleti

12:39 AM  

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