Register early for the Velothon 2015 in Cardiff and raise vital funds for Nema.

contact for further information.

More event info to follow shortly.

Register early for the Velothon 2015 in Cardiff and raise vital funds for Nema.

contact for further information.

More event info to follow shortly.

Keeping everyone healthy

Our new partner NGO is entirely Mozambican, a sign of progress in itself.  Set up by one of the most driven people I’ve ever met, Bashir, they have a wide range of capabilities and knowledge.  This week we tapped into their knowledge of hygiene and sanitation.  In four of the villages that Nema support there are no latrines at all.  This is because the sand is so soft that the local people say that they cannot dig a latrine hole that stays open due to the sand falling into the hole.  Not anymore.

We love the chefe de aldeia in Crimize, he’s gruff, supportive and sufficiently authoritarian.  His village are very good at helping themselves to a better life and there’s a great attitude here:  it’s also on yet another part of Mozambique’s gorgeous coastline.  So we started our latrine project in Crimize. 


It’s pretty idyllic here.

It’s a 2 hour walk to Crimize from Guludo and for our pre-training meetings with the chefe de aldeia we walked, it’s lovely but a bit more difficult carrying a 50kg sack of cement so I relented and took the car.

Day one of our work with Bashir was a day of training on a whole range of health messages, starting with why we wash our hands through open defecation to tidying up waste and then onto the reason we need a varied diet and clean drinking water.  


Bashir teaches the people of the village and the local school the health benefits of a good, clean  lifestyle.

There was a wide range of engagement from the village and as the teacher wanted to listen in so did his classes (he runs 2 classes concurrently, every morning and afternoon). There were also a group of women who joined in, behind Bashir, but listening intently. 

In the group exercise phase I looked around the groups and though they were not really taking an interest.  I was prepared to be surprised but not quite as much as I was.  They were asked to discuss what they had learnt and think of what they would like to do next to improve their lives.  The ladies were first to present their answers and they said they would like to use lids for the water pots, for carrying and storing so that the water did not get dirty from flies.  The other groups had answers including;

  • Getting the whole village to pick up all of the litter and burn it;
  • Building 6 public latrines, 3 each side of the estuary so everyone could use and to stop open defecation and the disease that it brings into the village and;
  • Clean the area around the well for safety and health reasons.

Great initial enthusiasm and with the chefe the way he is we’re pretty confident that some of these things will be carried out.

For day two we set about building a demonstration latrine.  We had asked the chefe de aldeia to choose a person who most needed a latrine but who could not build one for themselves.  Wise as he is, the chefe chose well.  Farque Momande is, according to his id card, only 48, but he looks old enough to be my great granddad, and I’m no spring chicken any more.  He lost and arm to a sickness about 15 years ago and is currently confined to his bed with a problem with his legs, having to be carried everywhere, including into the bush to use the toilet.  This means his equally old looking wife is pretty burdened, add in a mentally handicapped granddaughter and this is definitely a house in need of a bit of help. 

So, we built a latrine out the back of his yard.


First off, cut some sticks from the local bush;  there’s no point making a demonstration of something that is beyond the capability of the locals to build, in terms of cost and technology, using items freely available in the bush makes this a copy-able demonstration.


Second, dig a hole.  The boy in the hole has his trouser waistband around the bottom of his arse, who new such ridiculously bad trends would still be used half way around the world years later:  these are the things I’m here to get away from.


Third, line the hole with the poles in a cone shape.


Four:  secure it all with some rope made from local bark.


Lastly:  cover with one of Nema’s latrine slabs from the slab project and get the household to try it out.

It’s actually a pretty simple thing to build, but having the knowledge and confidence is the important thing.

At the end of the demonstration the chefe stood up and said his thanks to Nema and Bashir, but he also told everyone that he will be building a latrine in his house this week and called on every member of the village committee of health to do the same.  He also talked passionately about thanking Nema for all of our work, especially helping to send the students to secondary schools and encouraged those in the village to make the most of the opportunities Nema offered to improve their lives. Maybe he should be Director de Nema, he certainly does inspirational speaking as well as anyone I’ve met; he’s also just on the right side of scary! 

Beans being prepared at one of the local primary schools… The school feeding programme encourages school attendance and provides a nutritious meal to every student every school day!

Empowering women the right way….

I have seen a lot of bad “gender equality” projects, especially in Afghanistan where the culture is not ready for certain projects and it can be more detrimental to empowerment to force it on a culture not ready for women’s rights than it can be to try to do “gender-based” projects by well-meaning but misguided amateurs.  The underlying principle of development being Do no Harm, we at Nema try to do all of our projects in slow and understated but effective way.

A few weeks ago at the Bilibeza agricultural school graduation I was approached by a teacher, Bashir, from the school who wanted to collaborate on some projects with Nema. He is quite an inspiration.  He has been trained in various countries to do some fantastic environmental and agricultural projects and now lives in Bilibeza, teaching one day a week and running a local NGO, solely peopled by Mozambicans, with an agricultural speciality.  At his house I met his wife, an expert in organic pesticides, and saw her prepare a meal of lovely looking tomatoes and other vegetables from their garden.  Outside their house, shared with others is a cord pump well, installed by Bashir that is the easiest pump I’ve used since I’ve been here.

After signing an MoU last week we have started working together as partners in earnest, it’s great for me to be able to step back and hand over to a Mozambican, much more positive than a white face giving stuff out all of the time. One of our collaboration is a small cooperative for women to make soap.  

Bashir starts the soap making with the use of Rabia’s head scarf to protect from the caustic soda fumes. 

After numerous meetings with the village chefe in Ningaia to ask his permission to undertake a project for the ladies, we are now well underway with a soap making project that will give some of the ladies that little bit of income and identity that will make their lives better, but not disproportionately better than anyone else therefore not creating too much resentment.

We asked the Chefe de Ningaia to choose 10 ladies from his village who he thought would be interested in the micro-enterprise we wanted to set up and to choose from those who had the most suffering or largest families to support alone. 

There are no Geldof-style Band Aid pictures from this part of Mozambique but I was here in this village measuring kids a few weeks ago and all of them are stunted in their growth; the lack of good and varied nutrition means that not only physical but also mental growth is seriously compromised by the monotonous diet that is affordable for most families. A small income to buy tomatoes and bananas for the family will make a difference to lives that is tangible and important but still a baby step and not out of line with other people in the community.

10 ladies turned up at our training session; of varying ages they all warily entered the house of the adjutant of Ningaia and shyly sat down but after some training they possessed a certain degree of confidence once together in the group which was amazing to see and they were able to have fun whilst learning, what could be better?

Bashir making soap with the ladies looking on.  They made batch 2 and 3 themselves. 

Using jatropha oil and caustic soda we made soap to sell and soap for their families.  Our new uber‑partner Bashir is great with people and the ladies really responded to his teaching. They were laughing freely and conversing with Bashir and Nema workers Manuel and Assane which was awesome to watch.

The soap has a medical quality that helps with the skin complaints that the children get on their heads here.  The Nema staff were also excited as they described an infection sounding a lot like athlete’s foot that is common here especially during the rainy season and that this soap can help cure. 

After the first demonstration the ladies set off on making a batch on their own, even calculating the new amounts to make a bigger batch, given the state of mental arithmetic here (drives me nuts that 40x10 needs to be done on a calculator) it was really good to hear them multiplying numbers. I disappeared for 10 minutes to meet someone and came back to the third batch as everyone wanted to try to make their own. 

The ladies were so engaged that the question and answer session at the end involved them all clamouring to answer the questions, they even started making budgets and plans for the future.

Rocera makes the second batch.

After electing Laura as their chef they sang a song for the health of my children (and by default I’m assuming the health of all of our donor’s children).  So cute, I watched the video again and again that night, made me so proud of them and hopeful for their future.  

Of course that’s not the end of our involvement with these ladies, but it is the beginning of the end: all good projects have an end.  Whilst we covered the small cost of the initial investment, the ladies are now their own company and they can make their own decisions. Manuel will visit them every week, he only lives a few houses away so that will be easy enough, and he wants to be their second customer (I am the first).  But the rate of production, continuation of the project and ongoing costs are for the group to consider as a group.  Whilst we will maintain good contact with these ladies, if for no other reason than I like them, our support will now be for training and help with resupply runs but not financial.

We’re hoping that this is the start of a series of small local projects for people to make their lives a bit better.  We’ve already got our orphans making stuff to sell and now our Ningaia soap, next stop an oven for the ladies of Naunde. 

It’s something we take for granted but dirty drinking water kills over here. Some people boil their water but many drink straight from the wells or, worse, the “natural watering holes”. But not for much longer in our little world: for just $15, paid over 3 months, we are selling water filters that clean the dirty water of germs and bacteria leaving the water safe to drink and potentially saving lives, especially of young children. We have been using these filters in the lodge for a month now for guests and staff, and they are great. When we first demonstrated them to the staff they said it was witchcraft, but now they have faith in the science. We’ve started selling them to the staff at the start of a publicity campaign that we hope takes off locally to reach all of the local people with clean drinking water.

The school feeding programme is such an important part of what we do here that it’s been heartbreaking not to feed the kids for a term as the factory that makes the corn soya blend has been closed. However, one door shuts and another opens and all that and we managed this week to get maize meal and pigeon pea for the kids. I’m reliably informed by people who know more than me that pigeon pea is uber-nutritious and therefore great for the kids. And a bit different than the plain xima they normally eat. This week Dona Amina and I have distributed to all of the schools in the programme and are looking forward to seeing the kids grow healthy and well fed for the rest of the term.

Helping the orphans to a life of quality and dignity

“Working not begging” is a phrase I really admire from Big Issue founder John Bird, it has an air of dignity about it, and self-help with a little bit of ‘you can help me to help myself’ added in.  That’s what we’re trying to do here at Nema - help people help themselves.   Sometimes that’s hard here as there are so few opportunities, but we are trying to generate some and this is the first step.

We have over 200 orphans in our project just in Naunde and we have yet to reach those vulnerable children and their families in the other villages in which we work, but one step at a time:  if there’s one thing you learn from working in Africa it’s patience. 

The orphans in Naunde are a really cheerful lot despite their predicament and generally congregate at Rema’s house for fun and support most days.  

The orphans and vulnerable children use Rema’s stoop for playing cards, it’s where they all hang out. 

We have been gradually trying to create opportunities for the orphans and vulnerable children to earn a living.  However, whilst items have been made for the Nema shop and the lodge this is a limited market.  Trying to reach further and wider we approached some shops in Pemba town and found an English lady who has a shop in the Pemba Beach Hotel, the most expensive hotel in town.  She suggested that there really isn’t much of a market for tourist stuff with the oil and gas industry currently dominating hotel bookings but there are lots of hotels being built to cater for the oil wealth and that we could use her contacts to sell stuff for the rooms in the hotels.

Obviously a certain level of quality is required to sell to a hotel so we set about creating a demonstration model yesterday.  Calling the older kids to make stuff, the younger kids, desperate to join in, fetched all of the material from the bush.  Most of the time the material was bigger and heavier than the kids themselves but these are hardy kids.

Whilst Amina and Rema prepared a lunch of rice and beans for the kids (we used left over food from the food we give to the staff each month keeping costs right down), Manuel started preparing the demonstration models.  First off a waste paper bin.  Second a tray (my Kimwani is poor but I know this is kikombe as I have my tea in a giant bowl that they call kikombe).

Manuel’s second childhood, making the tray with the bin by his side. 

Manuel seemed to enjoy the work and set about making the items with imagination and a smile on his face.  Demonstration models made he allocated a shape and a size to each of the kids for us to make a range of pieces to take to Pemba to show to Lesley and the hotels.  We made bins, boxes and trays.  We’re going to line them with pretty material and see what they look like with some colour and then take them to town to see how it goes.  

These kids have some serious knife skills. 

We can pay enough money to the children who made the items to make a difference to their lives this week.  If we market the items right we can create a longer term income generating project for the children here.  With the right labelling and a bit of marketing we can enable a sustainable long term income that’s just enough to make a difference to the lives of the most deprived of our communities, maybe even enough to allow some of them to go to school:  we live in hope.

Working not begging.

Practice what you preach…

Our very own Dona Rema looks after the orphans and vulnerable children project in Naunde where she lives. Recently her own niece was orphaned and Dona Rema took in Pequena Rema. Pequena (little) Rema is a feisty soul and enjoys life to the full. She’s a handful for Rema whose own children are all grown up and live away from home these days. But Dona Rema takes it all in her stride, she must be used to it with the number of kids outside her house every day. Sometimes Pequena Rema comes to Nema Monday meetings, she always makes noise about something, we’re grooming her for a job with us in a few years’ time.

A NGO partner from town came to a meeting with us and kindly left us 6,000 condoms for distribution to our staff. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to educate we took the opportunity to entice the staff of both Guludo Lodge and Nema into some HIV training with the promise of free condoms at the end of the session. Never ones to miss the something for nothing opportunity and even better, an hour off work, the staff all turned up. Nema’s own Amina and Abudu carried out the training with their captive audience. It’s always good to reinforce messages and even those who think they know it all can learn something. It’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry when the first question is “if my wife has HIV should I just go get another?” but the safe sex message was reiterated and the information that tests and drugs have recently been made available to all in the local clinic is invaluable so if that’s all everyone learned we have passed on a good message. We definitely knew to smile when 7 months pregnant Sephalina pocketed her condoms saying she would guard them till she needed hers!

Sometimes you just meet the nicest people:  after his recent graduation from agricultural college Rafael Kalachinga turned up on our doorstep (figuratively anyway) last week to bring Nema a bag of tomatoes and cabbage from his own fields, and 3 orange tree saplings, again that he had grown himself just to say thanks to Nema for giving him an opportunity. Now planted in the lodge the Nema saplings are going to be a reminder of the first ever Nema sponsored students to pass agricultural college.

For our orphans’ project in the local village of Naunde, Eid is a double celebration: the religious celebration is complimented by a gift from Nema. Yesterday we took our truck load of gifts for the 200 orphans to the village. Another parade of screaming happy kids greeted us as we arrived at Rema’s house. We had bought 45kg of children’s clothing, 240 bars of soap and lots of notebooks and pencils as well as some adult clothes donated by some guests and 100 pairs of girls pants! Despite the rabble the kids were really well behaved and team leader Assane marshalled the process whilst the “management” took photos and played with the kids. It’s such a small gesture really but something which made the lives of the kids just a little bit better for a while and gave them a day when they are not the most disadvantaged in this very ravaged comunity, and that’s part of why we’re here. Overall a fun day and a lot of happy faces.

The secondary school students pay back the community……

Our secondary school students are back for holidays, though it’s not all brincadera (fun).  Marieke, my predecessor, started the community service programme for all of the Nema scholars.  It’s a 4 day programme, one day of training in a health related subject and 3 days of community projects involving a bit of sweat and dirt:  what more could a group of teenagers wish for with no chip shop to hang out at and no booze at the “discotecha”?

Saturday was training day. An enthusiastic trainer from town was found and he arrived full of beans, whilst the students arrived late (teenagers!).  So, after an energiser it was down to learning about malaria; despite the prevalence of malaria in Mozambique and the effects it has on families and work output, many people still know little about it. As a killer, especially of the under 5s, in Mozambique, this is an important topic.  From the cockiness of “we don’t need training” they all soon realised they do as they could not answer questions!  The test at the end was, it appeared, open book so I’m hoping when I see the results it proved they concentrated.  The training was followed by the long awaited Mueda vs Muagide and Macomia football game.


Salimo gets malaria training underway with an energiser (top) and keeps the class engaged with his enthusiasm (bottom).

Our very own Manuel changed into his refereeing kit (somewhat to my surprise) and with his “slightly” (sarcasm for those of you who don’t know me well enough to know) over judicious use of the whistle got us underway.  A 0-0 draw was reminiscent of watching Accrington Stanley with my little brother years ago, a lot of air kicks (it was hard to explain air kicks in Portuguese) and very little talent, though 10/10 for enthusiasm!

Manuel really did like that whistle.

The following 3 days were a series of community projects, with the 86 students broken into 4 groups.

In Mucojo, the local administrative centre, we cleared the scrub and rubbish from the market and clinic areas, it’s amazing how grim it was and how much better a few days of cleaning makes it:  rats and infections near maternity wards are not good, preventing that can only be a good thing. Next step is to persuade the community that keeping it clean is a good idea.

Once they got into it the boys here had fun with their medical masks:  the only complaint - no meninas (girls).

In Mipande Nema handiman Abacar had the task of marshalling his group of students through a clean-up operation at the school latrines, where the back wall had been washed away in the rains.  Our plan:  to salvage what we could from the ruins (tin roof etc), cover in the holes for safety and sanitation and clear the area and start the construction of new latrines by getting the students to dig the hole.  Abacar’s calm and gentle exterior hides his fierceness and when I arrived there on day one the guys and girls had got through a large amount of work and were working hard, having fun, of course stopping for having their photos taken and enjoying their posing.

As always, the girls do the heavy work. 

 Abacar (crazy shorts) removes some aggression with a hammer. 

In Guludo village, the health post had been damaged in the rains so Dona Amina and her team set about clearing up the mess, scrubbing up the areas used by goats and rebuilding the fences now there is a nice clean area for us to start on the next phase of this project:  getting the health centre in use!   

Nema’s Amina clears up the trash at the health post.

Plenty of meninas on this project.

The biggest project of all was in Naunde, the construction of a shaded waiting area for ladies waiting to give birth and the reconstruction of the biological waste hole that had been destroyed in the rains. Big projects both.  And the community here got really involved too, which really is the point of community service.

The hole grows…….

Although the projects are done for the students, there is still a lot of work for the Nema team and the communities to finish them off well.  It’s also our job now to ensure the local people, with encouragement from the village leadership and the committees for health carry on the good work started by the students:  I’m not sure how we stop the mind-set of it’s ok to just throw rubbish out wherever you feel like, I need to work on the Nema team on that too, but work on them I will (they know what the Lisa cough means now and look sheepish when they have to pick up their trash!)


Arty stuff.

This new mother and her baby girl have come a long way in the past couple of months. At the beginning of June Amina was rushed to hospital in Pemba - a 6 hour ambulance journey - to give birth as she needed a blood transfusion. The day after her problematic labour she was discharged from hospital with a tin of milk formula as she wasn’t producing any breast milk. Things were not looking good for Amina and baby Zoura; Amina was very sick and shaken up following her traumatic experience, and even if there was somewhere nearby to buy milk formula there is no way the family could afford it. Amina, who is around 14 years old, is an orphan and lives with her grandmother. The father of the baby is out of the picture. Luckily, Rema (who looks after the orphaned and vulnerable children and the pregnant women in Naunde village) was looking out for them and it wasn’t long before we managed to find a donor to fund the milk formula for the baby. Lina Stahl has very kindly been sponsoring Zoura through the orphaned and vulnerable children program and it has made all the difference for this little family. The transformation in both mother and baby has been absolutely incredible - a BIG nishikuru (thank you) all the way from Naunde! And a little reminder that you can all donate here:

Web Statistics