In the small village of Nhamwerera off the main road to Chimoio, Mozambique, a group of farmers, mostly women, sit on plastic chairs under a roof of palm fronds facing a wide chalkboard. Amélia Francisco confidently walks up with a piece of chalk and writes her name.
She then continues with simple addition, goes on to explain the importance of infant nutrition and shows off a soy recipe she developed that tastes like a sweet smoothie. Two years ago, Amélia could not write her name. She is in her 30s.
“Soy is not only to sell, it can also be eaten at home,” Amelia says, reviewing the soy recipes she has developed as a community nutrition leader teaching mothers to make porridge, adopt sanitation skills and prep food. She holds her classes at the Adult Literacy and Numeracy center in the village.
Nutrition classes are only one of the education opportunities at the Nhamwerera center. As Amélia knows, the center, which is supported by NCBA CLUSA’s PROMAC project with funds from the Government of Norway, also teaches adult literacy and numeracy to smallholder farmers, many of them women.
Many of the women in the class are also part of the PROMAC lead farmer training program, learning to use conservation agriculture techniques in their fields. But as they get a higher yield from their crops (on average 60 percent higher), the holistic support from PROMAC means they won’t lose these gains at the market because they can’t read scales or keep records. These adult education classes have made them better farmers, caregivers and, ultimately, businesswomen.
“We can now control our kid’s education. I can see if they went to school, it they wrote in their notebook that day, and I now understand the report card,” said Elisa Pulseira, a mother of six who attends another Adult Literacy and Numeracy center student up the road. But in addition to keeping an eye out for her kids, Elisa has said she has gotten more confident with business. “I can read the scale and give change. I know how to handle the money.”
Literacy is also affecting the community’s health. Maria Mbirimpinga, another adult student, said that she can now read the prescriptions and medication for her children when they get sick and follow the instructions more easily.
At the center in Nhamwerera, 35 people come three times a week for classes in literacy, basic numeracy, nutrition, sanitation and other topics. The most difficult part isn’t learning the new techniques and farming; it’s learning to pronounce Portuguese for interacting in the market, according to one student.
Countrywide in Mozambique, there are 15,000 adult literacy and numeracy students as part of the PROMAC program. And with NCBA CLUSA’s 20 years of work in Mozambique, over 50,000 people have graduated from the centers, with the ability to continue on to secondary school.
The PROMAC project has trained more than 30,000 people in conservation agriculture to date, but without the support of other literacy and numeracy training those gains in yields would not necessarily translate to gains in income or empowerment. For smallholder farmers, and especially rural women, training and education must come in all forms, in the field and for the market. And when those skills are learned, they are spread to other aspects of the community in health and the value of children’s education, building a more resilient community from farm to home.