(Summer ’13) MATI

MATI: MIT/UEM Activating Transformative Initiatives

The word “mati”  means water in a local Bantu language spoken in our team’s fieldwork area.

Our team of eight masters students and one professor from  MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning will be working in KaTembe, a peri-urban district in Mozambique’s capital of Maputo.  We are working with with a local youth group and architecture students to complete a household and neighborhood survey on basic services and to test new methodologies for determining local affordability of water.  We will also work together with our Mozambican partners on an advocacy strategy for how to locally mobilize data collected to affect desired changes and improvements in water and sanitation systems in particular.  Check back for updates! 

Eighth Blog- September 6, 2013: On the importance of context

By Tania Alam, MCP2

I am writing this blog entry from the comfort of my seat in Hayden Library at MIT. This makes me reflect on my parcours so far. I was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. For those who don’t know it, it is a 10,452 km2 (4035.5mi²) inhabited by 4.000.000 residents. In other words, it is a dot on the map. It is almost nonexistent. It is an “un-important” place. I graduated from high school in 2005, from college in 2011, worked for a year in Beirut and ended up at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning of MIT in 2013. There are 8743 Km (5430 Mi) between Beirut and Boston. It is just now that I realize how fortunate I was to get the opportunity to come to MIT for graduate school. I also travelled twice this year to Colombia and Mozambique. Both these travels were part of “traveling” workshops where we were intended to study/ analyze/ understand the context in order to better intervene or make proposals for these places. I always was aware that these were great opportunities, but I never realized as much as I do now how privileged I am. I could very well have been born in a slum of Beirut or of Maputo, for that matter. I did not fully realize how fortunate I was before I lived in another context. But, I just had the luxury to leave, I had a choice, whereas others don’t. Granted, we did not live in the slums of Maputo, we actually stayed in a hostel where there is electricity, running hot water and proper bathrooms. But, this in itself, in the context of Maputo, is a luxury. I remember how difficult it was to adapt to it at the beginning. Walking for 40 minutes to get to the ferry, waiting up to an hour for the ferry (or the ferry employee to come) to be able to cross to Maputo, walking for another 30 minutes to get to the Universidad Eduardo Mondlane. And back. I can’t recall the number of times I was thinking to myself: why do this? Why go through that… discomfort? The answer is now obvious: because it is necessary. Because it makes me realize how lucky, fortunate, privileged I am. Because it is important to understand “how the other half lives”. Because it is important for my personal and professional development. Because it is a life changing experience. Because I aspire to be a planner, a socially conscious planner at the service of the public. I consider that my biggest contributions in my professional life, my potential, have to go to the service of the public and to the public service. I believe that to be a successful practitioner, one must be able to at least understand, empathize with, if not live the reality of others. Had I not lived in KaTembe, had I not been in this context, I cannot pretend that I would have known how difficult it is to commute from KaTembe to Maputo, or how annoying it is not to have permanent access to water, or how painful it is to constantly have my feet in the sand because roads are not paved, or how unsanitary it is to use a latrine. It is essential, if one wants to intervene or propose policy, potential solutions to local problems etc, to know the context. I do not only mean studying it, but actually staying in it, and experiencing the way of life of other people. And then, there’s the challenge of trying to live as closely as possible to how people live to appreciate some of the difficulties and challenges that they go through. Of course, this appears to be wishful thinking as there are all sorts of considerations to be taken into account such as politics, safety, cost, transportation, feasibility etc. But I consider it to be my job, my duty to challenge the status-quo and what seems to be the norm.

Seventh Blog- August 29, 2013: Reflections on working in a new country

By Fizzah Sajjad, MCP2

As our time in Mozambique comes to an end, I’ve been thinking about this past month. Starting from getting accustomed to the changing pace of life to learning how to navigate in a new city; from waiting for an hour to take the ferry from Maputo to KaTembe to being greeted by the hustle and bustle of vans and buses mixed with the smell of fish being sold at the market; from walking the 45 minute walk to our residence on unpaved roads while watching large cars pass by, and listening to music blasting from houses in the area; from seeing women walk long distances to reach the water point, and walk back with 20-25 liter jerry cans on their heads, from learning about the new developments planned for this part of the city to hearing people voice their concerns about those developments. Our month here has allowed us to begin to understand life here in a way that we absolutely could not have had we simply read about Maputo city and KaTembe, and the water and sanitation challenges in the area.

Personally, I found our most rewarding days to be the ones we spent mapping and surveying with our youth partners and students from UEM. These exercises allowed us to get to get to know our partners better despite the language difficulties, they allowed us to see parts of KaTembe that one can easily miss when just using main roads, and they allowed us to initiate relationships with people living here (mostly by being laughed at as a result of our broken Portuguese and memorized Ronga phrases!). We were also able to get a sense of the neighborhood structures by observing and walking through them. KaTembe’s land area makes up roughly 45% of Maputo’s land area but the density is very low (119 people/km2) in comparison to other districts (20,000 people/km2).1 Here, most of the houses are grouped in clusters close to agricultural land, and homes are built with a combination of reeds, tin, mud, while the more upscale ones with cement blocks. In many of the houses we surveyed, people identified water inadequacy as one of their biggest problem.

Yet, my biggest takeaway from this past month is focused on what it means to work in ‘international development’ – in a country that is not one’s own. Having been born and raised in Pakistan, I have always seen and met people who were coming in from outside but have never been the outsider myself. I remember valuing those ‘outsiders’ who did not simply ‘fly-in and fly-out,’ but expressed interest in returning and working there in the long run because it showed that they genuinely cared and were invested in the people. I also valued those who made an effort to develop personal relationships with us, and not just with other ex-pats in the region. The latter often remained restricted to the ‘fancy’ parts of town, and never got to experience and understand life in the country as most people living there do. Further, I found it easy to tell who respected the way of life and empathized with the constraints faced by residents on a daily basis: these were the people who were not simply counting days to get back home, and who were not endlessly complaining about the way things happened. We understood, and dealt with those problems on a daily basis and did not need to feel worse about those problems and ourselves, but to actively think about constructive alternatives. The people who made a difference were the ones who found the space to be satisfied and content in the new environment, were interested in sharing their knowledge/skills, and in learning from people in the country as well.

Being an ‘outsider’ in Mozambique has shown me that it is, in fact, not easy to be in a place different from the places we are used to, to learn how the system works, and to be away from family and friends. However, this is particularly why it is important to be clear about reasons for wanting to do such work and setting expectations beforehand. Otherwise we can end up alienating those who we would like to work with, and not be educated ourselves.

For this reason, I am happy that Professor Carolini had us stay in KaTembe for a month, close to the community we are working in, as opposed to in Maputo which would have certainly been a more comfortable option for us. I am happy that she has a long-term commitment to the people here as she has been coming here for the past 5 years and intends to keep coming back. I hope that we were able to show respect and empathy, and I hope that we are able to build on and maintain the relationships we have developed over this time. We’ve had weekly reflection sessions during this month, and I hope that each one of us on this trip, as well as those interested in this type of work, remember to critically reflect on our behavior when in a new setting. Lastly, though, I hope we continue to ask why such stark inequalities exist in the first place, what is happening beneath the surface, and what our roles are in the current system.

1 Carolini, Gabriella. (2011) “Framing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Needs Among Female-Headed Households in Periurban Maputo, Mozambique.”

Sixth Blog- August 23, 2013: Hoyo Women

By Sarah Dimson, MCP2

On Friday, August 16th our team attended a sub-district community meeting in KaTembe. We were invited to the meeting by Doña Mia, Secretary of the Guachene Bairro (sub-district) in KaTembe. The meeting aimed to address issues of peace and security in the neighborhood, but it also included some reflection on the current political unrest in other regions of Mozambique where registrations are occurring for the upcoming 2013 and 2014 municipal and national elections, respectively. Our team arrived at the meeting to a crowd of approximately 200 men, women, and youth who, in unison, were chanting “Hoyo! Guachene!” (Power to Guachene) “Hoyo! Guachene!” (Strength to Guachene). The vociferous calls for peace, power and strength were the only words translated to me; for the next two hours I continued to listen, without much comprehension, to the Ronga and Portuguese-spoken, and observe. What struck me most was palpable power and strength I witnessed in the women of Guachene.

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First, I observed power in magnitude – more than half of the attendees were women of various ages. Secondly, I discerned power in leadership – Doña Mia led the meeting, spoke volubly with an air of confidence and conviction that seemingly arrested the attention of the audience. Doña Mia was tough and candid when she responded to the most contentious issue of the day (resettlement for sake of development – see Sara Hess’ Blog No.3); she also directed the removal of a heckler; and she found a way to steer the debates back to Hoyo! Guachene!

Further, I witnessed strength in an aged, stout woman – when another troublesome attendee repeatedly interrupted the meeting she grabbed him by the arm and forcibly escorted him out of the meeting. There were other displays of what I perceived as strength in a “society [that is] still predominately marked by a system of patriarchy” when women from the community delivered boisterous messages about rights and due process. (Raimundo, I. UEM. online).

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By the end of the meeting my mind’s eye believed that women in Mozambique may be a dominating force in the public sphere, but I wanted some validation knowing that gender issues, particularly in this region of Africa, are complicated socio-political matters. So, during our walk from the community meeting to our KaTembe home (I concur w/ Chris per Blog No.2 – we walk a lot!) I asked Professor Carolini about Mozambican women in public service. How are women in Mozambique perceived? What are the constraints and opportunities for women who aspire to hold leadership positions in public office? Did she feel or witness the sense of power and strength that I observed in the women of Guachene?

We spoke about The Organizaçao de Mulheres de Mozambique (Organization of Mozambican Women, or OMM), which was established by FRELIMO, the leading political party, in 1973 (near the end of the Mozambique liberation war) in order to promote women’s rights and implement capacity building programs for women. I did some quick internet research and learned that while OMM has had some marked influence over the last 40 years, traditional and colonial attitudes continue to view women as subordinate members of society.

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While this storyline of female inferiority is an issue across countries around the world, what I witnessed at the Guachene meeting gave me hope that the narrative in Mozambique might be different. I suppose this hope likely comes from a personal desire to see more African women out in front – in great magnitude – and my own aspiration to be a leader of sorts in Mozambique’s neighbor to the north, Tanzania. Since I find hope in others, I asked myself: Who are some women that can I look to for examples of humble power, resolute leadership and unequivocal strength?

In reflecting (a core component of our practica’s learning model) on this question and the meeting, I thought about the names of seminal women around the world – those who hold high-ranking positions in public service and those who get up out of their proverbial seats of comfort, when no one else – male or female – will do so.

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Doña Mia speaking with her hand up

Some influential African women that immediately came to mind were Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state; Malawian President Joyce Banda; and Tanzanian Minister and former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Dr. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka. I also thought of the strides that Hillary Clinton has made in the U.S. and I pondered on her recent announcement that she aims to focus, globally, on women’s empowerment issues over the next few years. I also thought of other women from the Middle East and South Asia, like Manal al-Sharif from Saudi Arabia and Malala Yousfzai from Pakistan who, similar to the women at the Guachene community meeting, had the courage to stand up in patriarchal milieux.

I wasn’t the only one on our team who took note of the number of women at the meeting, their actions and the significance of both. I am amazed at our collective ability to perceive and question the issues of gender, as we witnessed them, given the language barrier. I believe that there are some things, like equality, liberty and justice that ought to be blind to gender. But, in digging just a little deeper, I realized women in Guachene, like many from around the world, have to keep leading, standing and shouting…Hoyo! Hoyo!

Fifth Blog- August 20, 2013: Team MATI

By Toral Patel, MCP2

Working as a team has been integral to the MATI experience. A group dynamic has emerged from working, living, eating and exploring Maputo together over the past few weeks. The nine of us have grown accustomed to each other’s personalities, preferences, and quirks, slowly perfecting our ability to function as a group. Despite minor bumps along the way, we have learned to harmonize our movements and energies in shared living quarters; over multi-mile treks and precarious ferry rides; and in a medley of meeting rooms, waiting rooms, and classrooms.

Our MIT group is also part of a larger team here – one that includes our student counterparts at the University Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) and the local youths from KaTembe. Learning to navigate cultural differences has not been easy, what with our fledgling Portuguese abilities and a small but conspicuous age gap. Moreover, we have not been able to spend as much time with the larger team due to scheduling constraints and other unforeseen obstacles. Even so, a shared commitment to the work at hand has helped to melt barriers and build a strong foundation for teamwork.

This came through during the past weekend, as we embarked on a community mapping exercise, our first truly joint venture as the larger team. One of our tasks this month is to create a map of quarteiroes (quarters) in one of KaTembe’s bairros (neighborhood), Guachene. This knowledge exists informally – recounted via landmarks like houses or the school, most often by Chefes de Quarteiroes (Chiefs of the Quarters) and community elders – and has not been recorded in a visual representation. Traditionally, each Chefe is responsible for about 50 families. Due to population growth in recent years, it is estimated that this number has increased to between 90 and 200 families. In view of this rapid growth and imminent construction of the bridge, the Secretary of the Bairro suggested that a map of existing boundaries would be useful in planning for water and sanitation, along with various other basic services.

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mapping in the field (L to R: Prof Gabriella Carolini from MIT, Milton from KaTembe, Priscilla from UEM)

Upon finding that our digital compasses were dysfunctional in the field, the MIT team pored over methods of plotting and mapping earlier in the week. We emerged with a simple technique using printed aerial maps and photographs. Thus equipped, we set forth with our UEM and local partners in teams of five on Saturday morning. The task seemed simple enough: we would ask the Chefes and elders where the quarteirao limits lay, then walk along the edges while marking them on our maps and documenting with photos. Despite initial confusion and fumbling, my teammates and I quickly settled into roles that suited our strengths and capacities. Milton, our KaTembe youth partner, led us through the quarteiroes, asking locals for confirmation of quarter limits and calling Chefes on his mobile for guidance. Gabriella transcribed the spatial information onto the maps, with the UEM students’ supervision. Sarah and I, the MIT students, documented the journey with photographs of landmarks, nodes, and edges.

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sketching boundaries (The 3 guys are from KaTembe; standing in the back is Sara Dimson from MIT)

When we reconvened with the other two groups to compile the acquired information onto a large map, a lengthy debate among the KaTembe youths and UEM students emerged over ambiguous boundary information. The MIT students, not having communicated directly with the Chefes and elders, watched the lively exchange. It was then that I realized that this was more than just “field work.” The mapping exercise had truly become a collaborative process of knowledge production, which is critical to advocacy planning. The MATI practicum is very much geared to this end. It is important that our local partners take ownership in this process, so that the collected data can serve the community long after we are gone. While the MIT students were able to contribute technical capacity and resources, the UEM students and local partners were essential in accurately harvesting and capturing local knowledge. They will be similarly crucial in mobilizing this knowledge in the months and years ahead.

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compiling boundaries.. (mix of MIT students, UEM students, and KaTembe youth)

In the nearer future, working effectively as a team will remain crucial as we undertake our population survey and household interviews in Guachene. While the MIT students have dismantled and reformed the survey tool, our partners’ familiarity with the local culture and languages will be crucial to making the questions relevant, if not comprehensible. While there may be some discomfort as we learn to work together, it is only in collaboration with the local community that our advocacy planning efforts can take life.

Fourth Blog- August 15, 2013: Connecting planning in the U.S. to international development

By Nene Igietseme, MCP2

I never would have thought I would be exploring international development. My family is Nigerian, but I have lived and grown up in the United States all my life. With it as my frame of reference, I eventually connected the values and experiences I gained growing up to doing urban economic and youth development in the U.S. As the daughter of immigrants, however, I quickly connected the struggles of low-income people in urban centers – particularly in Boston – to the struggles of people in developing countries. I don’t think it’s a comparison that people like to make – the U.S. is a developed country with a GDP that far surpasses that of most other nations – developing or not. People are not thinking about access to clean water in Boston in the way that they are thinking about access to clean water in KaTembe. However, I think the realities are somewhat parallel – unemployment; lack of basic needs, whether it’s water, housing, or education; poor health outcomes; a knowledge of the precariousness with which you exist in society and the everyday struggle of doing what you must for your family’s survival. I would also argue that the causes of these realities are somewhat parallel – the realities of disinvestment and exploitations collide and are reinforced by a global-local system of resource allocation that prioritizes accumulation of capital over meeting people’s needs.

There are also parallels in how community development and international development are framed. Most times there’s a problem acknowledged that has no apparent cause. “We are going to study affordability in water and sanitation.” Why aren’t we asking why, on a continent as natural resource rich as African are there such water and sanitation access, affordability, and infrastructure issues? Or, the people experiencing the trouble are blamed – governance in Africa, a culture of poverty, laziness, greed, or corruption. While the specifics may be different in the international sphere versus within a U.S. city, I think the causes and potential solutions are the same. We must figure out a different system of global resource distribution. The fake free market that governs the way capital is invested and used to sway political decisions globally and locally is one of the only reasons why I am here in KaTembe. This is in most ways why I decided to go to Mozambique for this water and sanitation practicum. My major questions were how do we frame water and sanitation issues in a resource scarce environment. Do we frame it as a local problem, with a local solution? The way economic development solutions often get framed in Boston. Not to say that there is no agency. The work that people do to figure out how to get the resources they need and the way that we can contribute to that fight here in KaTembe is important. However, I think it’s incomplete.

It makes me think of typical advice given to international development students and urban development student alike: to listen, learn from the community, work with not for, them. While there is a local context that perhaps needs to be understood, I think the mantra somewhat distances us from truly considering what impedes economic development. Fundamentally, isn’t what we look for all the same: security, intimacy, love, basic needs, and joy? Often what is missing is a firm understanding of how these things play out in our own lives and how that relates to other’s people’s lives. How is our sense of security made more firm because other people have to feel unsafe? Or, what do I have in my life that makes me feel safe and how can other people get them? I have a community, a family, water and shelter – what has enabled the United States to give me these things that Nigeria could not offer my parents? I think the discourse of development belies the deliberate ignorance of the ramifications of capitalism and neo-liberalism.

I believe the world can change. I have to believe it in order to move and breathe, to get up and work every morning. I believe we can come up with a way to distribute resources more equitably, and sustainably. I believe that we can love and take care of each other better than we do now. I believe that it is hard and it is going to be hard. I think it will be the hardest thing human kind has ever done to shift to this world and to maintain this world. But I believe it is possible. I have to. I also believe that we have to fight for it. I believe that with every waking, breathing, living, and loving moment, we have to fight for the world we believe is possible or else it definitely won’t be possible. If we, as planners particularly, aren’t fighting for this world, then how will it happen? I will never believe that it is good enough to just help people, or help people get by or manage. I think that whether we are starting businesses, doing long term strategic planning, or playing with children for the rest of our lives, if we aren’t thinking critically, honest, openly, and out loud about how this work is working towards that world, then we are doing the world a grave disservice. I think it is worth fighting for – a different socio-political-economic system. I think the one we have is very painful and dire for so many people. It’s why we still have to have a practicum like MATI.

Third Blog- August 13, 2013: The Bridge To…?

By Sara Hess, MCP2

Last week, Chris’ post described the accessibility challenges posed by the chaotic and sporadic ferry connection between KaTembe, MATI’s temporary home, and the Cidade de Cimento, Maputo’s city center. This week we learned more about plans for a potential solution to this problem—a bridge, scheduled for construction over the next three years. Coincidentally, the bridge is also designed to address KaTembe’s need for potable water, a primary theme of the MATI course.

On Friday, Professor Carolini took us to the KaTembe District Office where we met with Engineer Nhone who is in charge of managing public infrastructure in the area, including water and sanitation infrastructure. In addition to providing us with a general overview of local water and sanitation issues, Nhone also introduced us to current plans to build a bridge connecting KaTembe with mainland Maputo.

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The MIT MATI team near the KaTembe District Office, in front of KaTembe’s one water tank

Financed by a loan from a Chinese bank, the bridge is part of a more extensive national infrastructure plan whose objective is to connect the country from north to south. The bridge will span across the bay traveling a total distance of 3 km and reaching a height of 57 meters (the equivalent of a 33 story building) in order to accommodate shipping activity in the bay below.

In addition to connecting telecommunication cables and gas lines from one side of the bay to the other, the bridge infrastructure will also include water pipes which Nhone explained would transport water from Maputo to KaTembe, ultimately allowing KaTembe to retain its current water supply in reserve. Funding to repay the loan for the bridge is supposed to come through real estate development in KaTembe and tolls.

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A map of future urbanization in KaTembe… Is this the future?

As planners, we had a lot of questions about this project; and as planners in the DUSP tradition we were particularly concerned with how the bridge would impact current KaTembe residents and whether or not they had the opportunity to participate in the planning process. We had many questions for Nhone about relocation, how current residents would benefit from the influx of resources piped through the bridge infrastructure, and community participation in the planning process. We learned that more than 1,000 families would be displaced. There are no plans to connect current homes with the expanding water, gas, and electricity coverage brought by the bridge, only new developments. In light of this, we were left to wonder about the reality of community participation in creating the vision of KaTembe we were shown

Later in the evening, we were able to discuss the bridge project further over a team building dinner with our local partners at UEM (Universidade de Eduardo Mondlane). They expressed their concerns about the financing for the bridge. Would a toll be a viable form of cost recovery? Or would it only create more accessibility challenges for low-income KaTembe residents that now take the ferry which costs only 5 meticais one way (the equivalent of 17 cents)? Was a plan to pipe water from Maputo to KaTembe reasonable? Some of our local partners indicated that Maputo was already beginning to suffer a water shortage… Finally, our partners expressed doubts that the bridge project would actually manifest. There have been several proposals to build a bridge between KaTembe and Maputo over the last 20 years, none of which have actually resulted in a bridge.

Perhaps the biggest question we were left with at the end of our discussion was who the bridge is created to serve as it is currently planned? Will it benefit KaTembe residents by easing their commute and providing a new source of water and other utilities? Will the bridge benefit all Mozambicans by forming part of an improved national highway network? Or is it Chinese investors and those that can afford high-end real estate that will profit the most?

In light of these questions, it occurred to me that our work here could become a valuable resource for the community in the face of major development. By documenting water and sanitation infrastructure in KaTembe before the bridge we are creating the baseline data needed to study the future impact of the bridge on water and sanitation. This week we will begin household surveys which we’re editing in light of our discussion with Nhone and others. It’s my hope that KaTembe residents will be able to use our data to ensure that new transportation infrastructure doesn’t leave them stranded without suitable access to potable water.

Second Blog- August 8, 2013: The Maputo Hustle

By Chris Rhie, MCP2/MSRED

As the sun sets, a cacophony erupts. Men shout as they throw ropes ashore, their voices accompanied by the sounds of squealing rubber and creaking metal. A dozen engines ignite as the smell of petroleum fills the air. The rusty ferryboat’s metal ramp is lowered with a clang, immediately followed by the rumbling of the first pickup truck, already barreling down the length of the dock. Passengers clamber over railings and file into the narrow spaces alongside the exiting vehicles. Some women deftly balance large bundles of produce on top of their heads, occasionally checking their loads with a light touch. It’s only a few minutes before the last minivan has disembarked, then it is time for us to hand over our tickets and wedge onto a stiff bench. The boat won’t be leaving for another half hour, but there’s a long walk ahead and the chance to sit down is a welcome reprieve.

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Such is the most colorful part of our two hour commute home from the Cidade Cimento, or Cement City, as Maputo’s central business district is called. Within the Cidade Cimento are 35-story apartment buildings, shopping malls, government ministries, and the University of Eduardo Mondlane (one of our MATI partners). In our first week, we have ventured over the Bay of Maputo almost every day for meetings, notarization of our travel documents, and grocery shopping. The Cidade Cimento is abuzz with city life, a familiar setting for a group of urban planners.

Meanwhile, life in KaTembe is a bit slower. The boat ride is only ten minutes, but the district is worlds apart. The most immediate indication that you have left the Cidade Cimento is the roads – in KaTembe, they are unpaved and riddled with ruts and holes. A couple of times this week, we managed to arrange a ride in a pickup truck. Those were slow and bumpy affairs, to say the least.

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But usually we walk. And walk. And walk. It’s two miles from the ferry terminal to the backpacker’s hostel that we call home. That’s about the same distance that I travel from my Somerville apartment to MIT, but I almost always ride a bicycle or take a bus to campus. That’s not an option here. In the morning, the forty minute walk is a great way to start the day; I rather enjoy the exercise and time for contemplation. If we’re lucky, the lines for the daytime barquinhos are short, and we can get to the other side of the bay in about an hour. It’s another half hour walk to the university.

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It’s the return journey that is particularly taxing. The barquinhos stop running at dusk and the large ferryboat only departs once an hour – we have come to expect long waits. Loaded up with as many groceries as we can handle, our footsteps are notably heavier. And then there’s the matter of walking in the dark. It’s winter in Mozambique and sunset occurs before 6pm. Part of the road home is lit by streetlights, but there are long stretches in the dark. We are in good spirits, but the journey is physically and mentally exhausting.

Four hours of the day have been spent on the commute alone; on our busiest days, we spend an equivalent amount of time in meetings and appointments, and are completely sapped of energy upon returning home. It is a humbling lesson. What about the people who commute to full time jobs? Additionally, while there is a market and a few stores in KaTembe, most services are located within the Cidade Cimento, and it is difficult to imagine that anyone could live in KaTembe without making the exhausting journey on a regular basis. Although anyone can glance at a map and observe the physical separation formed by the Bay of Maputo, the experience of traveling between one side and the other has given us a personal appreciation for what it means in human terms.

Although our life in KaTembe is far from typical – we have indoor plumbing, reliable electricity, and waterfront views – even a cushy living arrangement has not been particularly easy, and we have the blisters and stubbed toes to prove it. Living in this underserved district has given us a deeper understanding for what it means to have access, and hopefully this experience will enable us to be more effective as researchers and advocates for water and sanitation services. I have not yet tried to lift a 25-liter jerry can filled with water, but surely it is heavier than a messenger bag filled with groceries.

First Blog- July 13, 2013: Painting a Preview of our Work in KaTembe

By Laura Martin, MCP2

I am the fortunate student to arrive in Maputo earlier than the rest of our group.  The other seven students will arrive August 1, while I came to Maputo in mid-June to do masters thesis research before the class.  So with this blog, I’d like to paint a picture of our project for August, especially in light of some of the things I’ve learned about Maputo in the past month.  I’ll start with broad paint strokes of our project’s landscape (the site- KaTembe), then pencil in some people in the foreground (our partners), next sketch in some definition about parts of their lives (our topic- water and sanitation), and finally add some color (my anticipated opportunities and challenges with the project).

Our site- KaTembe

Right now I am living in central Maputo, which became known as the “cement city” during Mozambique’s colonial era.  I imagine that once I am living in KaTembe in August with the class and Professor Carolini, my surroundings will be very different than walking around many of the gridded, tree-lined streets in the “cement city.”  KaTembe is a district of Maputo, which is across a bay, since Maputo is in the southern part of Mozambique’s coastline.  Right now, the easiest way to get from central Maputo to KaTembe is by a ferry or boat.  When I mention KaTembe to people here in central Maputo, the person often has an immediate change in their tone and facial expression, looking dreamy-eyed as they say something such as, “Oh, KaTembe, it is so nice there.  Have you been there yet?  You must go.”  From what I’ve picked up, KaTembe has a reputation of having a slower pace of life with more spaciousness and access to natural surroundings.

Yet depending on how development goes, KaTembe could have a different reputation in 10 years.  Since I arrived, news articles have reported that the first shipments of building materials from China have arrived for a bridge that is planned to be built across 3 km of Maputo’s bay, connecting KaTembe with the rest of the city.  The bridge is being financed by a loan from the Chinese government, which will be paid off with housing sales in KaTembe.  Not only will this bridge bring more cars into KaTembe, but the bridge will bring more resources into this currently more rural district.  The question for us urban planners then is:  What will this inflow of people and money mean for the more vulnerable communities in KaTembe?

Our partners- community members in KaTembe and university students from central Maputo

Our project has two sets of partners: (1) community members in KaTembe, and (2) university students from central Maputo.  The MIT and local university students plan to work with community members in the five bairros (or neighborhoods) in KaTembe.  Since there is not good existing data on the public services in their neighborhoods (ex- where the good and bad water pumps are), we want to work with local stakeholders to do a “needs and assets assessment” of their basic services.  We hope to help empower community members with training in a skill set that will help them advocate for themselves when facing the upcoming changes to KaTembe.  With data on what basic services are existing and lacking for those currently living in KaTembe, the hope is that residents and local stakeholders (like the district government) can be an active part of the change that will likely happen in KaTembe, making sure that the inflow of resources to KaTembe benefits them as well as newer residents that will surely arrive.

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Map of some public resources in KaTembe from Professor Carolini’s previous work in the district.  We will be working to establish a more thorough, constantly updated database by training local stakeholders how to do this type of neighborhood survey.

(view larger map) https://www.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=215512424755542501452.0004d9658701ac597a726&t=h&ll=-26.00187,32.543221&spn=0.148114,0.219727&z=12&source=embed

Our topic- water and sanitation

Growing up in the United States, I never questioned when I woke up in the morning whether I could get safe water… whenever I wanted…. wherever I was… at an essentially non-existent price (at least to a child who didn’t see the water bill).

Yet for many waking up in Mozambique, this is not the case.  I hear stories of women here who wake up at 4 or 5 am, so they can get water for the day for their family, because water does not always freely flow from a tap in their home.  But this is not the case for everyone in Maputo, because living in the “cement city,” water DOES come out of the tap whenever I want.  Thus, our class hopes to look at the feasibility and affordability of providing such basic services for those currently living in KaTembe who do not have the basic services I currently have in the central “cement city.”  What are the bottlenecks preventing services there?  How is sanitation impacted? These are some of the questions we hope to address in our work.

Anticipated opportunities and challenges

I met some of the local university students who we will be working with.  I feel excited to be working with them on this project, especially because I find that cultural exchange can bring extra energy and excitement to a partnership.  After hanging out in the students’ dorm for an hour, I left with tired cheeks from smiling the entire time. They were eager to play American songs on the guitar for me as we asked each other about our perceptions (and misperceptions) of each other’s countries.

A challenge I anticipate is promoting “advocacy planning” in a country with nascent civil society organizations since post-colonial independence and post-civil wars.  As I have been working on my thesis research here, talking with people working on urban planning and international development projects, I have found that people in communities here often do not have a strong voice or strong local organizations with a history of coming together to promote change.  Thus, I wonder how much the idea of our project will be “foreign” or new in the community where we will be working.  This could be exciting as we get to exchange ideas and perspectives, but it could also be difficult as we eager American students will need to be patient in understanding our community partners’ background and perspective.  This is part of the reason I am so thankful that we also have partnership with local university students, because I think they will be an invaluable help in bridging an understanding between our group from MIT and the people in KaTembe.

Until August- até logo (see you later in Portuguese)!