Despite the fact that Mozambique has experienced exceptional economic growth since the signing of the peace accords in 1992 and is currently positioned as one of the world’s top growers, poverty in all its forms remains both exceptionally high and persistent.
Mozambique's development from a post-conflict country to one of Africa's fastest growing economies and becoming an attractive market for foreign direct investment is in many ways a success story. The country has more than doubled its GDP per capita over the past 20 years and significant progress has been made in education, health and infrastructure bearing in mind that the rapid development has occurred from a very low level. In addition, large coal and gas reserves are foreseen to change the development context within the coming 10-15 years. However, Mozambique is still one of the poorest countries in the world (178th place out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, 2014) and the growth is far from equally distributed throughout this big country. The high economic growth combined with improved tax collection has reduced the country’s dependency on aid which has changed the conditions for development in Mozambique as well as the political context around development assistance. Poverty monitoring and programming has taken place within the framework of the national Poverty Reduction Strategy and the context of its particular aid architecture. This process has revealed a tendency to rely rather heavily on quantitative data, in the form of national surveys and other such similar studies commissioned by various development actors. Given that poverty is considered to be multidimensional, dynamic as well as relational, such quantitative studies – by their very nature – do not necessarily capture all the various dimensions of poverty which may be considered relevant to the effective monitoring, design and implementation of developmental policies, strategies and programmes. In this context, therefore, it has been reasoned that informed qualitative studies and analysis not only complement but also enhance the value of quantitative data currently being utilised by contributing to a more holistic and multidimensional understanding of poverty.
As a result, and with this intention in mind, the Swedish Embassy in Maputo initiated a longitudinal study on poverty and development in Mozambique during 2011. The ‘Niassa Reality Checks’, as the study has now become known, runs over a period of five years and departs from the very notion that poverty is multidimensional, perception based and both resource centred as well as relational. The specific objectives of which are to improve knowledge and understanding of poverty and wellbeing in Mozambique, stimulate public discussion, as well as to provide an alternative and complementary method through which poverty and the impacts of development may be perceived of, monitored and approached, by taking into consideration reflection ‘from the bottom’ as articulated by people and communities. The project itself consists of a series of five reports, an inception report, a baseline and three subsequent annual reports, each departing from a different thematic area informed by Sweden’s strategic focus as set out in the current cooperation strategy (governance, agriculture and entrepreneurship). The project is being carried out by the consultancy firm ORGUT in collaboration with the Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI) and COWI Consult, whom have recently produced the output for year four, with a specific focus on entrepreneurship. Reality Check’s for the final year (5) is planned to take place in the second half of 2015. The studies for year one (baseline), two (governance) and three (agriculture, climate change and employment) have also been completed and published.
The specific studies all attempt to combine qualitative information and quantitative data as a means to measure changes over a five year period in three districts (Cuamba, Lago and Majune) of Niassa.