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Hi, I’m Shannon from San Francisco, CA and I am a Fellow working with Kiva’s MFI partner, Hluvuku-Adsema, in Mozambique on the southeastern coast of Africa. The country is probably best known for its magnificent beaches, but I will spend most of my time in the equally pretty interior.

After what amounted to 29 hours in flight and two more hours bumping along a dirt highway, I was happy to arrive at Hluvuku’s headquarters in the small town of Bela-Vista. Just south of the capital Maputo, the vila boasts one paved road and is home to about 4,000 residents. At one end of the Rua Principal is a church, grocery store, primary school and the Hluvuku-Adsema office. A ten minute walk to the other end is where I’m staying at the Quinta Mila; a motel on beautifully landscaped grounds run by Sra. Emília Dos Santos, a client of Hluvuku-Adsema and one of Mozambique’s most renowned female entrepreneurs. Hers is my first example that microfinance works, having built her business with the help of successive loans, today she caters to tourists passing through to/from South Africa and Maputo weekenders escaping the smog. She and the staff have taken me in like family; even the guard dogs Lady and Fofo shadow me everywhere (helpful companions when trying to get past other territorial dogs at night).

The Hluvuku-Adsema name holds bilingual significance: ‘Hluvuku’ means development in the predominant Bantu-based Ronga dialect and ‘Adsema’ is an acronym for the Portuguese equivalent of Association of Socio-Economic Development of Matutuíne. The districts served are rural and offer limited infrastructure to people in the throes of rebuilding their communities after a destructive sixteen year civil war and an ongoing battle against the HIV virus. Hluvuku-Adsema helps fill this void.

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On my first day out in the field, I hopped on the back of loan officer Arlindo’s moto to meet with my first client in Salamanga village! Gas is expensive so motorcycles are the way to go. I quickly came to appreciate the hard work of loan officers who traverse miles of unkept, rugged roads to see as many clients as possible in a day to maximize efficiency. But as a passenger I enjoyed taking in the landscape; a vast green savanna on dusty red earth, a mixture of mud/wood and concrete block homes peppering the roadside, and men and women (dressed in vibrant traditonal capulana skirts and lenço headwraps) in constant motion skillfully carrying goods atop their heads, children on their backs, and herding livestock.

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I have to admit that long days of meetings in the sun, trying to converse in a language I haven’t used in years, was initially tiring, but utlimately so rewarding. The people I’ve met are warm, welcoming, and predominantly single mothers who work long days to support several children and their extended families. Limited family funds allowed them to be schooled only through the 5th or 6th grade and, as a result, they speak very little Portuguese – I rely on Arlindo to translate between my Portuguese and their Ronga. While I didn’t initially understand the meaning of their words, their enthusiasm and smiles made it abundantly clear the positive impact this loan has had on their quality of life. And the more people I speak with, the more I see firsthand how even the smallest of loans can and do make a measurable difference.

Até logo! I’m off now to live and work in Boane (two hours northwest) to be closer to the majority of Hluvuku’s entrepreneurial clients and… Internet access por fim!

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