Amidst the decaying ruins of an abandoned offshore trading post off the coast of northern Mozambique, Princess Zahra Aga Khan today recognised the determination of disadvantaged littoral communities and their womenfolk, in particular, to extricate themselves from inherited and seasonal cycles of poverty. An administrative centre dating back to the Portuguese settlement in the 17th century, this almost forgotten town, is one of a number of rural locales visited by Princess Zahra in the course of a two-day visit to Mozambique.
Princess Zahra was reviewing a series of successful beginnings to innovative development initiatives launched by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), including projects in some of the country's poorest districts. From a low-cost fish-processing centre conceived and managed by women on Ibo Island, to groundnut seed multiplication, sesame and sunflower oil pressing, chicken farming and livestock production in villages along the north coast, the AKDN's Coastal Rural Support Programme (CRSP) has found ways to stimulate entrepreneurship in ways that simultaneously speed income growth, develop skills and improve the resource base.
"Our experience of introducing new agricultural techniques, varying forms of microcredit and support for skills development, especially for women, has proven successful here as in many other rural areas where the AKDN contributes to the revitalisation of the local economy and enterprise," said Princess Zahra. She was speaking after presenting a group of fishermen on the Island with a boat loaned by CRSP as part of an effort to increase fishing capacity.
Earlier Princess Zahra visited a number of villages in the Province's Quissanga District including Maua, where she witnessed livestock distribution to women entrepreneurs, Nivico, where she reviewed the implementation of new seed technologies, and Bilbiza, where CRSP is supporting teacher training for women. Early indicators reflect the success of the Programme in its two years of operation to date. Agricultural incomes are expected to increase 85% in the current year. Fishery production increased 60% in the two pilot groups with whom the Programme has worked. Pilot livestock production and management schemes are being replicated. New prospects have been found for the commercialisation of agricultural and fisheries products. Two primary schools and an agricultural training school have benefited from rehabilitation.
In meetings with field staff, Princess Zahra reviewed new directions for the coming year. These included expansion and consolidation of village development organisations, the promotion of primary health care, education campaigns related to HIV/AIDS and malaria, improvement of maternal health and childhood nutrition and vaccination and preventive health campaigns.
Yesterday, Princess Zahra met with Mozambique's Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi and Education Minister Alcido Eduardo Nguenha and visited a 23-hectare site in the city of Matola on which the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) will build a "centre of excellence." As with other similar campuses under development in Africa and Asia, the school at Matola will be designed by local and international architects of standing. It will integrate state-of-the art resources such as science and language laboratories, libraries, and an information technology centre into a fully networked, Internet-enabled environment. A landscaped setting will accommodate a swimming pool and indoor and outdoor sports facilities. Admission will be on merit, with a provision for assistance to qualifying students with financial constraints. In addition to the national curriculum, the school will eventually offer a programme leading to the International Baccalaureate. Computer education, language skills and physical education will be compulsory elements in the curriculum.
AKES plans similar centres of excellence in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, the Kyrgyz Republic, Madagascar, Tajikistan, Tanzania and Uganda. Each site will have professional development centres connected with the Aga Khan University's Institute for Educational Development (IED), established in collaboration with AKDN educational institutions and programmes. These ventures include the Aga Khan University, with campuses in Asia, Africa and Europe, the University of Central Asia, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture's humanities project, its music initiative, its global electronic community - ArchNet, as well as educational programmes at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Princess Zahra, eldest daughter of His Highness the Aga Khan, is based at the Aga Khan's Secretariat in France where she has primary responsibility for management of health, education and planning and building service companies of the AKDN. Princess Zahra was accompanied on her visit to Mozambique by her husband, Mr. Mark Boyden, a senior executive of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development.
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