Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mozambique Thought Series: Sopa do Planos – (Strategies soup)

This is the first one of a series of reflections about my internship in Mozambique. I apologies to readers as the blog has been quite neglected in the past couple months. However, time permitting, I intend to get back to my normal posting habits. Tell me what you think!

Try the following: google ‘Mozambique government strategy’, grab a shield, and hit enter. You will be bombarded with hundreds of official government documents, detailing strategies to… you name it – from reducing poverty and malnutrition to promoting culture and sovereignty. For newcomers to the country – such as me – these documents are a solid proof that the government is serious about the issues of your choice. My issue is food security and nutrition and if you read the PAMRDC (the government’s strategy to combat malnutrition or ‘the bible’ as I call it), the essence of integrated development emerges clearly. You look in detailed and find out that all the Lancet interventions of their maternal and child healthseries are included and you cannot content your happiness. In other countries where REACH operates, such level of government commitment is years in the future. But then you take a copy of your bible to a meeting with a provincial ministry director and he says “PAMR….what”?

Yes, Mozambique has a soup of strategies that seek to satisfy different audiences -especially donors- but when it comes to implementation these lofty strategies often fail to reach the ground. So here is my own exercise to navigate this endless list of documents:  

The country’s development strategy is set in the PQG – a five year plan – and the PARPA. The former is presented to voters and the later to international donors. In addition to those, pretty much every ministry has its plan, and for cross-sectorial interventions such as nutrition, gender, and others, you also have development plans.

But those are just the key ingredients for the soup’s stock. What really makes the soup tasty (or terrible for that matter) are the local strategies. For that, every provincial and district office has a multi-year strategy and the yearly PES (economic and social plans). Moreover, large NGO have projects that completely overshadow the organizational capacity of these local governments and their respective plans. Not only there is little coordination between the NGO’s project and the PES, but also such projects provide little capacity to local governments, and in occasions living things worse off when the project ends.

Another very significant challenge is that cross-sectorial issues at national and local level have little legal and budgetary power. Since these strategies rely on a coordinated approach, they quickly become bureaucratic orphans as none of the ministries likes to take a leadership role in their implementation. And while the country has SETSAN - an agency mandated with the coordination of food security and nutrition interventions among ministries – petty turf wars have left the agency toothless and inefficient – a comment I will often hear outside the formal meeting settings.

So what now? Well, stay tuned for the next post. Something tells me that after all this soup may serve well to Mozambique’s outstanding cuisine.