Background and poverty assessment
Poverty alleviation has been in the agenda of the government since late 1980's. The Social Dimension of Adjustment project (SDA) and the Office for the Support to Vulnerable Population Groups (GAPVU) gave way to Poverty Alleviation Strategy and a Strategy for Poverty Reduction in Mozambique was drafted in 1995 and its objectives were incorporated into the Five-Year Program of the Government (1995-1999).
In 1997 a national poverty assessment has estimated that the average consumption per capita was at USD 170,00 per year placing Mozambique among the poorest countries in the world. The head count poverty index indicated that 69.4% or 10.9 million people lived at the time in absolute poverty (below the poverty line). Other indexes confirmed high levels of poverty.
Poverty in Mozambique was considered to be structural to a large extent. Low levels of human capital, including low educational levels; poor health status of most of the population; low productivity in agricultural sector (largest contingent of workforce); weak physical infrastructure and poor access to basic services (safe drinking water, health facilities, transport, communications and markets); high rates of fertility and corresponding high dependency ratios were documented (Poverty Assessment 1998:91).
Regional differences were large. All poverty indexes indicated that central provinces were poorer than northern and southern ones. Maputo was the richest one.
Differences between poor and non-poor for many variables were quite small. Gender and rural/urban divide were more informative in consumption analysis. Basic services such as health and education, and markets illustrate the point. So, targeting rural populations and women for poverty reduction specify activities better than poor.
Overall, six areas were singled out in the poverty assessment to inform the poverty reducing strategy for Mozambique: increased investment in education; sustained economic growth; a sector pattern of growth favouring faster growth in industrial and services sectors; measures to raise agricultural productivity; improved rural infrastructure; reducing fertility and dependency load within households (Poverty Assessment, 1998:182).