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Lay Centre scholar defends doctoral dissertation on family agriculture in Mozambique

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Lay Centre scholar defends doctoral dissertation on family agriculture in Mozambique

By Elena Dini

ROME — Isaias Marcano has been a member of The Lay Centre resident community for the past four years, and successfully defended his doctoral dissertation at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) Sept. 23. His topic was, “The family agricultural sector in Mozambique as a key for development and food security.” His advisor was Professor Cristiano Colombi. The Lay Centre spoke with Marcano, right before he left to accomplish the next step toward his chosen career.

What was your academic research? 

My research focused on family agriculture in Mozambique starting from a report that was issued in 2014, by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) about family farming. I did an empirical study on a group of 25 farmers to see what their challenges and problems were. 

Some people think about coming to Africa and helping through technology, but they might fail to take into consideration what is already there — the traditional way of farming. Some small projects by the FAO and IFAD luckily work in this direction and, in my thesis, I propose one step more —opening schools for farmers. Obviously, this would not be easy because the government, as well, has to be supportive of this option. 

What were the main challenges you faced during your research?

I was writing on Mozambique, but I was living in Italy, and this was not easy. There was the question of language as well: I decided to write my dissertation in Portuguese, but most of the resources I used were either in English or in Italian. 

Why did you choose to study such a topic?

I am a farmer myself, and I grew up farming with family. I actually came first to Italy to do a bachelor’s degree at the Urbaniana University. Then I went back to Mozambique and I was appointed by the bishop of the diocese as secretary for the pastoral care of the whole diocese. During that time, I met many people. Although really poor, they were happy to come and learn about the Gospel. I realized that they had good land and I thought it was important for them not only to learn about the Gospel, but also to improve their quality of life, if they had the chance. This is why I moved into social science and political economics after my licentiate in missiology. 

How did you learn about The Lay Centre?

When I was studying at the Urbaniana, the director told me about The Lay Centre and organized for me to meet the director, Donna Orsuto. I was given the possibility of staying here four years ago, as well as a scholarship to do my PhD at the Angelicum in the field that interested me. 

You were also the resident assistant at The Lay Centre for the past two years. Could you tell us about that experience?

When I first arrived at The Lay Centre, I remember I had an issue with a light, and I was told to talk to Donna about it. People in charge of the centre were really taking care of every little thing. Then, I was asked if I wanted to be the resident assistant. It was a new position that would liaise between the staff and the students, and take care of some of the practical details of daily life as well. 

It was a great experience to live with people from different cultures, backgrounds and religions, while also having a position of leadership. My philosophy during these years was, “I am because you are, and we are because God is.” We were all on the same page and able to grow together as a community.

You will be missed at The Lay Centre. What is next for you?

In Africa, we say that we are like birds: we fly, and then we have to stop and, at that moment, look around and realize what is going on around us. This is what I am living at the moment. I am not going back immediately to Mozambique. I am first going to work on the publication of my thesis and get my certificate. There will be elections in Mozambique Oct. 15, and it is important for me to see how this will go before making my next steps. My dream is to continue with my research and to open a school for farmers. I hope this will be possible.

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