Local leaders rise to new heights with FHI 360's support
For two decades, FHI 360 has worked to support the government of Mozambique to address issues related to HIV. In March 2023, after years of laying the groundwork, FHI 360 supported the transition of two major projects to local organizations, recognizing that sustainable change requires putting local leadership and priorities first.
The three organizations previously were subrecipients and are now the prime implementing partners for the projects, which are funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). Both USAID and PEPFAR are moving toward a model of localization and have goals to shift certain percentages of their program funds to local partners.
The projects being implemented by these three organizations aim to help vulnerable communities in Mozambique. One project (formerly COVida, now FILOVC) assists orphans and vulnerable children and their caregivers. The other (formerly PASSOS, now PASSOS+) uses a network of peer navigators and peer educators to connect people with a higher likelihood of contracting HIV to HIV prevention and care services.
“Locally led development enables people to amplify their existing desires and actions,” says Hayley Bryant, FHI 360’s project director for capacity strengthening in Mozambique. “The COVida and PASSOS projects put tools and knowledge in the hands of people in the community who already have the natural inclination to help others, people who are very much like the project participants. In parallel, when local organizations engage in capacity strengthening, they not only enhance their own capabilities but also foster sustainable development within their communities.”
Meet the women who are taking the lead. Rosália João works for a local implementing partner that has grown substantially through a capacity-strengthening initiative. Málica de Melo and Rosália Vilanculos work for organizations that are now direct recipients of USAID and PEPFAR funding, and FHI 360 is their sub-partner responsible for capacity strengthening.
Rosália João of MozHOPE
“MozHOPE gained a lot when we started implementing the COVida project. By participating in FHI 360’s Promising Partner Initiative, MozHOPE has grown from working in one district of Maputo to now working in four districts.
“Before the initiative, we thought we had our policies in place and were moving along fine. But the initiative made us wake up to the fact that if we wanted to grow, we had to improve and do even better. It was really an awakening of a potential that was hidden within MozHOPE.
“Five years ago, I didn’t know how we were going to expand MozHOPE. When we started the COVida project, we had four key staff members, and the rest were facilitators. Now, we are part of the USAID FILOVC OCSIDA consortium for the new OVC [orphans and vulnerable children] project, and we are growing from 12 to 35 key staff members.
“We are not starting the project with reticence. We feel that we are capable, and we have positive support. FHI 360’s training gave us this confidence that yes, we are capable. Yes, we can walk. Yes, we can grow. And here we are. We want to continue to be part of the solution to the problems of young people, children and caregivers for everyone in Mozambique.”
Málica de Melo of ICRH-M
“FHI 360 is a partner that has supported us a lot. Our connection to them goes back to 2014, when ICRH-M was a sub-partner on the LINKAGES project in Tete Province, and we have also been a sub-partner on one other FHI 360 project. We continue in this important role, in a very open and happy way, so that ICRH-M can get to a level where we can execute U.S. government funds just as FHI 360 did.
“Moving from a sub to the prime requires a lot of maturity in terms of organizational culture and management. We have had major changes in the last year. We’ve learned from the FHI 360 team how to better coordinate between our various internal teams, such as finance, administration, human resources and programs. It hasn’t been easy, but we have learned how to manage U.S. government funds with the quality and standards that FHI 360 has always had.
“Designing the PASSOS+ proposal for the U.S. government — a proposal of such a high caliber and size — was a very special moment for us. FHI 360 was never above us. We worked together, based on mutual respect.
“It is important that more Mozambican organizations are qualified to lead and implement programs with funding of this kind so they can take ownership of the interventions.”
Rosália Vilanculos of AMASI
“Having donor funds allocated to Mozambican organizations is important because they are the ones who implement the activities at community level, so they know the community’s problems. If the money reaches them, they can better respond to the needs of the communities and support the government where it does not have reach.
“No organization is the same as another. Some local organizations have challenges related to management, in particular systems, staff, and policies and procedures. FHI 360 has supported national organizations in Mozambique for many years, and they are prepared with different approaches to get each organization to the next level.
“USAID has strict funding criteria. If an organization has the capacity to receive funds from USAID, then it will be able to receive funds from all kinds of donors. USAID is a model for the whole world. For an organization to reach the level required by USAID is to reach high levels of commitment to the participants and the communities.
“Receiving support from USAID is also very important for the local communities. Every day, the organization will have the responsibility to ensure that the community takes ownership of everything that is going to be done. No one is arriving and doing it and leaving. The community will consider which strategies and activities they are going to use so that the project is sustainable — so that when the funding ends, the community will continue doing activities that help maintain solutions to problems.”
All photos are credited to Mbuto Machili for FHI 360.