Category Archives: Land Use and Conservation

The “ A, B , C “ of Large and Mega Dams

 What is a Dam, large and Mega?

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It is a big cement hall, that stop the course of the river. The word seems to be related to the Greek word taphos, meaning “grave” or “grave hill”, in reality it is a tombstone for the river.

By the International Commission of Large Dams (ICOLD), a large dam is higher than 15m while a Mega dam is over 100m. Most Mega dams worldwide are used for energy production.

Mega dams have been the center of many debates, research and studies for the last decade.

Between 1930 and 1970, the boom of Mega dams was seen to be synonymous with “economic development” and a symbol of human ability to assert control over nature. But then the truth of their negative impacts started to arise, and it become the center of many debates and arguments around costs-versus-benefits, ecological impacts, social impacts, etc.

From one side the proponents claim dams as a source of energy and as such a tool for development, from another side the opponents state that those benefits are far outweighed by disadvantages such as loss of communities livelihoods and rivers ecosystems to name just some.

The late 1980s and 1990s era, were marked by large protests, and controversial debates about mega dams. Pressure and huge campaigns from civil society, social movements and communities affected by dams to stop financing mega-dams. Same financed institutions, with the pressure and information about crimes against human rights, by mega dams financed by the world bank, funds were decrease to the world Bank Dams projects. Due to such an outcry, an independent commission under the chairmanship of Kader Asmal, the South African water minister, was created in April 1997, the “World Commission on Dams (WCD)”, to research the environmental, social and economic impacts of mega Dams globally. The WCD was composed of members of civil society, academia, private sector, professional associations and government representatives. The report findings and recommendations were launched under the patronage of Nelson Mandela in November 2000. The WCD found that while “ dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development, and benefits derived from them have been considerable… in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by people displaced, by communities downstream, by taxpayers and by the natural environment.” The study also made recommendations and provided guidelines which all dam projects should follow, including five core values and seven priorities detailed below:

Values

Equity,

Sustainability,

Efficiency,

Participatory decision-making and

Accountability.

Priorities

Gaining public acceptance,
comprehensive options assessment,

Addressing existing dams,

Sustaining Rivers and Livelihoods
Recognising entitlements and sharing benefits,
Ensuring compliance and

Sharing rivers for peace, development and security.

For a while, the understanding of the large costs of Mega dams started to become a reality, but suddenly with the climate crises, they came back with the tag of “Solution for Climate change”. But it is not a solution. It is riddled with problems and earns our tag of “false solution”.

At JA’s last year climate justice meeting “Seeding Climate justice II”, held in Maputo, JA invited Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Director of International Rivers (IR), who presented the impacts of dams on the climate, and debunked the myth that mega dams are one of the energy sources to address our climate crises. Without going into the known social and environmental impacts, the presenter began her presentation by asking “Hydro dams, do they provide CLEAN energy? NO, THEY DON’T, ITS NOT TRUE! They exacerbate climate change instead”. Dams especially tropical dams can often produce a huge amount of methane and carbon dioxide from rotting biomass in the reservoir. Then there are huge impacts of droughts and floods on the energy production, and dependency of hydroelectric on a changing climate is questionable.

Rudo spoke about the breakthrough research done in 2012, “ A Risky Climate for Southern African Hydro”, there was a lot of opposition, attacked by politicians, statements that IR ‘’was scaring people, and that was not going to happen’’. But it is real, 4 years after, we see that is happen, this year, Lake Kariba never went above 20% capacity, Lesotho Katse dam was 63%, Zambia that was 80% dependent of Hydro, due to a 2 years drought is turning into solar. This is real , Zambezi Basin countries will have a decrease in stream flow, as many studies estimate and a decrease of run-off to be between 26% to 40% by 2050. No one is trying to scare people, but it is already happen and is going to only become worse.

We recall back in 2012, when Rudo come to Maputo to present the finding of this study, we were attacked by most of the government participants at the launch meeting, to the point of becoming quite an ugly and unproductive meeting.

We raised the question again, how can Mozambique build a dam as risky as it is Mphanda Nkuwa is to the environmental and communities, seismic risk, and now adding the economic and climate change risk? Those risks exist, due to extreme climate changes, and they must be included in any evaluation and decision to build or not a dam.

But as the researcher stated on their study, that government, dam builders and decisions makers, are not taking into consideration the economic risks associated to climate change, in his wordsThere is been a neglect of climate risks in hydropower planning – in an approach that might be called either ‘wait and see’ or ‘head in the sand’ ”.

But it still amazes me how difficult is for people to understand and see mega dams for what they really are: a monstrosity that destroys lives, livelihoods and rivers ecosystem, to say some. In a way I can understand if you look into a coal power station, you see ugliness, you see smoke, pollution and a landscape that no one wants to live there if they have a choose. At the other end, a mega dam is an huge infrastructure that makes any engineers proud of it, a lake, and an enormous hall that splits water in amazing speed, and a sound that make you feel small in this world… for sure looks much better then a coal power station. But it is just that, a facade. Because it is not synonymous with development, just ask the 40-80 million people displaced by dams, how their lives and livelihoods have been destroyed. Neither is it a solution for climate change as it often emits methane (more in tropical areas), destroys forests for the reservoir. Neither it is good for the environmental as it block rivers and inundates forests and agricultural land , and deny downstream enough water for wetlands to operate accordingly. Neither they protect us, from flood if they are not build to do so, or a way to keep water during drought.

Why they do not protect us from floods…. Well, if they are build just for that, yes, but you do not need a Mega dam for that, a mega dam is either for energy production, irrigation or water supply. To produce energy, you need to keep as much water as possible, and then when a big flood comes, there is no space to keep all the water in, same for irrigation, and to protect us from floods we do not need mega dams, small dams are the ideal, and system that can divert water when is too much, same for drought.

JA released in 2009 a study about renewable energy sources for Mozambique, another study that was attacked by the government participants in such a way that the author had difficulties to do his presentation without being constantly interrupted, simply because that study showed that we do not need Mphanda Nkuwa, and there are other ways forward to have energy for everyone with less impacts. The magic potion is not that difficult, we need to start with decentralized energy systems, clean energy, solar, wind, even mini to small hydro dams, a mix of energy sources, which must be affordable by all people.

We can do, and we should think more on solutions to tackle and minimize climate change impacts, instead to follow a path that put us where we are…. In a crises, can we be more smart and take decisions that are smarter, at least we live in a era that we have many options, and we know what mistakes where made, that we can avoid them.

So why build mega dams, to destroy rivers systems, communities livelihoods, increase climate impacts adding the economic risk , is really a mega dam worthwhile? It is not a solution for the climate crises we are hurtling towards. Climate change will affect rivers flow, and worsen extreme and intense floods and droughts that will put a risk on the economic benefit, so why ????

For whom and what. That’s the million dollar question. Because is not for us the people, is not a solution for our climate crises, is not for the environment…. who is it for? And what is it for?

Some info on dams, from the article of 12 dams that change the world from: https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/227-3

Chixoy: the grave on the Rio Negro

Dam-affected communities have often suffered repression and human rights abuses. In 1982, more than 400 indigenous men, women and children were massacred to make way for the World Bank’s Chixoy Dam in Guatemala. In a historic breakthrough, the country’s government in 2014 signed a $154m reparations agreement with the affected communities.

Banqiao: the dam that washed away

When dams are not properly built or maintained, they can break. In the world’s biggest dam disaster, the failure of China’s Banqiao Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people in 1975. In more than 100 cases, scientists have also linked dam building to earthquakes. Strong evidence suggests that China’s Sichuan earthquake, which killed 80,000 people in 2008, may have been triggered by the Zipingpu Dam.

Yacyretá: the monument to corruption

Large dams are often pet projects of dictators. Lacking accountability leads to massive corruption and cost overruns. On average, large dams experience cost overruns of 96% and are not economic. The cost of Argentina’s Yacyretá Dam has mushroomed from $2.5bn to $15bn. A former president called Yacyretá “a monument to corruption”.

Merowe: when Chinese dam builders went global

In 2003, the Chinese government decided to fund the Merowe Dam in Sudan as its first big overseas hydropower project. The dam displaced more than 50,000 people and caused serious human rights violations. Chinese banks and companies are by now involved in some 330 dams in 74 countries, leading an unprecedented global dam building boom.

Glines Canyon: the dam that came down

Dams have serious environmental impacts, and their benefits dwindle as they age. Since the 1930s, the United States has removed more than 1,150 dams to restore river ecosystems and particularly fish habitats. In 2014, the 64 meters high Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River in the Pacific northwest was breached in the world’s biggest dam removal so far.

Patagonia: the dams that were never built

Recent years, solar and wind energy have seen their commercial breakthrough. These renewable energy sources are cleaner than coal or hydropower and can be built were people need electricity, even far away from the electric grid. In 2014, Chile cancelled five dams in the Patagonia region under strong public pressure and approved 700 megawatts of new solar and wind farms.

Kariba: the dam that ended poverty in Southern Africa (or did it?)

The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi was built in the 1950s to power Zambia’s copper belt, as the first large dam funded by the World Bank. Kariba was considered the symbol of a “brave new world”, in which controlling nature would bring quick economic development. Yet the 57,000 people who were displaced by the dam suffered famine and are still impoverished

climate_graphic2

References on WCD and more info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams

https://energypedia.info/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams_(WCD)_Report

http://www.unep.org/dams/documents/Default.asp?DocumentID=663

https://www.internationalrivers.org/campaigns/the-world-commission-on-dams

http://www.unep.org/dams/WCD/report/WCD_DAMS%20report.pdf

more https://www.internationalrivers.org/questions-and-answers-about-large-dams

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Under Water

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CORPORATE IMPUNITY: STRATEGIES OF STRUGGLE (PART II)

As we mentioned in last month’s article, corporate impunity – the crime that does pay off – is a complicated matter. At the moment, our chests are still filled with the breath of fresh air brought to us at the end of last month by the second session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT), where a panel of 8 jurors and almost 200 participants listened attentively to the complaints of communities and activists who suffer first hand the consequences of a system that favours and protects transnational corporations. Experts noted and reiterated what is no longer news to us: the criminal behaviour of these corporations reflects the field of impunity in which they operate. In addition to providing us with a (unpublished) report of deliberations that will help to expose the behaviour of these companies, this jury also made clear that the mobilization of peoples and the opening of spaces like this court are a fundamental part of the fight for justice.

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About PPT, we have little more to say right now. You can find more information on the cases presented here, or read the press release of Southern Africa’s Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power’s (of which we are part) here. This year, the visibility given to the different cases was notorious (like this article on ProSavana in the South African press), and there was also room for an update on the cases brought to the PPT last year in Swaziland. But this is not the time to slow down – after the PPT, more important moments regarding this issue are coming up.

Nowadays, there is a great legal asymmetry between, on the one hand, the endless regulations that protect and safeguard private investments (even shielding them from political decisions that may conflict with the companies’ financial expectations), and on the other, the non-existent coercive legislation which upholds human rights. Corporations rely on a wide range of international norms that act in their defence – from free trade agreements to investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms – but none that regulates their actions in the light of their impacts. Apparently, for years now we have been hoping that, by themselves, guiding principles or corporate social responsibility (voluntary, unilateral, and non-enforceable) become enough to prevent corporate human rights abuses by the corporations, but obviously, this has not happened and will not happen.04

The national laws of countries such as ours are very weak, not to mention the very limited capacity to enforce them and supervise them. That is one of the reasons why Shell remains unpunished despite the criminal spills it is responsible for in Nigeria, or why hundreds of people are being driven from their land to make way for palm plantations in Indonesia. This is why fighting for the enforcement of existing national legislation is an important step, but it can not be the only one if we really want to stop the impunity of these powerful corporations. It is necessary to think beyond. In today’s globalized world, corporations operate in different national jurisdictions, and take advantage of this to evade accountability. For us, expanding the limits of international law and demanding legal instruments that provide a path from where victims of such violations may demand justice seems to be as urgent or even more.

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The Intergovernmental Working Group mandated to draft a binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014, will meet for the third time in October of this year, then, the concrete terms of the text to be included in the Treaty will be discussed. This initiative, which started with the governments of Ecuador and South Africa, has been gaining strength and supporters. Numerous countries, mostly in the Global South, have already expressed their support for the Treaty, as is the case of Uruguay, which sees in this instrument an opportunity to protect its public policies that are being threatened by the interests of transnational corporations. Mozambique, unfortunately, remains completely out of this discussion and didn’t even show up at the two sessions of the Working Group in the recent years.

An alliance was formed by civil society organizations from around the world to support the drafting of this law, and has actively participated in the sessions of the Working Group to ensure that it will truly represent the needs of those affected. One of the requirements of this alliance is that this treaty contains solid provisions that prohibit corporate interference in the process of formulating and implementing laws and policies. According to Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), also part of the Treaty Alliance, it must establish the criminal and civil liability of transnational corporations in order to fill existing legal gaps in international law, and should apply also to all subsidiary companies and those that form part of its supply chain. Learn more about FoEI’s contributions to the Treaty here.

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When existing legislation does not address all of society’s problems and needs, new legislation must be created. It was like that with the implementation of universal suffrage, with the abolition of slavery, and in so many other historical moments. We believe that we are about to reach an important milestone in the struggle for the sovereignty of peoples and against corporate impunity, and as the poet once said, there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

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Corporate Impunity: Strategies of struggle (Part I)

2016 was an important year in our continent’s struggle against corporate impunity: the first session of the Southern African Peoples Permanent Tribunal (PPT) took place in Swaziland. This Court, which was founded more than 30 years ago in Italy, is an independent body that examines situations of systemic human rights violations – especially in cases where existing legislation (both national and international) is not capable of safeguarding the rights of populations. Although it does not have the power to issue an obligatory sentence for the company (which, by the way, is very important and is one of the reasons we are working for – but let’s talk about it later on), the PPT is strategically very important: On the one hand, it allows victims to be heard and advised by a panel of experts from various areas and to establish partnerships; and on the other, it is a moment of complaint and visibility for the cases, and therefore, of exposure to infringing companies. And although in our country this criminal impunity is often seen as a synonym of cleverness and of the perpetrators degree of influence, on the international level things are not quite like that. Being labelled as a human rights violator is a matter of great concern to these corporations, and therefore it can lead to a change of attitude – not because their ethical principles and values are very important to them, but simply because a bad reputation affects the only thing that truly matters to corporations: their profits.

Ten cases from Swaziland, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique were presented in last year’s PPT, most of them related to the extractive industry. From our country, for the serious impacts that their activities have on the communities around them and for the noncompliance with the promises they made to those communities before settling in the region (to the point that one of them actually started its mining activities without resettling those living within the concession area – as we have denounced through various channels including this one), we took to the court VALE and JINDAL. A Panel of Jurors listened attentively to the communities’ grievances and to a contextualization made by invited experts, and then released its deliberations.

This year the process is repeated: in August, seven cases from the Southern Africa region will be presented by the affected communities themselves and by the civil society organizations who work with them. This time, the general theme of the cases is Land, Food and Agriculture. In addition to cases presented by Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mauritius – who will denounce large corporations such as Parmalat and Monsanto – this session of the PPT will also hear the denunciation of two Mozambican cases: the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam on the already strangled Zambezi River; and ProSavana, the Mozambican, Brazilian and Japanese governments’ triangular partnership program that aims to develop agribusiness in the Nacala Corridor. These two Mozambican cases have the same particularity: they are not yet implemented. However, and this is what made us chose these two cases for this year’s PPT (because, let’s face it, what we are not lacking in our country are examples of human rights violations by private initiatives), despite not being implemented yet, its impacts are not less significant.

In Mphanda Nkuwa, for example, local communities were visited for the first time in 2000 by representatives of the companies responsible for the construction of the dam. They ere warned that they could not build new houses in that region because they would not be compensated for them. Since then, these people live in total uncertainty and can no longer make any long-term plans, at the risk of losing their assets when they start construction. ProSavana, on the other hand, has been characterized by the secrecy, manipulation and misrepresentation of information with the aim of promoting a false idea that the project will promote agricultural development in the northern region of the country, while in fact it is an initiative that will serve to facilitate large scale encroachment of peasant lands. This program will also destroy the livelihoods of local populations and exacerbate their already grave poverty. There are already reports of manipulation and intimidation of leaders of local peasant organizations.

The mobilization of civil society (Mozambican, Japanese and Brazilian) in opposition to ProSavana was fundamental to halt to the initial plans of this program and postpone the conclusion of its Master Plan. The purpose of taking these two cases to the PPT is to bring together even more elements that may help stop these projects.

Spaces such as the PPT are also crucial for perceiving trends, identifying development models, and analyzing common practices of transnational corporations – as well as their strategies to escape responsibility. Thus, by moving these experiences to a more global scale, it is easy to see that these violations of fundamental human rights are not perpetrated by one or another transnational corporation in isolation. That is, these are not a couple of rotten apples in a sack full of beautiful apples. Rather, it is a generalized behavior that is enabled by an architecture of impunity, characteristic of our extractive capitalist development system. This architecture of impunity puts corporate rights above human rights, and makes way for an abundant number of examples of very lucrative corporate crimes.

The architecture of impunity consists of several elements and actors:

We have the economic power of corporations – on the basis of which these establish their relations with one another and with states – and of international financial institutions;

We have political power, which in turn is responsible for capturing policies and politicians that fail to regulate the collective interests of society to serve private interests;

Trade architecture, embodied by numerous trade and investment agreements, facilitates profit and allows corporations to file lawsuits against governments should they make decisions that affect their anticipated profits;

Legal power is represented by the financial capacity to hire and dispose of influential lawyers who defend corporations in endless processes, as well as by inadequate and insufficient legal instruments that regulate their actions; and finally

Social power, which is exercised in all spheres of our lives through the influence that corporations have in the media, academic spaces, civil society organizations, among others.

Discussing some of these elements and developing the cases that will be presented in the PPT next month, were the objectives that motivated the Workshop on the Architecture of Impunity, held in the context of the Southern Africa Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. Since it is the affected communities themselves who present the cases to the Panel of Jurors in the PPT, this enabled them to get the support of several resource people, to appeal, discuss and deepen the specificities of their denunciations and also to identify common ground with the other cases.

But the struggle to end corporate impunity is not only fought in the field of opinion sentences, nor is the important opinion of a panel of judges our only weapon to demand a different behavior from transnational corporations. Another battle is being waged to develop a legal instrument that will ultimately have the power to condemn and punish corporations – since the absence of such an instrument is currently one of the biggest gaps in international law. We are talking about the UN Intergovernmental Working Group, created in 2014 with the mandate to develop a binding treaty for transnational corporations on human rights issues, which will meet in October this year for its third session. At this time, transnational corporations simply have to follow voluntary standards and guiding principles that “advise” best practices on human rights issues. There is no doubt that this blind faith in corporate goodwill has had grave and irreparable consequences, both on people and on the planet. In next month’s article, we will look into this issue more carefully, getting deeper into the debate about the urgency of a legal mechanism that is accessible to any community affected by the operations of a transnational corporation. For now, we continue to look closely at next month’s PPT, certain that this will be another important moment regarding the convergence of struggles for a fairer, healthier and more common-good oriented world.

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When African Renewable Energy Was Hijacked

A few years ago, during the United Nations climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015, 55 African leaders launched the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI). It pledged to follow a people-centred approach to renewable energy development and energy access work across our continent. It talked about rights and equity, very important for our context and for justice. It talked about community ownership and distributed power for African people, in both senses of the word ‘power’. It demanded new and additional renewable energy for our people – no double counting of funds for other projects. It was an African-owned and African-led initiative.

JA! people participated in the AREI meetings in Paris in December 2015 and in Marrakesh in November 2016. Civil society was included into this process from the beginning. Could this become something we would be proud of as Africans? The AREI was a unique approach, in a continent marred by ever-increasing development of dirty energies like coal, oil, gas and big hydro, where it is commonplace to sacrifice our people, kill the local ecology, grab lands and destroy the climate at the same time. The AREI put in strong and important criteria in place to avoid these terrible impacts and said that projects would not support fossil fuels or nuclear.

The AREI really pledged to be different. And this pledge to go for a different, people-based approach is really important. It moves us away from a system fix approach to a system change approach, to change the base principles which drive how we think about energy for people.

In Paris, developed countries stepped forward with $10 billion in pledges to support this initiative. But would these countries really let this initiative survive? Or would money talk? The frightening answer came just over a year later, and by early March 2017, the AREI was already in danger.

The first attack came from the European Commission (EC), and the French government which had helped birth this initiative in the UN talks in their country. What did the attack look like? They came forward at the board meeting with a plan to fund 19 renewable energy projects with an investment of a whopping 4.8 billion. You can read the press release dated 4 March of the European Commission at this link – http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-442_en.htm. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The claim for 4.8 billion is false, they are providing a mere €300 million themselves and hoping to leverage the rest. Not just that, remember the AREI’s commitment for new and additional projects with strong criteria to prevent environmental injustices? Well, these proposed projects were already partly pre-existing ones, with all kinds of double-counting and dodgy accounting taking place on the financing. Some of the projects, like a geothermal project in Ethiopia, are from 2014, the year before the AREI initiative was even finalized. Worst of all, these projects are being rammed through without caring about criteria and impacts. Our colleagues discovered that at least 1 of these projects involves fossil fuels interests. We heard that 14 of these projects were just rubber-stamped through, while 5 of them were not even reviewed due to lack of time. The base principles of AREI were the first to be under attack. Even the vague notion of system change is threatening to the system.

 

African civil society began to hit back at this affront. By early April, JA! had joined over 180 African organizations who signed up to a letter demanding this hijack of the AREI be reversed. Last week at the UN negotiations in Bonn, on 18 May 2017, 111 international organizations outside of Africa released a letter supporting the African demands for the EC and France to stop the hijack of African renewable energy. A lot of media pick-up has happened around these letters.

The EC knows it is being watched and is now on the back-foot. Our European colleagues were invited to a meeting with them in Bonn last week, where they found out that the EC is seriously trying to do damage control. They are shocked by the media pick-up and are calling it a scandal. But they are not yet saying how they will do things differently. This meeting took place on 16 May 2017. Some mainstream system-fix type civil society people already wanted to stop the international letter since they said the EC is talking to us. Others said, no way, the EC and France need to be exposed and they made sure the letter was released 2 days later, before the Bonn talks closed. You can read the press release here- http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102862873361&ca=c6022777-a64f-4bd8-b159-69ebbf8df668.

DENUNCIATION OF THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN WWF AND PROSAVANA

nao ao prosavana

For over three years social movements, peasant families, civil society organisations, religious organisations, scholars and concerned citizens that are part of the No to ProSavana Campaign have been resisting the implementation of ProSavana in the Nacala Corridor of Mozambique.[1] This project is the result of a partnership among the governments of Mozambique, Brazil and Japan, to promote agribusiness development in the Nacala Corridor, resulting in the violation of human rights and negative impacts on peasant agriculture and the environment.

Alliances among Mozambican, Brazilian and Japanese civil society organisations, among other actors, forced the postponement of Part II of ProSavana (the Master Plan) [2] as well as the organisation of public hearings with communities affected by ProSavana between April and June of 2015.[3] However, these hearings violated national and international laws,[4] including International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 169, which guarantees the right to free, prior and informed consent.[5]

We, organisations of civil society and social movements articulated in the No to ProSavana Campaign, denounce the current involvement of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in ProSavana. We identified an alliance between WWF and MAJOL, the consultancy company hired by ProSavana’s promoters (in this case, JICA), to facilitate the dialogue between ProSavana and civil society.

It is unusual that the main facilitator of the dialogue, Mr. Peter Bechtel,[6] who today presents himself as a MAJOL consultant, had been a WWF manager for the Northern Region, where he managed the conservation areas of the Quirimbas Archipelago, Lake Niassa, and Primeiras e Segundas Archipelago.[7] During this period, Peter Bechtel and WWF funded and worked directly with civil society platforms and representatives that are currently involved in the partnership with ProSavana.

As members of the No to ProSavana Campaign, we condemn WWF’s use of its donor status to encourage civil society representatives to establish partnerships with ProSavana and the business sector, especially when it results in the violation of national and international laws that protect community rights. We also condemn the use of platforms, which have been an important tool for the exercise of citizenship, to impose international (individual and organisational) interests and agendas. Let us consider the following:

First, it is strange that Mr. Peter Bechtel, former WWF employee and currently the main mediator of the dialogue between ProSavana and civil society, has direct links with agribusiness in Mozambique, whether through the World Bank[8] or USAID.[9] These links are in breach of universal principles of mediation, such as the impartiality of the mediator and the parties’ free will, which create a conflict of interests.

Second, WWF attempted on multiple occasions to create civil society platforms without clear objectives, most of which were challenged by civil society. Without ever having been engaged in advocacy for ProSavana during the last three years, in only two months WWF strangely provided funds for the establishment of the ProSavana dialogue architecture. Further, Mr. Bechtel established questionable alliances with some of the representatives on the platforms, and became the coordinator of the dialogue mechanism mentioned above, as can be verified in the press release of the mechanism’s creation[10]—completely ignoring the work of national organisations involved in challenging ProSavana.

Third, the financial resources to set up the dialogue mechanism will be allocated by JICA (a proponent of ProSavana), including payments to experts that will be hired by the Rural Environment Observatory (OMR) to review the Master Plan.[11] Many independent studies argue that the current Master Plan does not meet the needs of peasant productive systems and pluriactive livelihoods, and demand that it be restructured. So it is strange that the OMR should review the plan (but in a non-structural and non-functional way, as outlined in the term of reference), eventually proposing an approach of “coexistence” between peasant agriculture and agribusiness.

Fourth, because they receive financial resources from JICA, both the dialogue mechanism and the OMR will be accountable to JICA.[12] This situation makes it impossible to ensure the impartiality and independence of these bodies.

Over the last few years, we have been following the ambiguous and disguised actions of WWF in Mozambique. With regard to its relationship with Mozambican civil society organisations, WWF has been imposing processes and the co-opting discussion spaces, such as the Agrofuels Platform and, more recently, the Alliance of Platforms, as well as the Dialogue Mechanism for ProSavana.

In 2009, UNAC and JA! published a study on jatropha and agrofuels in Mozambique, opening space for broad civil society debate, which resulted in a position document of many organisations committed to working on this topic. After a couple of months, WWF took over the discussion process, organising a meeting where it proposed to support the establishment of an agrofuels’ platform, that WWF would host and coordinate. On this occasion, WWF took many unilateral decisions without consulting the other member organisations of the platform—including the decision on the government’s involvement in internal discussions and deliberations. As a result, the majority of the members, including JA!, distanced themselves from the platform and from the collective struggle against biofuels.

In 2014, when WWF proposed the creation of the Alliance of Platforms, most of the civil society organisations present at the meeting agreed with the idea of an alliance, but argued that it should be coordinated by a Mozambican organisation instead of a foreign one. WWF ignored this request. The platform was established and is now coordinated by WWF, in its characteristic way of controlling decision-making and using its influence as a funder of many of the organisations that comprise this platform.

We do not agree with nor do we accept this sort of practice. The platforms should only exist if they are genuine representatives of the organisations they are composed of, based on open, transparent and democratic processes. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to exist. Moreover, they should not try to replace other civil society organisations that are not part of the platforms.

WWF is an international organisation that both implements its own projects and acts as a donor.  It co-opts spaces for debate, using its power and influence to manipulate discussion processes related to national concerns, such as ProSavana. As a result, it creates division among national organisations. And yet, curiously, it is the No to ProSavana Campaign that is being accused of defending outside interests. Shouldn’t we be questioning the interests of WWF?

Maputo, 7 March 2016.

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[1] http://www.dw.com/pt/sociedade-civil-lança-campanha-contra-o-prosavana-em-moçambique/a-17677729

[2] http://www.prosavana.gov.mz/prosavana-pd/?lang=pt-pt

[3] http://www.prosavana.gov.mz/auscultacao-publica-a-volta-da-versao-inicial-do-plano-director-do-prosavana/?lang=pt-pt

[4] https://adecru.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/chamada-dos-povos-para-invalidacao-imediata-da-auscultacao-publica-do-plano-director-do-prosavana/

[5] http://pro169.org/ilo-169/

[6] Minutes of the meeting on 11 and 12 January, https://adecru.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/acta-worshop-11-e-12-janeiro-final.pdf

[7] http://clarke.dickinson.edu/devel-mozambique/

[8] http://agtech.partneringforinnovation.org/docs/DOC-1589

[9] http://www.speed-program.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2013-SPEED-Report-009-How-USAID-can-Assist-Mozambique-to-Cope-with-the-Impending-Resource-Boom-EN.pdf

[10] https://adecru.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/comunicado-de-imprensa-do-prosavana-sobre-o-alegado-mecanismo-de-dialogo/

[11]  https://adecru.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/acta-do-dia-18-19.pdf

[12] https://adecru.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/acta-do-dia-18-19.pdf

 

“Portucel unveils the largest plant nursery in Africa”

This was the title of one of the numerous news reports portraying the inauguration of the largest plant nursery in Africa … Truth be told, the biggest nursery of eucalyptus trees which will be used for monoculture plantations and will have many negative impacts. But, hey, let’s celebrate; after all we now have in Mozambique the largest something in Africa! A huge nursery of eucalyptus! Yuuupiii!!!

Interestingly, none of the articles that I was able to get my hands on made reference to our government’s commitment to exotic species plantations, nor to the huge and confessed pride that our current government feels for these new conquests, to the point that it’s the president himself who inaugurates it.

Parts of the President’s opening speech was broadcast on television (STV nightly news on September 8th). I confess that it surprised me quite a lot to hear what the President thinks of the issues that have been raised regarding employment positions in Portucel, alleged cases of land grabbing and also about the motivations of the NGOs working with some communities in the area… Mr. President, I prefer to believe that the news piece was poorly edited, because certainty you could never speak of these issues as it was presented, surely, because a President of all Mozambicans as you are, Sir, would obviously never refer to these NGOs and people in such manner without ever having heard what they really think and why they think like that. The President asked Portucel workers if they were happy, or whether they preferred to continue in poverty without jobs, and said that those who work with them (referring to those NGOs) do not want to see the region develop, they want to keep them in poverty while they themselves “live well” … Oh Mr. President, who lives well??? Mr. President knows as well as we do that most people who work and live honestly do not live well, they merely survive, and some not even that! What is living well Mr. President? Is it to live in fear of expressing yourself openly and then be summoned to court and be accused of crimes against the state? And what about all the injustices we witness every day, are we not allowed to talk about them? Is living well being afraid of talking too much and then one day, while you are out for a walk, getting shot by a hitman following some faceless coward’s order? Or is living well, to live in apartments that look more like prisons than anything else, with burglar bars and locks, afraid of everything and everyone, due to the complete inefficiency of our police in protecting us? Or is living well having to wait for hours to be cared for in a hospital and when your turn finally comes the doctor is already so tired that he has no patience left for you? Or is it having to bribe teachers and principals of public schools to get a place for your child to study, and dream of a better life? Is this how we live well Mr. President? Who lives well Mr. President? Many of us live rather better than most, but living well requires a number of conditions that we lack …

You know as well as we do that those who live well are some of the members of your government, with their salaries and numerous subsidies at the expense of the same people who you now want to silence with a handful of precarious jobs. Those who live well are our members of parliament, who vote for more and more benefits for themselves, which the people contest but it goes forward anyway! And why Mr. President? Why do we continue to turn a blind eye to these injustices? Why do we accept that some have so much and others nothing? Why do the people have to settle for a job with low pay, often seasonal, while their representatives are entitled to the absurd benefits we all know about? Why are we perpetuating poverty in a country with so much wealth? One of our greatest assets is our land, where thousands of peasants produce food everyday. Land which we see being so lightly “lent” to the many, many investment projects, often against the will of the people… If Portucel jobs are so good, and life is now so much better thanks to Portucel’s arrival, maybe it would not be a bad idea to send there some of our many members of parliament for an internship there, paid of course, since we do not agree with any form of exploitation… Who knows, maybe then the President would realize that, after all, those jobs are not that good…

Mr. President, we are on the same side, we work for social and environmental justice, because we believe that together we can help build a country that we can all be proud of, where we can all live well and not just a few!

Mr. President, you posed questions to Portucel employees, but did you really expect people to answer honestly and tell you that the job is not safe, or that the salary is too low, or that they thought they were going to get more than 1500 Meticais ($32 according to current exchange rates!) in return for their farms, as they tell us (those pesky NGOs!). I find it hard to believe that someone would have the courage to, given the situation, say things were not good and instead say what they would actually prefer that… And you know why Mr. President? Because your question was not raised to be answered, your question was merely to convince others that all is well… and your considerations regarding the NGOs and the people who work with the communities were incorrect and unjust, and coming from you Mr. President, even more incorrect, because after all you are the President of all Mozambicans, including those that you criticized without ever knowing, those who you say live well and only want to delay the development of the region and maintain the communities in poverty. We are also part of those that you criticized, and I am sorry to tell you Mr. President, but you are misinformed.

A project so wonderful speaks for itself, surely does not need anyone to come defend it, as it has been happening with Portucel. A project so wonderful does not need any effort to discredit anybody because the facts speak for themselves!

If you want to hear the people, approach them humbly, be spontaneous, do not allow everything to be planned to the smallest detail, like who can talk and what can be talked about, complaints which we have heard, whether they are true or not, we cannot say, but we believe you have ways to find out Sir…

Long live democracy!

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Children from Portucel-affected communities. Photo credit: Justiça Ambiental

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One of Portucel’s monoculture exotic plantations. Photo credit: Justiça Ambiental

 

Children are the stars as JA Celebrates International Forests Day

As we had announced, this year our celebration of the Forests Day on 21 March was different, as it was dedicated to the children, not adults!!

21 de Marco - dia das florestas

It was a fun day with lots of playful activities and joy, with many opportunities to introduce and discuss with kids the importance of our forests, the importance of conserving these ecosystems and of the environment in general, always highlighting that people and communities are a part of it.

A boa disposicao do nosso pessoal

We were all touched by the happiness of the children!! And our staff & volunteers enjoyed too!!

The event took place at the Parque dos Professores (Teachers Park), starting at 10am until 4 pm, and was organized in partnership with the Livro Aberto (Open Book) Association and supported by the participation and dedication of AMOR (Mozambican Recycling Association), Kosmoz, Mr. Rafo Diaz, the boys from the orphanage Casa do Gaiato and several tireless volunteers.

Mesa Amor e o Vai e VemCasa do Gaiato no dia das Florestas

The objective of this initiative was to use fun activities to raise awareness among children, Mozambique’s future generation, about the importance of our forests, and the conservation of our environment in general.

The activities for children included:

1. Making Bracelets with re-used plastic water bottles and strips of bright capulana (much-loved traditional Mozambican cloth)

Pulseiras com garrafas plásticas e recortes de capulana

2. Drawing trees and decorating them using motifs from old magazines;

Desenhando árvores - recorte e colagem

Making snakes by re-using the cardboard tube of toilet rolls;

Drawing a beautiful forest on canvas, elements of which were painted by many different children throughout the day at their choice and in the end, it illustrated the immense biodiversity and creativity;

O inicio da nossa floresta A nosso floresta 1

Face painting, which did take some courage as none of our staff had any previous experience with this, but it also gave us the opportunity to test the creativity of our colleagues and volunteers;

Reiki 4

In addition to these activities, we had several colouring pages available for the younger children, all with environmental themes;

Uma das muitas criancas que estiveram conosco colorindo!!!

We had a message board which was also a success; many children left their messages each on small cardboard leaves, which together made the tree;

A nossa árvore das mensagens

In addition to the activities that JA and Livro Aberto had organized we also had activities from important partners, who clearly contributed for a rich programme for the day, such as AMOR and Kosmoz.

AMOR is promoting recycling in Mozambique and was present with their great mood, inviting children to learn how to build fun toys from recycled material, such as the “Vai e vem” (literally ‘come & go’ – a toy) with recycled plastic bottles, which was a huge hit with the kids whilst at the same time their volunteers were talking about important environmental concepts.

Amor - ensinando com amor

The Kosmoz (Holistic Platform for Integral Human Development) was well represented, bringing elements of physical and mental well-being of communities.

Demosntração da energia vital- chi da natureza aplicado as artes marciais - kosmoz Demosntração da energia vital- chi da natureza aplicado as artes marciais 2

They had a very rich program that included dances, reiki, yoga exercises in group, educational games with emphasis to nutrition, massage parlour only for children (although the adults really wanted it too!), demonstration of aero yoga and hip hop dance, demonstration of theatre games, demonstration of a chess match, among other activities. The therapists from Kosmoz were present during most of the day providing advice and appointments for children and parents also.

Meditacao em grupo 2 - Kosmoz

We cannot forget the story telling moment in which Mr. Rafo Diaz charmed our children with his magical storytelling talent! Thank you very much Rafo!

Rafo Diaz - Encantando com as suas histórias

We are immensely grateful for the commitment and dedication of our new partners Livro Aberto Association, Amor and Kosmoz, because they believed in the cause and helped us make this day a day to remember!

Meditacao em grupo - Kosmoz

This day was a great example of Mozambican organisations working together for children of all socio-economic backgrounds, who rarely if ever have a chance to come together.

(All photos by Justiça Ambiental)

UNAC’s 3rd International Conference about Land

Another International Conference about Land, organized by the National Peasants Union (União Nacional de Camposeses, UNAC), took place in early October in the Telecommunications of Mozambique (Telecomunicações de Moçambique, TDM) conference centre. It was a privilege to hear the peasants testimonies, concerns and appeals… most of which, unfortunately, remain unresolved and unanswered. The main issues addressed were:

  • Land conflicts that are getting worse all over the country. Farmers who find themselves competing with megaprojects, like plantations, for land that rightfully belongs to them;
  • The lack of market and of product flow paths, which sometimes leads to rotten goods;
  • Unfair competition with imported products from South Africa and Swaziland. Although most of the products from our farmers are organic, consumers end up choosing the cheapest and “nice-looking” products in detriment of local goods;
  • Community Consultation misguided and biased, often involving only community representatives and not the community as a whole, which allows leaders to be misled or even bribed, in exchange for personal benefits and at the expense of the welfare of the whole community;
  • The lack of incentives and of a specific policy for the preservation of local seeds and local knowledge, pushing farmers to purchase improved seeds that lead to having low production results;
  • Prosavana, because it is being imposed and because it is a top to bottom program which endangers the land and livelihood of peasants, clearly embracing agro-businesses;
  • Other issues raised were the lack of subsidized agricultural credit, lack of extension workers, ..

The problems are many, the feeling of abandonment is widespread and the fear of questioning and complaining is permanent. How can we be facing this scenario in a country that does not tire of glorifying itself over its excellent and progressive land law, and where over 80% of the population depend on agriculture?

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Nothing about us without us! (Photo credit: JA!)

Another much discussed matter were the seeds: the qualities of local seeds vs the qualities of improved and genetically modified seeds that we thought we were not allowed in Mozambique, but which the Ministry Of Agriculture (Ministério da Agricultura, MINAG) is clearly keen to introduce. In fact, there are already experimental fields. In his presentation, the representative of MINAG praised widely the benefits of clearly questionable genetically modified organisms, and even said we cannot have an aversion to new technologies. The concerns of farmers are ignored, the concerns of non-governmental organizations are ignored – that is when they are not also accused of having outside interests – and there is plenty of evidence that shows us that by adhering to all forms of greedy development, based on the extraction of all types of natural resources and on the commodification of nature, the government is mortgaging the future of the country. The examples of large and serious impacts of new agro businesses programs like Prosavana, which are done with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are numerous, but still, those in charge insist on not accepting them, and insist on following the path of profit at the expense of people and the environment.

The conviction of the representative of MINAG on benefits of GMO’s, and the fact that he did not mention a single negative point, showed the pathway that the government chose to follow on this matter, despite the clear objections of the peasants who were present, despite the positioning of UNAC and several other civil society organizations. The way sensitive issues such as GMOs are approached is daunting, with only the “positives” being taken into account and no negative aspect being even mentioned. The peasants clearly said they want their native seeds, because the improved seeds do not germinate, because they do not want to pay for seeds every sowing season, because they do not want to become dependent on large agro business companies. But the government representatives said they were not prepared to discuss that issue at the forum, they had only been asked to present their work.

Although very briefly, the Nacala Corridor Strategic Economic Development Plan (Plano Estratégico de Desenvolvimento Económico do Corredor de Nacala, PEDEC), which the presenter defined as a set of strategies for economic development of the Nacala corridor, and safeguarding social and environmental aspects, was also presented at the conference. How this plan safeguards the social and environmental aspects of the area, remains a mystery among many other details of this immense and greedy program. Several issues remained “in the air”, as most of those present were totally in the dark regarding this program. The presenter had little or nothing to say when faced with questions, but assured that the 400 page study gives proper details and addresses concerns. The representative of GAZEDA, also responsible for the presentation of this program, stated that the PEDEC does not include Prosavana, that they are separate programs.

In the end, the reports and testimonies of current land conflicts were played down by one of the representatives of the government who said that the Law of the Land is quite clear and that there is no room for debate. If there are land conflicts they should be resolved with the Law of the Land. According to the same individual, there should be no doubt regarding this, so we asked him why then do these conflicts remain unresolved until today… the worst blind is the one who does not want to see.

The 3rd International Conference about Land confirmed the total lack of alignment between what farmers want and how they want to develop, and what the government wants economic development for Mozambique to be: designed at the highest level with its cooperation partners rather than with Mozambicans, and based on programs already implemented in other parts of the world, which benefit countries like Japan, a major player in both the PEDEC and Prosavana.

Any organization that seeks to question and wishes to obtain better understanding of these programs is labeled by some members of the government as “serving foreign interests”. It is hilarious to hear these comments from people who are implementing programs that are completely imported, and are against development… all to avoid having to answer difficult questions that have been consistently placed…

One of the questions that many farmers have posed during this conference was: “Ultimately, who does this government serve?”… No one dared to answer!

Tear-drop in the Indian Ocean: JA! in Sri Lanka

In early October, Justiça Ambiental participated in the International Conference on The Role of Communities in Environmental Decision-Making. It was held in a beautiful forest resort in Kandy, in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Kandy was the capital of the last kingdom in Sri Lanka. It fell to the British as late as 1815, after fighting off the Portuguese and Dutch colonisers for 300 years.

This was the pre-conference, which is always held before the Friends of the Earth International Biannual General Meeting (BGM). The pre-conference gives a chance for FoE member groups to meet and interact with communities from the local country that is hosting the BGM.

 

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JA staff along with over a hundred people from Friends of the Earth International. Photo credit: Victor Barro, FoEI

 

The pre-conference is based on the clear understanding that listening to the voices of local communities is the most vital part in environment and development decision-making. It is based on principles of environmental democracy, free prior and informed consent and management and ownership of resources in the hands of local communities.

JA’s Programs Officer presented at the session on ‘Infrastructure Development and Community Rights’. He talked about the struggles that Mozambican communities are facing because of the onslaught of mega-projects that are destroying community lives and livelihoods. JA staff also chaired the session on environmental decision-making for urban communities. Changes in urban settings are usually very rapid compared to rural environment. Poor communities are often displaced more than once. When they are displaced from their lands and forests, they usually become merely a labour source in urban centres and lose their traditions and rights. It was wonderful to interact with Sri Lankan communities, many of whom are facing very similar situations to those in Mozambique.

 

In the evening, we were treated to a cultural night, including traditional Kandyan dancers. It was nice to see how dance is such a crucial part of all ancient cultures and there are some similar themes across continents. The Kandyan dancers used some masks and themes that are reminiscent of those used in the northern Mozambican communities.

 

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Kanyan dancers. Photo credit: Daniel Ribeiro

 

The wonderful keynote address that night was delivered by Justice C.G. Weeramanthri. He is a Sri Lankan lawyer who served as a Judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, from 1991 to 2000. Winner of the Right Livelihood Award in 2007, Justice Weeramanthri talked about the need for an ombudsman for future generations. “Nobody owns even one inch of land,” he said. He reminded us of the Native American tradition to consider the next 7 generations in our environmental decision-making.

Unfortunately the government of Mozambique and most other countries across the world at this moment are doing exactly the opposite. At least the Sri Lankan government seems to work a bit with local civil society, while here in Mozambique the government is usually working hard to undermine or weaken civil society.

After this inspiring speech, FoE Sri Lanka presented Environmental and Social Justice Awards to 13 icons of Sri Lanka. The list included an indigenous Vedda person who plays a leadership role in the indigenous rights, a Buddhist monk who has been instrumental in saving the Nilgala forest, a recently-deceased elder from the youth revolution of the 1970s who founded the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reforms and others.

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These monks were among those honoured with the environmental awards. Photo credit: Daniel Ribeiro

We felt honoured and humbled to be in the presence of these amazing individuals and movement leaders who have played an important role in the civil society of Sri Lanka.

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