Tag Archives: exploration

Supports who?

Another mega agricultural project launched in Mozambique

We received the news about its launching ceremony with skepticism. For many of us, it was the first time we were hearing about the project. Another mega project loaded with ambitious and (some) noble goals, like so many others that preceded it and vanquished without achieving half of what they set out to do.

“This mega project of my Government, whose objective is to gradually take rural families out of poverty, is the embodiment of the investment in Mozambican families as the main mechanism to promote sustainable, integrated and inclusive development and reduce regional and local asymmetries”, said Filipe Nyusi.

It is premature to make major considerations or comments on the subject because still very little is known. We have not yet had access to any document on the project, and the little information that exists is circulating in the mainstream media. However, the simple fact that a project this big (judging by the amounts involved and by the 125 thousand families of alleged beneficiaries) is launched in this manner, leads us to ask: Where did this project come from?

Once again, this is a top to bottom approach. The project was designed, discussed and launched, without giving the alleged beneficiaries or other interested parties and/or affected people, the chance to participate in its construction!

Surely there are more than enough reasons to justify the urgency to launch this project. To justify why there was no time to perform appropriate public consultations; to involve the many actors who deal with agricultural issues such as research institutions, academics, civil society, grassroots organizations and peasants in discussions on priorities for the development of peasant agriculture; and to design the project on the basis of a truly open and transparent process.

To justify their hurry, the noblest of reasons will be invoked, such as the urgent need to support the development of the peasantry, given their evident poverty and vulnerability. Obviously, old and less noble arguments – which, truth be said, are nothing but mere distractions – will also come back, like accusing those who question the project of being against development and/or unpatriotic.

Interestingly enough, the World Bank and other similar agencies are far more influential in deciding what may or may not happen in Mozambique than the Mozambican people. And although, as we have said earlier, we know nothing about this project yet, we risk guessing that the role of the World Bank is not limited to financing it. They have certainly been involved in the project’s conception, ensuring that their altruistic support goes mainly to what interests them most: agro-business and forest plantations – monocultures of exotic species – they call reforestation.

“More than 5,000 jobs will be created by forest plantations, through the reforestation of more than 1600 hectares of degraded lands.”

According to information in the media, this project was conceived by MITADER and will be supported by the World Bank! The perfect wedding!

In other words, we owe a great debt to our government (and no, it is not that hidden and illegal debt we talking about)! We are deeply grateful to them for granting us another ready-made project to reduce poverty. Free from burdens such as having to think about development issues, about inclusive and participatory strategies, about how to ensure that the priorities of the peasantry are properly included, and even about how we want to manage our resources and how we want to see our country in the coming years.

For now, let’s wait for the enthusiasm to fade so we can then try to understand how this mega project is supposed to work and, above all, how will it – unlike the many others in the past just like it (loaded with the same promises and the same rivers of money to implement) – finally get Mozambicans out of poverty?

Who has left poverty behind thanks to the fantastic green revolution? Who has left poverty behind growing jatropha or other biofuels? Who will benefit from Prosavana? Someone always profits, but who? And at what cost? How many hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans’ well being will these ready made projects with incognito beneficiaries “cost”?

And while misunderstandings and failures in communication are, unfortunately, too often invoked to justify civil society’s opposition to so many mega-projects, – even though they are never the main reason – people insist on doing things behind closed curtains. Where is the official information about the project? It has already been inaugurated; it is already being advertised in the media; but it is not available on the websites of the entities involved and all we know about it is what is being reported by the media.

We would also like to believe and share their enthusiasm, but skepticism has taken over us long ago. Now we prefer a “seeing is believing” approach, and we have not seen anything yet …

 

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Mozambique’s Gas Master Plan

This past week Justiça Ambiental fired off comments in response to the Natural Gas Master Plan for Mozambique which was presented in a workshop on 6th September in Maputo. The World Bank and the Government of Mozambique commissioned consultants from ICF International based in the USA to write the Master Plan.

Lack of effective participation

The timeline and the participation process was a mockery. We were given only one week to read and respond to the report. We were not provided with the full report, despite having requested it, only the Executive Summary. It would be ethically incorrect if the government or the consultants claimed that a public participation process has occurred.

Hidden Truths and False Intentions

Although the Plan says its intention is to “maximize benefits to Mozambique society”, it appears like the intention is to maximise benefits to international oil companies and Mozambican elites instead.

There are many important questions the Master Plan does not address.

  1. Is this the right time for gas to be explored in Mozambique?
  2. Does the country have the necessary critical factors in place to prevent the gas resource from turning into a resource curse?
  3. Does it have the necessary well-functioning legal, regulatory, and financial systems?
  4. Does it encourage vibrant and democratic civil society institutions?
  5. Does it focus on ways to improve accountability, transparency, and participation?
  6. Does it focus on developing small and medium industries?
  7. Does it effectively ameliorate social and environmental impacts?

The lack of attention in dealing with these issues will only result in feeding the growth of the corrupt elites and place Mozambique on the long list of African countries plagued by the resource curse.

Lack of effective regulatory, legal and other systems

The Master Plan is alluding that Mozambique has some readiness to approach gas development because it has “over the past decade been steadily building a regulatory framework under which to manage the development of its gas resources.”

This is totally misleading because Mozambique has at best taken steps only on paper, and these laws and regulations have not actually been transferred into reality. Mozambicans often sceptically say that these paper laws are to show foreigners and for the powerful to ignore. Many laws recently created in Mozambique have huge loopholes.

Where is the Corruption? Missing in this Master Plan!

It is quite shocking to note that the word ‘corruption’ appears in this entire 46-page document once. But that too is in reference to Nigeria, not Mozambique.

Isn’t it strange that the Gas Master Plan doesn’t even mention corruption in Mozambique when we have the dubious distinction of being in a low 120 out of 182 position on the Corruption Perception Index.

Gas or Tourism

Tourism is one of biggest contributors to Mozambique’s economy and one of the fastest-growing sectors. With gas exploration in the Rovuma basin, the tourism potential of the region will be jeopardised. The impacts of gas exploration on the Quirimbas marine reserves will be devastating.

Mega-projects: Who benefits?

The Master Plan recommends that Mozambique should prioritise mega-projects. However, the history of mega-projects in Mozambique clearly shows that they are purely self-serving, extractive, export-oriented ventures that provide Mozambique with only a small amount of low-skilled jobs and a lot of pollution.

The contribution of mega-projects to the Mozambican state in 2010 and 2011 was insignificant. The President of Mozambique’s Tax Authority said in an interview that the 2011 contribution of megaprojects to the state was even lower than the contribution of the informal sector.

Social and Environmental Impacts Ignored

The Master Plan claims that increased employment in the country is an objective. The Mozambican government does not prioritise training and capacity-building of Mozambicans, nor supporting small and medium industries, so it is clear that foreigners and local elites will walk away with the lion’s share of benefits from the gas sector.

This Master Plan pretends as if environmental impacts are small and can be ameliorated if managed properly. This is a fallacy. These activities are highly environmentally detrimental and Mozambique does not have a good track record in conducting effective Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). In most cases, the EIAs just act as a ‘rubber stamp’ whereas the political decisions for projects are made before the EIAs are even conducted.

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