Tag Archives: mozambique

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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The Three Brickmakers

Last Tuesday at  5am, three brickmakers out of the hundreds of people who have been protesting for fairer compensations in Moatize for the past weeks, were arrested by the Mozambican Police while protesting peacefully at the gates of Brazilian mining giant Vale. According to the men, who we maintained contact with throughout the whole week, the police made them clear the railway they had blocked to prevent the coal from leaving the site and afterwards they were picked from the crowd, handcuffed and taken to the police station.

Thursday we got the information that they were going to be accused of disturbing the peace and making death threats to an employee of Vale.

What was happening was as obvious as ridiculous, but for legal reasons, we couldn’t say anything at the time…now we can.

According to our sources in Tete, the three men have been set free this morning after their hearing and will await for the verdict in freedom.

As expected, the death threat accusation was dropped because the alleged victim (a Brazilian citizen who works for Vale) failed to identify any of the accused as the person or people who threatened him and failed to tell the court what words those who threatened him used.

What he did tell the court, was that he could not possibly pinpoint three men as the people responsible for the threat, since there were hundreds of people protesting when it happen…

It is almost funny. How can this happen? How can these men stand accused of such a serious crime in such a frivolous way?

We, as I am sure many other Mozambicans, would love to hear an explanation from those responsible.

What is happening in Moatize is shameful.

We know it because we were there just a couple of weeks ago, because we know some of these men and we know that they are being persecuted not because they have disturbed the public peace, but because they have disturbed Vale’s peace and the peace of a government who is clearly compromised in this process and is probably the main responsible for all this mess.

We also know that they were not arrested at random, they were targeted by an overbearing system because they are outspoken men respected by their communities. They are the closest to a leader that they have. Those responsible for these coward actions thought that if they could scare them, the others would be scared too.

Shame on you!

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Justiça Ambiental/FOE Mozambique’s Position on the Prosavana Program

The Prosavana program is inspired by Prodecer, a Japanese-Brazilian agricultural development program developed in the Brazilian Cerrado since the 70’s.  Referred to by Brazilian, Japanese, and Mozambican governments as a success, the Prodecer program promoted the distribution and possession of land to foreigners and turned ​​Brazil into an avid promoter of land usurpation practices abroad.

By way of Prosavana, Brazil plans to export an agro-industrial development model to Mozambique that failed in Brazil where more than 65 million Brazilians are in a situation of food insecurity and millions of people struggle for access to land for food production a means of ensuring livelihood.  Experience shows that the benefits of the Brazilian model have been insignificant compared to the devastating impacts on the lives of peasants, forests, and the biodiversity of the country.

The Prosavana program was skilfully and conveniently wrapped in elegant “green” language and has been presented to Mozambicans and the international community as a program of “sustainable agricultural development”, completely leaving out its potential social and environmental impacts.  However, in a program of this size which requires the resettlement of communities, it is disturbing to realize that they know little or nothing about it.  It is another program designed and decided upon at the highest level without any involvement of farmers, local communities, or the public.

Through Prosavana Japan intends to ensure, in addition to borders, a new source of agricultural goods at low costs the purpose of which is for export to the Asian market particularly Japan and China.
Brazil sees in Prosavana an opportunity for expansion, technical cooperation, and a good investment for their producers and supply companies.
What are the benefits for Mozambique?

A major problem for the promoters of this program is that almost all of the Nacala corridor lands are occupied by peasants.  This is the most populated region of the country, whose fertile soil and abundant rain allows millions of peasants to work and produce food in abundance.  The Nacala corridor is considered the bread basket of the region providing food to the inhabitants of the Northern provinces and allowing the survival of millions of families. The rationale and purpose of Prosavana promotes the usurpation of land and the expulsion of thousands of local farmers who depend on it.  The Prosavana program has been questioned and challenged by civil society organizations among them the National Union of Peasants (UNAC).  UNAC is a peasant movement of the family sector founded in 1987 and recognized by the Government as a partner and by Mozambican peasants as its representative at a national level.  Over the past 25 years UNAC has been playing a crucial role in strengthening farmers’ organizations in the fight for their rights to land and natural resources and the discussion of public policy for the agricultural sector.  It has more than 86,000 individual members grouped into 2200 associations and cooperatives, 83 district unions, 7 unions and 4 provincial unions.  Justiça Ambiental corroborates the statement of UNAC on the Prosavana Program.

Justiça Ambiental / FOE Mozambique strongly condemn the whole process of preparing and implementing ProSavana because:

  1. It is based on the import of top-down policy and so far the circulating information is incomplete and unclear;
  2. The program is connoted as “sustainable agricultural development” and has as main targets peasant families and cooperatives of farmers, however, provides for the resettlement of communities and the expropriation of land;
  3. Promotes the influx of Brazilian farmers turning Mozambican farmers into cheap labour;
  4. Requires millions of hectares of land that is not actually available due to the system of leaving land fallow;
  5. This ignores the benefits of the program for the peasants;
  6. The program is structured to promote the expropriation of land to the peasants and local communities in general;
  7. Promotes the violation of the rights of peasants given the insecurity of land tenure, regarding DUAT (Right to Land Use);
  8. Promotes worsened corruption and conflict of interest given the enormous interests involved;
  9. Will aggravate the already precarious living conditions of many communities completely dependent on agricultural production for their livelihoods which could lead to a massive rural exodus;
  10. The program provides a high mechanization and excessive use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides leading to contamination of the soil and water courses;
  11. There is a convenient lack of clarity over the use or otherwise of genetically modified organisms which given Embrapa’s connection to Monsanto is probably expected.

 

We demand that the Mozambican state, as stipulated by Article 11 of the Constitution of the Republic of Mozambique, assume its sovereignty and its leading role in defending the interests of its people.
We demand also that the Mozambican government reassess the ProSavana program taking into account the aspirations, concerns, and needs of Mozambicans, particularly farmers who are most affected by the program and who constitute the vast majority of the Mozambican people.  ProSavana, in terms of what it proposes, will threaten food sovereignty, access to land, water, and the entire social structure of families of thousands of Mozambicans thus crippling the nation’s future.

 

 

 

 

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ProSavana – who is it for?

Prosavana was presented as a Programme for the Agricultural and Rural Development of the Nacala Corridor in Mozambique and aims to improve the competitiveness of the rural sector in the region in terms of both food security and the increased productivity of family subsistence agriculture as well as the generation of exportable surpluses resulting from the technical support to agribusiness oriented agriculture.  But it is just one more megaproject, another very clear example of a Top – Down approach, negotiated at the highest level between the 3 countries involved with Mozambique supplying the land, Brazil the technical expertise and input, and Japan providing funds while at the same time securing food production for Japan.

ProSavana focuses on 14 districts in the provinces of Niassa, Nampula, and Zambezia, an area of ​​roughly 14 million hectares along the Nacala corridor.

According to the few documents and information available about the project, ProSavana is supposed to promote rural and agricultural development in an area which was initially described as having large extensions of inhabited land and as being extremely underdeveloped when in fact this area is highly habited due to its rich and fertile soils, regular rain, and abundant water.  Millions of peasants occupy most of this vast area and depend directly on the land which provides for millions of families. It is also a fact that this land can produce much more than what it currently produces and that most peasants and Mozambique as a whole would stand to gain if more adequate farming techniques, equipment, and better access to markets were the main objective of this initiative.  But what we have slowly been learning is that ProSavana is not all that.  ProSavana is agribusiness, it’s big money, it will use and abuse pesticides and fertilizers contaminating rivers and water sources, it will require moving communities away from the good land – resettlements, good examples of which we have yet to see in Mozambique.  These communities are particularly vulnerable to landgrabbing which is already happening in the area with other projects and the communities have not been participating in the design of this project – they know very little about it and how they will be a part of it.

UNAC, União Nacional de Camponeses – the National Peasants Union, has released a statement, a strong message resulting from a meeting with the peasants in Nampula.

UNAC statment can be seen at:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Uni%C3%A3o-Nacional-de-Camponeses/351893418235290

www.unac.org.mz

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Notes from the Field: Vale-displaced communities in Cateme

Almost 200 people filled a room at the Escola Secundária Cateme (Secondary School of Cateme) on2 foto_meeting_8octblog_photo credit Gregor Zielke Saturday, 6 October. Cateme is the region where communities displaced by Vale coal-mining in Tete province, Mozambique, have been resettled. Women, men, children, babies, the elderly, students and teachers from the communities came together this past Saturday to speak out about the problems they are facing in resettlement.

Saturday’s meeting at the Secondary School was convened by Liga dos Direitos Humanos (Human Rights League), UNAC (National Farmers Union), AAAJC (Association for Support and Legal Assistance for Communities) and Justiça Ambiental. The land law and Mozambican constitution were presented for people to understand their rights, and copies of these booklets were given to various community representatives. Following the presentations, community members spoke vociferously one after another, explaining the problems they were facing.

Vale is the second-largest mining company in the world, with revenues exceeding US$ 45 billion and profits around US$ 17 billion. But Vale is also a global leader in its devastating disregard for human rights and 3 foto_cateme_8octblog_photo credit Gregor Zielkeenvironment protections. There is even a global movement around the world called “Affected by Vale”, bringing together communities that are the victims of Vale’s greed. Every time Vale enters a new country or region, the “Affected by Vale” movement ends up with new members. Mozambique is no exception.

In Mozambique, Vale is mining coal at an open-cast coal mine in Moatize, Tete province. The communities living in the area were relocated to Cateme. Every time we visit Cateme and stand in the middle of the village, we understand why Vale is considered the worst company in the world. The area is dry, hot and desolate. The land produces dust instead of crops and the 40°C plus temperatures, including in this past week, turn the small zinc-roofed houses where people have been resettled into over-sized ovens, with inside temperatures exceeding 50°C! The few times it does rain, the roofs leak and even though most houses are only a few years old, they are already cracking.

Life has always been hard in Tete province in inland Mozambique, but people developed survival methods. The community relocated to Cateme because of Vale’s mining had productive lands. They were close to heath posts, schools, churches, friends, family and one of the largest markets in the province where they could sell their crops. Now they are 37 kms away from their main market of Moatize. People said they spent up to 100 Meticais (US$4) per day getting to and from Moatize.

1 foto_meeting_8oct blog_ photo credit Mauro PintoEven the secondary school where the meeting was held was supposedly for the resettled communities. Yet we discovered that out of 150 students, a paltry 20 come from resettled communities, the others are from wealthier families in Tete, Moatize, etc.

The people tried to discuss the issues with Vale and the government, and when that failed, they stood up and demanded to be heard. Earlier this year they held a peaceful protest and occupied the road and railway to make Vale take their concerns seriously. The reaction from the Mozambican government, backed by Vale, was unmitigated violence by the rapid intervention police, who used live ammunition, and shot rubber bullets directly at unarmed peaceful protesters, sending 6 to the hospital and 14 to jail. One man’s horrendous injuries were photographed in January. We photographed him again and his injuries persist almost 9 months later.

Photo Credits (from the top down):

Photos 1 & 2:  Gregor Zielke

Photo 3: Mauro Pinto

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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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How much is enough?

Pemba1 040Last week we marched to deliver a declaration to our Southern African heads of state who met in Maputo for the SADC (Southern African Development Community) conference. We demanded that the SADC be reclaimed for the people of the region, for people-centred development, but as I sat in my office to read the weekly local news, I feel overwhelmed by sadness but also utter puzzlement.

Do our leaders really give a thought as to the real needs of the people?

In Mozambique, I sit and read about more multinational corporation investments being approved, unfortunately, there is very little doubt as to whom the government is catering.IMG_1499

In the same week, we witnessed a shocking contradiction of news. Macauweb reported that the government had approved two more forestry concessions for a British company, Obtala Resources group, covering an area of 117,618 hectares, to be located in Cabo Delgado and Nampula provinces. From these concessions, the group expects to extract 8994 cubic meters of wood with a high retail value. The concessions even include very valuable species such as African Blackwood.

At the same time, Verdade newspaper reported that local carpenters in Maputo are struggling to survive with some workshops closing down and workers losing their jobs and livelihoods. Why? It is because they are facing more and more difficulties in purchasing wood without which their profession is impossible.

Pemba3 024While Mozambique is exporting shiploads of wood, to the extent that we are one of the biggest suppliers of wood to the European and Asian markets, the carpenters of Mozambique can’t even etch out a decent, hard-working livelihood anymore. “The wood that is not ours anymore,” they lament.

This contradiction is what is known in Mozambique as “development”! Yet this contradiction is not new to us, however sad and shameful it seems, as we have been listening for many years to the woes of the local artisans increasingly facing a lack of wood. However, whenever communities raise their voices or when they lose hope and act to demand justice and their right to a decent life, they are treated as criminals, and their voices are shut down by threats, as happened in Cateme last January where people were protesting mistreatment in Vale’s coal-mining efforts.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as we are hurtling towards becoming the poster-child for the “resource curse”, while at the same time we are touting how great our development numbers are.

The Marikana platinum miners who were shot dead by South African police last week were just demanding better wages in an industry that mints billions of US dollars every year. Similarly, the Mozambican carpenters are just asking for the chance to continue their trade and livelihood. People are not asking for hand-outs. They are asking for a chance for survival. They are asking the government to take their side for once and enforce policies that support the struggling masses.

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