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Under Water

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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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