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Leaked Development Plan Raises Land Grab Fears in Mozambique

Against a backdrop of growing concern about ‘land grabs‘ in Africa and the conversion of smallholder agriculture to large-scale commercial agriculture, a leak from a controversial economic development plan has raised alarm in Mozambique, as well as Brazil and Japan [ja], two key donors.

According to Mozambican NGO Justiça Ambiental and a number of other co-signing organizations, a leaked copy of the so-called Master Plan for the ProSAVANA program, dated March 2013, reveals the ‘land grabbing’ plans of the governments of Japan, Brazil and Mozambique.

A Mozambican farmer working the land. Photo used on CC BY-NC 2.0 license, by Flickr user Bread for the World

A Mozambican farmer. Photo used on a CC BY-NC 2.0 license, by Flickr user Bread for the World

Brazilian activist Fátima Mello explains what ProSAVANA is, and gives some important background on the project in an interview with Instituto Humanitas [pt]:

O ProSavana é um programa de cooperação e investimentos entre três governos: Brasil, Japão e Moçambique. É um programa agrícola que abrange três províncias no norte de Moçambique, numa área estimada em 14,5 milhões de hectares, onde vivem aproximadamente 5,5 milhões de camponeses que produzem, a partir de um sistema de base familiar, alimentos. O ProSavana deriva do Prodecer, um programa que foi desenvolvido no Cerrado brasileiro, em Mato Grosso, realizado pela cooperação japonesa com o Brasil nos anos 1980 e que produziu as características que conhecemos no Cerrado: gigantescos monocultivos de soja em larga escala voltados para a exportação, intenso uso de agrotóxicos, expulsão de populações tradicionais, concentração da propriedade da terra, contaminação do solo e criação de um poderio econômico do latifúndio e do agronegócio, que se traduziu em poder político…

Prosavana is an aid and investment program between three governments: Brazil, Japan, and Mozambique. It is an agricultural program that spans three provinces in the north of Mozambique, in an area estimated at 14.5 million hectares, where approximately 5.5 million people produce food as family farmers. Prosavana derives from Prodecer, a program that was developed in the Brazilian “cerrado” (grasslands), in Mato Grosso, undertaken by Japanese aid with Brazil in the 1980s and that produced the characteristics that we know in the Cerrado: gigantic monocultures of soy on a large scale for export, intense use of agrotoxins, expulsion of traditional crops, concentration of land, contamination of the soil and creation of an economic powerhouse of land-owning elites and agribusiness, which translated into political power…

The land area in question in the “Nacala Corridor” is the size of Switzerland and Austria. The agencies sponsoring this project and the government had not yet made maps available to farmers and citizens, detailing what land will be included. Farmers organizations have felt totally shut out of the shaping of this project and policy.

The National Farmers Union of Mozambique (UNAC) said last year:

We, peasant farmers, condemn the way in which the ProSavana programme was drafted and the way it is intended to be implemented in Mozambique, which has been characterised by reduced transparency and the exclusion of civil society organisations throughout the process, especially peasant organisations.

On the blog Delegoa Bay, a blogger called ABM writes [pt]:

Conversando com camponeses ao longo do Corredor de Nacala fica claro que brasileiros e japoneses estão indo às comunidades para avisar que o ProSavana está chegando. Depois afirmarão que fizeram as chamadas consultas a sociedade civil. Isso que estão fazendo não é consulta…

Conversing with family farmers along the Nacala Corridor it becomes clear that Brazilians and Japanese are going to communities to warn that ProSavana is coming. Then they will maintain that they did so-called consultations with civil society. What they are doing is not consulting.

In March, under increasing pressure the Mozambican government stated  [pt] that “dialogue [with communities] must be permanent”. Brazilian diplomats have responded to the calls for transparency by stating that small farmers will be included in the plans to develop Mozambique's Nacala Corridor. Head of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, Fernando Abreu, was quoted last month [pt] as saying that more information was needed, also claiming that there were no plans to resettle or move farmers from their land.

The leaks contain maps, showing which districts will be targeted for large-scale farming for export, allowing civil society organizations to verify exactly which communities could be affected in order to get a better idea of the potential impact. The leaked document identifies seven “clusters” for intensive development.

Justiça Ambiental and co-signers describe what kind of agriculture the plan will bring

Some of the projects within the plan will provide large areas of land to investors. The Integrated Grain Cluster, which is planned for Majune District, Niassa Province, will be managed by one vertically integrated company that will operate nine 5,000 ha farms, within a 60,000 ha zone, to produce a rotation of maize, soybeans and sunflower, mainly for export. According to the plan, ‘the project has a high profitability and the internal rate of return was calculated at 20.3% and the payback is 9 years.’

They go on to question whether there are any benefits for the Mozambicans in the region:

It is telling that only one of the seven clusters in the Master Plan is aimed at small scale farmers and family food production. And this cluster only proposes the same old failed green revolution model of development. The Master Plan puts no real thought and energy into the needs and capacities of peasants in the Nacala Corridor.

Corporations are the big beneficiaries of this Master Plan. They will get control over land and production and they will control the trade of the foods produced, which will be exported along the roads, rail lines and Nacala port that other foreign corporations will be paid to construct with public funds from Mozambique and Japan.

The National Farmer's Union foresaw a host of problems arising from the ProSAVANA project already last year. Landlessness, social upheaval, impoverishment, corruption, water pollution and ecological imbalance due to deforestation, the Union warned, could become a reality if the project went ahead as planned.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504325916 Sigrid-Marianella Stensrud Ekm

    Did you read the report or just the article?

    I am wondering because I find the analysis is shallow, and quite a bit of quote mining of the document is done in the article.

    For example, while it is true that the area along the Nacala corridor is densly populated on average, the area where large scale investors are invited (Majune district) is very sparsly populated (2.6 habbitants/km2). Secondly, official statistics put currently cultivated area at 18 500 ha. Lets take into account that farmers engage in fallow farming and probably use more than what is officially estimted as cultivated land, lets inflate the number by five times to 100 000 ha. In addition there are 20 000 of forested areas, which the ProSavana program will not diminsh according to Japan’s own ODA regulations. With a total area of 1 152 100 ha, there is still quite a bit of room for large investments in Majune even after discounting areas not suitable for agriculture, infrastucture developments, villages etc.

    In fact, I suspect that Majune district was added to ProSavana post-hoc after their initial field research was completed, precisely because the initial 14 districts did not have available land for large farms, and ProSavana is atempting to minimize the potential resettlements of people.

    Furthermore, I dont see why the article states that only one cluster is aimed at small farmers when the leaked document states that 4 out of the 6 clusters are aimed at small farmers.

    That is just wrong information.

    (The 7th cluster is aimed at non-agri developments, such as roads, storage facilities, processing units and marketing services).

    Only two clusters allow for large farmers, Majune being one, and Lioma plains in Gurue the other. Majune has a very low population density, and the cluster in Lioma plains will focus on existing farms, not the establishment of new large farms. Further, the document also states that in the cases of large farms, the program shall seek to promote a model of contract farming so that benefits can be more wide-reaching.

    In a third cluster (Ribaue) will ONE large company be encouraged to invest in a seed processing unit which will be buying produce from the surrounding small holders. The land area needed for the processing unit is expected to be 10 000 ha. This is large, but hardly a tsunami of investors buying up land. The cluster otherwise focuses on promoting small-holders by providing free inputs and technical expertise.

    I think there are several points in the ProSavana plan that could serve well from constructive criticism and should be debated (and a major negative of the ProSavana is the lack of dissemination of information). However, the discussions on ProSavana remain infantile because so few people have actually read the documents and thus none of the real issues are given attention. Instead irrelevant comments (irrelevant because they do not reflect the reality of what is being said in the ProSavana documents) float around on the internet.

    I wish to encourage people to read the leaked documents, so that we can generate a stimulating and hopefully impactful discussion on the various projects and over all strategy of ProSavana, because talking about a strawman will never get us anywhere.

    • Janet Gunter

      Our role as Global Voices is to “to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online” – not to provide our own in-depth analysis of leaked documents. If you would like to critique one of the sources we have cited, like Justiça Ambiental, then do so, by all means. And please let us know if we have missed some online discussion of the kind you seek.

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