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Running a Temperature


Corporate plunder of Mozambique threatens millions

Two recent reports on Mozambique offer a shocking insight into the nightmare model of growth being forced on the continent in this new phase of global corporate neo-colonialism. Millions of small farmers and peasants are its victims.

The first looks at mining in the northern province of Tete, which has 23 billion tons of coal reserves. The government wants it to be producing 25% of the world's coal supply by 2030. To achieve that, mining concessions must pour out of the economics ministry, and thousands of the province's 1.5 million population face dispossession.

In a taste of what is to come, 1,500 formerly self-sufficient farming families have been forcibly removed from their homes, to arid areas, far from rivers and markets, to make room for the miners. They have lost access to fertile land, water and work and now rely on food aid, says a report from Human Rights Watch.

The second report looks at the ProSAVANA plan, presented as an aid partnership with the Japanese and Brazilian governments, but in reality a massive corporate land grab cooked up by “experts” with close connections to the corporations. It would seize over 10 million hectares of land in three provinces – Nampula, Niassa, and Zambézia – where four million people currently live and farm.

The plan has been made in secret, with no consultation whatsoever. A copy was leaked to a group of civil society organisations and their report deserves to be read in full because it exposes what is happening throughout Africa and parts of Asia too. The group says:

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. Foreign seed, pesticide and fertiliser companies will also make a killing from this massive expansion of industrial agriculture into Africa.

ProSAVANA will wipe out seed saving, local knowledge and food cultures and traditional land management. It will force peasants on to fixed parcels of land, ending traditional, itinerant, mixed agriculture. They will be forced to produce under contract to the corporations and go into debt to buy seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. Many will be forced to sell up, allowing big local farming concerns to step in, and the friends of the government will be at the front of the queue.

Some Mozambicans will profit from this. Portugal's richest family has set up a joint venture with a company controlled by the friends and family of Mozambique's president. Mozambicans struggled for a decade in a bloody war against Portuguese colonial rule, which ended with independence in 1975. The party leading that struggle was FRELIMO, the governing party now colluding with the land-grabbers.

The claim is that farmers' rights will be protected by the World Bank's RAI (Responsible Agricultural Investment) standard but this is rubbish. Every land grab in the world claims to be operating on RAI and it has not prevented millions being driven out to let the corporations in.

Hot money is pouring into Africa, with some countries experiencing rapid increases in gross domestic product, but at the expense of millions of lives crushed in the rush for profit-driven growth. Mozambique is currently achieving growth of around 7.5% per year but its people remain amongst the poorest in the world.

The kind of farming being imposed is unsustainable and short term. It will lead to the creation of a dustbowl and will emit huge quantities of CO2. It will not increase access to food but will only speed up the export of calories from Africa to the rest of the world.

The movements that led the independence struggles throughout Africa have degenerated into pro-capitalist parties with no vision other than enriching the few at the expense of the many. They have no more conception of democracy than our own rulers here. Only a surge towards the formation of real democracies, in Africa and also here in the UK, can transform the situation. Then, together, we can co-operate for each others' development and end corporate plundering once and for all.

Penny Cole
Environment editor
30 May 2013

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