Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mozambique - Replacing Colonialism With Foreign Companies' Land Grab

Peasants in northern Mozambique are struggling to keep their lands, as governments and foreign companies move aggressively to set up large-scale agribusiness projects. They are being told that these projects will bring them benefits. But, so far, the country's experience with foreign investment in agriculture has been disastrous.

This report looks at the companies already setting up agribusiness operations in the Nacala Corridor, an area that the government has prioritised for agribusiness development. These companies, typically structured through offshore tax havens and often connected to Mozambican political elites, have been grabbing lands and extracting wealth in ways reminiscent of the country's colonial days.

A new survey by Mozambique's National Farmers' Union (UNAC) and GRAIN shows there is a colonial-style scramble for Africa's farm lands under way. Politically-connected companies based in offshore tax havens have grabbed hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland from peasants in Mozambique. (Download an Excel spreadsheet.)

From liberation to land grabs

Mozambique declared independence on June 25, 1975 after a decade of armed struggle. The peasants, workers, and students of Mozambique had defeated the Portuguese empire, guided by a common ideal of "freedom of man and earth".
The ideals of the national liberation struggle are enshrined in the Republic's first constitution, which recognises the right of the Mozambican people to resist all forms of oppression. These ideals also resonate in the first national anthem of the Republic of Mozambique, promising to turn the country into the grave of imperialism and exploitation.
Land was particularly important to the country's liberation struggle. Portuguese settlers had occupied vast tracts of the country's most fertile lands. When Mozambique achieved independence, these lands were immediately taken back and nationalised. Under the 1975 constitution, the state – on behalf of the Mozambican people – became the owner of all lands in the country. The constitution also recognised agriculture as the foundation of development with industry as its main engine, to be underpinned by a policy of national industrialisation led by state companies and cooperatives.

One year after independence, a brutal civil war broke out which ended only with the founding of a second republic in 1992 in the wake of the Rome General Peace Accords, signed between the government and RENAMO. Then followed two decades of structural adjustment policies imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, 40 years after independence, the revolutionary vision of the national liberation movement is in tatters and the Mozambican government is thoroughly dominated by a neoliberal ideology that relies narrowly on foreign investment for the development of all economic sectors, whether agriculture, infrastructure, fishing, tourism, resource extraction, health or education.

Foreign investment in the country has thus expanded rapidly in recent years. According to the National Bank of Mozambique, the net inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2013 amounted to $ 5.9 billion, up 15.8% from 2012, making Mozambique the third largest destination for FDI in Africa. Much of this capital has gone into resource extraction, such as mining and exploration of hydrocarbons. But agriculture is also emerging as an important target of foreign companies, especially in the Nacala Corridor, a vast stretch of fertile lands across northern Mozambique where millions of peasant families live and farm.

Over and above this, these investments are the result of a very strong alliance between international capital through the big multinational corporations, with the support of the governments in their home countries with the local political-economic elite with the intention of exploiting the country’s main agro-ecological regions and the potential in mining and hydrocarbons. It is within this context that this research analyses the movements of the different players in the occupation and appropriation of the Nacala Corridor, one of the country’s richest regions, which, besides being home to the country’s main ecosystems, is the repository of reserves of a number of minerals.

read the whole article here

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