Mozambique: More than 1,000 people displaced from their lands in Lioma
By Júlio Paulino
More than a thousand sustenance farmers in the village of Wakhua, in the administrative post of Lioma, on the border between the provinces of Zambezia and Nampula, were removed from their lands by the Brazilian company AGROMOZ, to make way for soybean production in an area of some 3,000 hectares. The population affected was enticed with compensations that did not correspond to the goods they owned, in a non-transparent process. In addition to not being properly resettled, the victims do not have access to new space to continue their sustenance and household farming activities.
Some forums of farmers of the administrative post of Mutuali in Malema, in Nampula province, condemn the government initiatives with regard to the resettlement of some communities in that geographical constituency.
This action is coupled with the expropriation of land from farmers to make way for agro-business projects, with an emphasis on soybeans, as part of the Development program for the Tropical Agriculture (ProSAVANA), which involves three governments, notably Mozambique, Brazil and Japan, to be implemented in 14 districts of the provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Zambézia.
This repudiation arises as a result of the emergence of some Brazilian farmers in two districts of Nampula and Zambezia provinces, namely, Malema and Gurúè, in the administrative posts of Mutuali and Lioma, respectively, who are dedicated to the agro-business, expropriating the lands of farmers in these regions, and transforming the owners in their employees.
According to Pedro Carlos, representative of the Forum of Farmers of Niapaca, in Mutuali, the alert follows the eviction of about 1,000 peasants from Wakhua, in the administrative post of Lioma, which borders the village of Nakarari, in the administrative post of Mutuali in Malema. According to that community made up of more than one thousand people, who saw their land expropriated in 2012 to give space for the project of soybean production in Lioma by Brazilian Group AGROMOZ, were forced to relocate to Mutuali looking for land to start farms.
"Every day that passes we get families who ask to borrow a plot of land to start their farms and house construction, because they lost their respective land," said Carlos. Our interlocutor also referred to the lack of transparency by the Government in the process of awarding the right to use the land (DUAT) to foreign farmers, with a view to prevent the emergence of community of "landless" communities in that geographical area. This could result in social upheavals, impoverishment of the people affected and reduction of alternatives to survival.
Agostinho Mocernea, Secretary of the village of Nakarari, in the administrative post of Mutuali, a site that is receiving an avalanche of farmers looking for land to start farms and construction of houses, claimed to have witnessed the whole process of allocation of space for the Brazilian project, which involved the provincial Government of Zambezia and the local Nakarari leadership. Mocernea also said that he alerted his counterpart on the need to safeguard all processes, but this did not get taken into account due to enticement of monetary values.
"The process started in 2012 and, at the time, we were told that the AGROMOZ project was to deal with an area estimated at only around 200 hectares to begin with a plot to test the fertileness of several seed cultures such as soybeans, corn and beans," said Mocernea, having added that it was alleged that this plan would be beneficial to the local population because there would be jobs for young people. During the expropriation of land, AGROMOZ promised the construction of a health clinic and a school, but a year later, nothing had been done.
Farmers were removed from the area and received a value ranging between 2,000 and 6,000 meticais. Our correspondent also stated that the first compensations to the community were made in one of the classrooms of a local elementary school, where the farmers were summoned to a meeting where the disclosure of guidelines of the Gurúè District Government, promoted by the Nakarari leader, was imitated.
"Being that this case was different that the norm, I tried approaching the Nakarari leader to warn him about the danger that the action represented, but he wouldn't listen to me. He received the money and ordered the removal of the population. The result is in recent days we have been witnessing hundreds of families living adrift," said the community leader.
In agreement with Agostinho Morcenea, in 2012, AGROMOZ worked in an area of about 500 hectares and, the following year, increased to more than 1,000 hectares, specifically in areas where the population was removed.
This is raising several criticisms and objections among the farmers.
Population forced to surrender their lands
Mariana Narocori was born in the village of Wakhua in Lioma, in Zambézia province, where she spent her childhood. She's the mother of three children, two of whom had to interrupt their studies due relocation as a result being removed from their land for the AGROMOZ project.
She explains that as soon as the procedure for the granting of land began, she was summoned to participate in one of the meetings advertised by the local leader, where the mandatory removal was announced in order to give space to the AGROMOZ project.
"I was forced to sign a document whose contents I didn't have access to, and I received only 4,500 meticais. A week later, a bulldozer arrived and demolished my house and destroyed the crops. I was homeless and had to resort to the town of Nakarari where I was assigned a plot of land on which I build my house and farm to survive," she said.
Our interviewee also said that she fears that she will not get a good yield from her new cultivation area because she started late in the season. "I had no other choice. I had to make a one room hut for shelter. I also took advantage of the second agricultural season to secure some food, but to sell it was not enough time," she said.
Fernando Quinakhala, resident in Lioma, was also affected by the AGROMOZ project. Married and a father of five children, he survives on small scale agriculture. He lost an area of 3.5 hectares, a plot that he inherited from his ancestors. As compensation, AGROMOZ decided that Quinakhala should only receive 6,500 meticais, a value that, according to the farmer, does not correspond to the land's qualities. "I didn't take the money because it was quite insignificant," he said.
That farmer also said that in the area in which he was forced to abandon he produced, on average, 40 sacks of corn, 20 of beans, among other crops. This is compared to the 10 sacks of corn and 2 of beans that he manages to produce now.
"I have no option but to mourn. We appeal to all mechanisms in order to derail the project," Quinakhala said. He added that "we were happy with the announcement of the construction of a health facility, but so far nothing has been done and we continue to travel long distances looking for health services".
Aerial dusting harms surrounding communities
After extending the area from 500 to 1,000 hectares and introducing soybean production in Lioma, AGROMOZ started the process of aerial dusting, which would have caused respiratory problems for families living in the vicinity of the project, in addition to preventing the growth of various crops.
"In the 2013/2014 agricultural campaign, a group of AGROMOZ workers appeared to inform us that during the spraying, carried out by a small plane, people had to leave their homes as a way to prevent a possible harm caused by the chemical," said Agostinho Mocernea.
After a few days, almost all the residents began to suffer from the flu and crops died. The company was notified and, in turn, sent a team to analyze the situation. The team confirmed the facts presented by the residents yet, at least with regard to the lost crops, the promise of replacing the crops was not delivered.
Government devalues farmer complaints
@Verdade approached Elídio Bande, Provincial Director of Agriculture in Zambezia, with the purpose of presenting the concerns of the Lioma residents. According to Bande, there was no expropriation of land in that portion of the country because the process followed all legal procedures.
According to Bande, the project participants, including the local people, community leaders and proponents of the initiative, held two community consultations in the region and also had a public hearing, which culminated in the transfer of land to make way for the project of soybean production to feed the national market.
The Government granted October 2014 the DUAT to the company AGROMOZ in an area of 9,000 hectares in Lioma for an exploration period of more than 40 years. This measure is not consistent with what is established in the law, which states that the granting of land is to be made two years after the experimental exploration of the area by the operator.
Regarding aerial dusting, our interlocutor has revealed that it is permitted in Mozambique, following the standards created by the environmental sector.
AGROMOZ refutes the charges
The representative of AGROMOZ, identified only by the name of Haine, of Brazilian nationality, distances himself from the irregularities in the process of implementation of the project, but he confirms that, as a first step, all eyes were turned towards the establishment a test field for several soybean cultures in order to identify the seed with best germinal and productive power for large-scale agriculture.
Haine did not comment around the irregularities brought forth by the farmers, but said that, for the present agricultural season, the Brazilian Group AGROMOZ proposes to explore an area of approximately 1,600 hectares, forecasting a yield of 2,300 tons of soya.
Our interviewee revealed that the company agreed to to correct all faults caused by the project, as long as they are formally brought forward and with accompanying evidence. AGROMOZ mentioned that there was an expression of interest by a Japanese company with regard to supplying significant quantities of soya, but there is still no new information, due to the level of demand that the process requires.
"This is a process that involves many investments in fertilizers and bureaucratic procedures for exports," Haine said. According to Haine, the process of starting the fields to experiment with new varieties potentially holding greater productive power will continue and they intend to transition into exploring corn and bean production to sell to the local population.
Social responsibility projects stalled
Within the framework of social responsibility, AGROMOZ would have promised the construction of a health facility to reduce the long distances that the community travels looking for health services.
Community members said that in the first months of the project implementation, AGROMOZ erected a tent that was used to perform hospital treatment, but the initiative did not last long. After two weeks, the tent had been removed.
"We have a project planned for the construction of a health facility and a school. We are waiting for contacts that are being carried out by the directorate of the company at the central level with the respective health and education sectors, with regard to the allocation of human resources and part of the material to equip the school and the health clinic," said the head of AGROMOZ.
Civil society protests the project
Sheila Rafi, Coordinator of the Natural Resources of Livaningo, an organization working for the welfare of the communities in Mozambique, is said to have been touched by the situation of Lioma and Mutuali populations, especially those who are in the vicinity of the AGROMOZ project.
"You must not, by law, expel communities from their land and without carrying out a proper resettlement. This is irresponsibility of our leaders who insist on condoning such practices that undermine the well-being of our population," she said.
According to the coordinator, the compensation process carried out by AGROMOZ in Lioma was not legal, similar to what happened with the populations covered by the ring road project of Maputo, and Vale in Tete, among others.
"It's about time for the Government to put an end to the illegal and poorly organized resettlements. If a village leader was forced to abandon his lands, it was the responsibility of the Governments of Gurúè, in Zambezia, and of Malema, in Nampula, to create conditions for the relocation process to occur transparently and correctly," she said.
Rafi urged the Government and civil society organizations to focus their efforts on forcing investors to adhere to Mozambican legislation, as well as the international standards governing this type of investment in community lands.
Uncertain future for those affected
The future is grim for communities who have been driven from their land and forced to leave their crops. Most of the displaced are living in Nampula province with a relative. Many farmers have gone from praiseworthy food producers to people who now live off the crops of others.
For example, some farmers were arrested for stealing products belonging to AGROMOZ. "When someone loses their field they have to wait until the following year to produce food. Our question as an organization that works for the protection and development of the community is: what benefit do Mozambicans have from accepting the practice of agribusiness?" asked the coordinator.
According to Rafi, Livaningo will present a demonstration to the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture about their main findings, demanding that the Government do something to return the occupied illegally lands, or at least to make a worthy compensation for losses.
In regard to the use of pesticides, Rafi promised to present the matter to the Ministry of Agriculture, in order to find other alternatives before this process culminates with the misfortune of community well-being.
"Many families complain that their children contracted respiratory problems and their fields were burned. We do not yet have scientific evidence to assert that it was caused by these pesticides. But we can come to some conclusion that this will obviously include laboratory analyses of samples of soil and water of the communities", concluded Rafi.