Emergency request for re-constituting public consultation process about the formulation of the Master Plan of the ProSAVANA Program
(English translation of the joint request by 6 Japanese NGOs to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Japan, and the President of JICA)
We appreciate your understanding and facilitation of dialogue with NGOs in the field of international cooperation. Previously, we sent you an emergency appeal dated April 18th, 2015, on “the Publication of the Draft Zero of the Master Plan for Agricultural Development in the Nacala Corridor, and Request and Protest concerning the Process of Consultation”. This letter is an additional request for re-constituting the process of public consultations after new revelations drawn from current events.
Concerning the Draft Zero of the Master Plan prepared by the ProSAVANA-JBM program (“Triangular Cooperation Program for Agricultural Development of the African Tropical Savannah among Japan, Brazil and Mozambique”), the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA) of Mozambique announced the press release on March 31st, and since then “public hearing” sessions in rural areas (at the district level) have been held at 14 places in Nampula Province, 13 places in Niassa Province, and 4 places in Zambezia Province between April 20th and 29th, 2015.
The Japanese government began publicizing the shift of the purpose of the ProSAVANA program as “assistance for small-scale farmers” around February 2013. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Fumio Kishida, and the President of JICA, Mr. Akihiko Tanaka, answered questions concerning the ProSAVANA program by saying that they promise “to undertake careful process” and “sufficient dialogue” at the Japanese National Diet. However, the actual participants at these “hearings” including farmers organizations, civil society organizations and academic researchers of Mozambique, have reported that the process was conducted in a way that departed from the norm of regular “Public Hearing” sessions and was far from true to the above mentioned declared assurance.
If the Master Plan is finalized as it stands now, it will surely result in grave consequences. This is the reason that we request the re-constituting (do it over again) of the public consultation process of the Draft Zero of the Master Plan.
（1） Farmers in the affected area were not notified about the “public hearing”.
The announcement by MASA concerning the “public hearing” was only made 3 weeks before the scheduled opening day. Moreover, the notification to concerned organizations such as farmers’ organizations and civil society organizations was delayed or did not happen. Apparently, only public media outlets such as the radio and newspapers were mainly utilized. Therefore, the rural inhabitants did not know even that “public hearing” meetings were going to be held in districts and the dates of such meetings were already fixed. The largest union of small farmers in Mozambique, UNAC (União Nacional de Camponeses), and its provincial farmers union came to know about the “public hearing” only through newspapers, many days after that the press release was put on the internet by MASA. The farmers who heard that some kinds of meetings were planned did not know that they would be the “public hearing” meetings on the Draft Zero of the Master Plan of the ProSAVANA. Farmers attended the public hearing meetings without reading the draft of the Master Plan as it was not distributed beforehand.
This means that the actual “public hearing” process in rural areas was undertaken with the participants not knowing the purpose and contents of the meetings, and other related information. Moreover, the Draft Zero of the Master Plan was so voluminous as to exceed 200 pages, and a printed copy was only kept at each district headquarters for inspection. Otherwise people had to access the internet in order to read a copy, so it was impossible for the local farmers to understand the meeting content beforehand.
2） Virtual elimination of farmers and overwhelming presence of the government officials and the ruling political party members.
Predominant majority of the participants of the “public hearing” meetings were government officials (including school teachers), FRELIMO (ruling) party members, its women’s organization OMM, youth organization OJM, traditional chiefs recognized by the government who were given official uniforms, and businessmen who had strong connection with the government. There were cases in which members of the district farmers unions/forums sub affiliation of UNAC were restricted in their ability to participate. In some cases, the maximum number of attendees from these unions was limited to five.
At the Budget Committee session of the House of Councilors within the Japanese National Diet on April 20th of 2015, the President of JICA, Mr. Tanaka, said that “everybody who has registered can join the public hearing meetings”. However, it is unimaginable to assume that the local inhabitants would go to local administrative institutions to register their names given their anxiety and participate in these meetings whose purpose and content they do not know, especially considering the limited transportation available which they would also have to pay for with their own money.
Moreover, at a number of “public hearing” sessions such as in Nampula Province and Niassa Province, there were incidences of moving the opening time forward or even changing the meeting dates. In such cases farmers and members of civil society were prevented from participating. The worst case was when it was announced that the meeting place had changed, and so the participants moved to that announced place only to find out there was no meeting there. Afterwards, they were told the meeting was in fact held at the original venue. Such a tricky obstruction has also been reported.
（3） “Public Hearing” for confining doubts, criticisms and objections.
In almost all the “public hearing” meetings, there was slandering against participants who voiced doubts, questions or objections over the contents of the Master Plan or the program. Officials often accused them saying by such things as “they are poor peasants controlled by outsiders who are making money” in order to curtail their voices. In many “public hearing” meetings, the related personnel of the ProSAVANA (of MASA) and the representatives of local governments repeatedly slandered and accused the UNAC, its affiliate organizations, and members of civil society including church related spokespersons and academic researchers. Thus, counterarguments and discussions were made impossible. Many participants were shocked at these openly spoken groundless accusations made about farmers’ organizations and members of civil society by the governmental officials.
Also there were some reports of incidents in which armed police personnel were present at the “public hearing” meetings, which made participants feel intimidated.
These practices and consequences deviate strongly from the standards of “Public Hearings” which have existed in Mozambique since the 1990s as a result of the democratization of the country. In the past, the “public hearings” were held to gather opinions from both principal and wide range of actors to improve public policies and documents. However, the public consultation process of the Master Plan of the ProSAVANA has changed the image and understanding of “public hearings”. The prevailing opinion in the local areas where such “hearing” sessions took place is that these meetings were a mere device “to fix an accomplished fact (a fait accompli)” that they had conducted a “public hearing” program and “to promote propaganda of the government and ruling party” in order to advance the ProSAVANA program despite objections.
（4） Lack of effort to make the content of the Master Plan understandable.
As is well known, the literacy rate of the inhabitants of rural areas in Mozambique is quite low, and it is imperative to provide time and a careful process to ensure that the content of the Master Plan is understood. In order to do that, it is necessary to secure the assistance and cooperation of farmers unions and organizations, especially UNAC, and of other civil society organizations. To guarantee the “meaningful participation” of the small farmers who are said to be the principle and most important beneficiary of the program, it is, no doubt, indispensable to provide them with the related documents including the full text of the Draft Zero of the Master Plan in advance, to allow them enough time to read and understand these documents, and to create opportunities for gatherings so that they may discuss amongst themselves and formulate their questions and opinions.
In Mozambique, the important policies and plans that affect farmers (a majority of the population) have been formulated through such a process. This was the case with the National Land Law and PEDSA (Strategic Plan for Agriculture Sector Development), and the organizations that contributed most to those processes were UNAC and its regional and local affiliates. There are no other organizations that have the same experience and achievement as UNAC. However, for the “public hearings” of the Draft Zero of the Master Plan of the ProSAVANA program, there was no advance information or consultations about how to organize the hearing program given to them, and there were even some actions to prevent UNAC members from participating at the meetings. It is indeed deplorable that there were some attempts of excluding UNAC from the “public hearing” program, and that the related personnel of the ProSAVANA program repeatedly criticized UNAC during the meetings.
It should also be noted that in the “public hearing” meetings in Majune District, Niassa Province, a tabloid play to praise the ProSAVANA program as the only solution to domestic and local problems was acted out by officials of the program and others under their supervision.
Normally, a “Public Hearing” is a forum for voicing various opinions, including critical ones of different stakeholders, and to take them into account in order to make the program more relevant. By doing so, the intention is to minimize the negative impacts on the environment and society and make the benefits for the affected inhabitants better. However, the “public hearing” process of the Master Plan of the ProSAVANA program was far from fulfilling the required conditions for a “Public Hearing”, even with the established standard from past experiences in Mozambique. It is destroying the good practices of open dialogue based on democratic governance and freedom of speech that the Mozambican people had made a reality after the end of the prolonged war.
The Japanese government as the principle and responsible donor to the program must understand these realities. As the Japanese taxpayers, it is not acceptable for us to see that the ProSAVANA program is legitimated with this consultation process by saying “it had acquired the approval of the local farmers” and is pushed through by ignoring these realities.
Last year at the Japanese National Diet, Minister Kishida and President Tanaka promised “careful proceedings” and “sufficient dialogue” related to the formulation of the Master Plan and the ProSAVANA. However, the actual “public hearing” program carried out at district level in Northern Mozambique did not fulfill these promises. If the beneficiaries of the ProSAVANA program are truly the small farmers of the Nacala Corridor, it is imperative to guarantee their meaningful participation.
We would request that both the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kishida, and the President of JICA, Mr. Tanaka, disclose and widely share the full version of the Master Plan Zero draft in all three languages (ie. Portuguese, English, and Japanese),and proceed with carrying out the re-constitution of the public consultations, which are worthy of their name, by providing ample time for the farmers and the members of civil society to examine and analyze the Draft Zero of the Master Plan for Agricultural Development in the Nacala Corridor.
Africa Japan Forum (AJF)
Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC),
The Concerned Citizens Group with the Development of Mozambique-Japan
No! to Landgrab, Japan