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Mozambique land grabs expose hypocrisy of large scale land transfers to private investors

30 November 2011

Dr Gaynor Paradza, PLAAS Senior Researcher

PLAAS Senior Researcher Dr Gaynor Paradza was recently in Mozambique to research land grabbing at Maragra sugar cane plantation run by Illovo.

At the sugar cane farm visited, women are badly hit by having lost access to the land now transferred to Illovo. Food procurement was difficult before the investment, but now things are even more difficult. The women from Maragra’s message to Illovo highlights  the limit of current investor models”

The workers do not eat sugarcane, they need food to enable them to work on the sugar cane fields.

At the estate, community members shared how, as a result of Illovo’s investments in sugar cane, they had not only lost their lands, but their livelihoods and subsistence food production were severely undermined because of Illovo’s practises to ‘persuade’ peasants to turn their  land into sugar-cane production.

The community alleged that the  company dammed and denied irrigation water to community members who refused to participate in sugar cane production, poisoned the soil and peasants food crops by aerial spraying of pesticides, and closed access roads. Non -governmental organisations interviewed, including the powerful National Union of Peasant Farmers (UNAC) have had several meetings to try and resolve the issue with no results.

Despite this, civil society in Mozambique has been actively engaging among themselves, with the state, and with investors to improve large scale land transfer governance. The initiatives underway range from:

  • a  land forum  that brings together the various  stakeholders to discuss land governance issues;
  • community land delimitation initiatives by the Rural Mutual Support Organisation (ORAM);
  • more extreme actions where communities have uprooted  investors’ eucalyptus plantations and successfully renegotiated the return of their subsistence production land from an investor.

The visit is part of the Rosa Luxemburg-funded PLAAS research into  the governance of large scale commercial transactions on land and the role of non governmental organisations . The research focuses on three sites in Manica and Sofala Provinces in Mozambique.

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