domingo, julho 10, 2016

Comment on ProSavana: What does a successful campaign do after it is wins?

By Joseph Hanlon

"No to Pro-Savana" has been one of Mozambique's most successful civil society campaigns, proving that an alliance of local groups and international NGOs can change policy. But having won their victory, what do the campaigners do now? Any successful global campaign has a large and effective infrastructure, supporting jobs, offices, travel and comradery. I was part of the Jubilee 2000 anti-debt campaign, and we decided to close down after 2000 and move on to other issues. Some people disagreed, and shifted into other debt issues, including the successful Jubilee Debt campaign.
No to Pro-Savana appears to have decided to pretend it did not win, in order to continue campaigning. There is now a major anti-landgrab INGO industry, which does seem necessary in some other African countries. It, too, does not recognise the Mozambique success, continuing to claim huge land grabs and peasant displacements.
A joint Brazilian-Japanese project, Prodecer, in the 1970s and 80s opened a huge area of the Brazilian savannah to giant Brazilian agribusinesses. Japan and Brazil came together to do the same things in Mozambique's Nacala corridor. The Japanese Cooperation Agency (JICA) reported in 2012 that ProSavana was intended "to replicate Brazil's own 'agricultural miracle' which began in the 1970s and helped transform a huge swath of savannah into one of the world's largest breadbaskets." Since the socialist era and state farms, part of Frelimo has always supported big industrial plantations; Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco backed Pro-Savana.

But Pro-Savana was fundamentally misguided, because the Nacala corridor is very different than the cerrado, the Brazilian savannah. The soils are good and the zone is densely populated, so large plantations would displace thousands of families. This led to protests, partly led by the peasants' union, UNAC (Uniao Nacional de Camponeses), which became the No to Pro-Savana campaign.
However, a second issue was equally important. No new large plantation has succeeded in Mozambique since independence - and as we note below, the failures continue. The past 15 years have seen a series of speculative investment schemes claiming that huge profits could be made from land in Africa, through industrial farming or huge tree plantations. Only the promoters made money while the investors lost out. The Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV), linked to agri-business in Brazil, set up Fundo Nacala and hoped to attract $2 bn from Japanese and Brazilian investors. But there was no interest; no one wanted to invest in Mozambique farming, and the fund was quietly closed last year.
Facing its own financial crisis, a lack of interest by agri-business, and a growing international campaign, Brazil sharply reduced its funding of Pro-Savana. In contrast, Japan had invested money and prestige in ProSavana, and was hugely embarrassed by the global campaign against it. Last year Japan tried on its own to write a new master plan (plano director) but that proved unacceptable. Japan has too much invested in ProSavana, so decided to start again, from scratch. JICA representative Katsuyoshi Sudo told us "we have changed the concept, so it is now not for big farmers but for small farmers." The rest of this year will be spent simply organising how to move forward, with consultants doing a new master plan next year.
Civil society, and UNAC in particular, have split on how to respond. Broadly, Maputo-based civil society says they do not trust the Japanese and want nothing to do with ProSavana and will continue campaigning, while groups in the north of Mozambique are cautiously working with JICA to try to create something that will help rural communities.
Meanwhile, there appear to have been no new large agricultural land grabs in the past five years. And existing projects are not doing well. The three big soya plantations in Lioma, Gurue - Hoyo Hoyo, Rei do Agro, and AgriMoz - have all had problems and have been forced to reduce size or close. On the forest plantation side, Chikweti and Global Solidarity Forest Fund both failed to surmount their difficulties and were taken over by Green Resources in 2014, which is itself having problems. Short of capital, it planted few trees last year, and on 27 April the Phaunos Timber Fund announced it had sold its 14% state in the company for $8.5 mn, less than a fifth of the $49.3 mn it paid for it in 2008-9. Chief Executive Mads Aspen told Zitamar (17 May) that the company is planning a $15 mn rights issue, hoping for money from existing shareholders to keep the company running; Aspen left Green Resources at the end of May.
But the land grab campaigns continue to highlight Mozambique. No to Prosavana had a meeting in Nampula 6-7 May which said simply "we reject the ProSavana programme". has set up a "ProSavana files" archive:

"In Mozambique alone, half a million people could be displaced from their ancestral territories to make way for a 600,000 hectare farm producing hay and other feed for livestock in what is thought to be the world's fifth largest land deal, Vellve said," reported Thomson Reuters on 14 June: Renee Vellve is a researcher with the Barcelona NGO GRAIN, citing a new report "The global farmland grab in 2016". Links to the full report and two tables of land deals are in: The tables in fact show that little new has happened in the past five years in Mozambique; many of the projects listed were simply pipe-dream announcements in the newspaper by people who hoped to raise speculative capital. Some of the article claims, such as "Japanese companies, backed by their government, are focusing on northern Brazil and Mozambique for soy production," are no longer true. And the claims of "the world's fifth largest land deal" is based on a single PowerPoint presentation last year which proposed dams on the Rio Lúrio, 240,000 ha of agriculture, and displacing 500,000 families - the chances of that being authorized, being given land, and raising the billions of dollars needed are negligible.
The land grab is not over in Mozambique, but the picture has changed dramatically. Economic reality, the No to ProSavana campaign and renewed government programmes to guarantee peasant land rights make land grabs more difficult. No to Pro-Savana won, which should be celebrated and not ignored.   Jh

Source: News reports & clippings 26 June 2016

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