Brazilian megaproject in Mozambique set to displace millions of peasants

UNAC, Via Campesina Africa, GRAIN | 29 November 2012

The Brazilian government and private sector are collaborating with Japan to push a large-scale agribusiness project in Northern Mozambique. The project, called ProSavana, will make 14 million hectares of land available to Brazilian agribusiness companies for the production of soybeans, maize and other commodity crops that will be exported by Japanese multinationals. This area of Mozambique, known as the Nacala Corridor, is home to millions of farming families who are at risk of losing their lands in the process.

brazil-mozambique-slide-1-638The Nacala Corridor stretches along a rail line that runs from the port of Nacala, in Nampula Province, into the two northern districts of Zambézia Province and ends in Lichinga, in Niassa Province. It is the most densely populated region of the country. With its fertile soils and its consistent and generous rainfall, millions of small farmers work these lands to produce food for their families and for local and regional markets.

But now ProSavana proposes to make these same lands available to Japanese and Brazilian companies to establish large industrial farms and produce low cost commodity crops for export. Through ProSavana, they intend to transform the Nacala Corridor into an African version of the Brazilian cerrado, where savannah lands were converted to vast soybean and sugar cane plantations.

Large numbers of Brazilian investors have already been surveying lands in northern Mozambique under the ProSavana project. They are being offered massive areas of land on a long-term lease basis for about US$1/ha per year.

GV Agro, a subsidiary of Brazil’s Fundação Getulio Vargas directed by the former minister of agriculture, Roberto Rodriguez, is coordinating the Brazilian investors.

Charles Hefner of GV Agro dismisses the idea that the project will displace Mozambican peasants. He says ProSavana is targeting “abandoned areas” where “there is no agriculture being practiced”.

“Mozambique has a tremendous area available for agriculture,” says Hefner.  “There is room for mega projects of 30-40,000 ha without major social impacts.”

But land surveys by Mozambique’s national research institute clearly show that nearly all the agricultural land in the area is being used by local communities.

“It is not true that there is abandoned land in the Nacala Corridor,” says Jacinto Mafalacusser, a researcher at the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM). Continue reading

Competing Imperialist Media and Culture Wars in the Scramble for Africa between US vs China

[The New York Times, a leading voice for US hegemony in the world imperialist system, takes a critical look at the growing imperialist challenge of China, and assesses the influence of Chinese government news agencies in Africa. The article also mentions the Chinese news agencies expansion in the US, as well as the growth of the RT, the Russian government news agency.  Such inter-imperialist info-wars play a major role in setting the terms for challenging old alignments with new power relations, investments, and resource acquisition (energy, minerals). — Frontlines ed.]

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New York Times:  “Pursuing Soft Power, China Puts Stamp on Africa’s News”

[Photo: Sven Torfinn for The New York Times: CCTV’s set in Nairobi, Kenya. China’s state news agency, Xinhua, also gives away dispatches to struggling news outlets in Africa.]
By New York Times,  August 16, 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya — China’s investment prowess and construction know-how is widely on display in this long-congested African capital. A $200 million ring road is being built and partly financed by Beijing. The international airport is undergoing a $208 million expansion supported by the Chinese, whose loans also paid for a working-class housing complex that residents have nicknamed the Great Wall apartments.

But Beijing’s efforts to win Kenyan affections involve much more than bricks and concrete. The country’s most popular English-language newspapers are flecked with articles by the Chinese state news agency, Xinhua. Television viewers can get their international news from either CCTV, the Chinese broadcasting behemoth, or CNC World, Xinhua’s English-language start-up. On the radio, just a few notches over from Voice of America and the BBC, China Radio International offers Mandarin instruction along with upbeat accounts of Chinese-African cooperation and the global perambulations of Chinese leaders.

“You would have to be blind not to notice the Chinese media’s arrival in Kenya,” said Eric Shimoli, a top editor at Kenya’s most widely read newspaper, The Daily Nation, which entered into a partnership with Xinhua last year. “It’s a full-on charm offensive.” Continue reading

When India and China Scramble for Africa, Who Wins?

Chinese foreman, African workers

By Jemima Pierre, Black Agenda Report editor and columnist
June 15, 2011China and Indian have both boosted their trade and investment in Africa in recent years, but “South-South” solidarity is not all it’s cracked up to be. The continent’s relationship with the Asian giants is lopsided. “Africa is quickly becoming the largest market for both countries to dump their cheap commodities.” Both countries are focused on “land and resource extraction, and new markets for manufactured products.”

“While both countries argue that their engagement with the continent is non-ideological and has no imperialist goals, the new relations of trade look much like the old.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s attendance at the Second Africa-India Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this past May marked his fourth visit to the continent in his eight years in office. For Singh, such summits are designed to “respond to the needs and priorities of Africa and for India.” The relationship between Africa and India is one “based on equality, mutual trust and a consultative and transparent approach,” he continued. “It is a living embodiment of South-South cooperation.” For the Indian state, it also signifies the triumphant success of its “bilateral” relationship with Africa, one that has granted lucrative access to Africa’s vast resources while cultivating influence with Africa’s political elite. Other Indian and international commentators, however, hail these summits as India’s challenge [4] to China’s oversized [5] role on the continent. Meanwhile, the ever-compromised African Union seem to follow Robert Mugabe’s assertion [6] that Africa has “turned east, where the sun rises, and given [its] back to the west, where the sun sets.” Continue reading

India starts trade talks with African countries in effort to rival China

The Indian prime minister arrives in Ethiopia to bolster economic and political links in a new ‘scramble for Africa’

India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is trumpeting cultural links with Africa in an attempt to emerge from China's shadow. Photograph: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

David Smith in Johannesburg

guardian.co.uk, Monday 23 May 2011

India‘s prime minister and dozens of business leaders began trade talks in Ethiopia on Monday as the Asian giant strives to catch up with China in what has been dubbed “the new scramble for Africa“.

Manmohan Singh received a red-carpet welcome as he led a delegation to the India-Africa summit in Addis Ababa, aiming to trumpet historical and cultural links with the continent in an effort to emerge from Beijing’s shadow.

“The India-Africa partnership rests on three pillars of capacity building and skill transfer, trade and infrastructure development,” said Singh at the start of the six-day trip to Ethiopia and Tanzania. “Africa is emerging as a new growth pole of the world, while India is on a path of sustained and rapid economic development.” The trade meeting is to be attended by 15 African leaders. On its fringes was an India show comprising business seminars, cultural projects and a trade exhibition. Continue reading