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