A Land Not Theirs – Mozambique resettles rural community to un-farmable lands

Map of the Zambezi River from 'The Journal of the International Institute'
Map of the Zambezi River from 'The Journal of the International Institute'

In early 2015, I once again heard of flooding in the Zambezi River, with people once again displaced, their, homes gone due to floods.

My plan? To look up and find information on flooding of the Zambezi river, and settlement locations in Mozambique. What happened was very different. I found information on resettlements, but not ones I had been aware of.

Map of the Zambezi River from 'The Journal of the International Institute'
Map of the Zambezi River from ‘The Journal of the International Institute’

In 2013 Human Rights Watch produced a report called ‘What is a house without food? Mozambique’s Coal Mining Boom and Resettlements’. The article looks at how short comings in government policy and private company involvement in relocation of communities can fail.

According to Reuters, Mozambique is home to an estimated 23 billion tonnes of coal reserves. These reserves attract a lot of foreign investment, especially in the Tete province in the North-West of Mozambique close to the Malawi and Zambia border. These companies include two of the world’s biggest mining companies, Vale from Brazil and Rio Tinto an Anglo-Australian company.

Image of river in Tate provence: Photo Credit - Jacques Pinette (Flickr)
Image of river in Tate provence: Photo Credit – Jacques Pinette (Flickr)

In the year 2009/2010 there were over 1,300 families resettled, to newly made villages, and each year since more families have been resettled. These families tend to be farming families and the land where they have been moved to, is spoilt, with very bad crop growing conditions. They have only received half the land they were promised and there has been very poor care of their welfare, an example of this is some villages get water delivered to them three times a week, as there is no water source the proximity of the villages, before this the families lived on the banks of the Revube river. Mining Weekly, have commented that the mining companies have left the resettled people facing challenges in trying to access food, water and work.

Southern Africa Resource Watch have written a report called ‘Coal Versus Communities: Exposing poor practices by Vale and Rio Tinto in Mozambique’. It states that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in relation to the relocations, and there is evidence of poor corporate social responsibility. They also say that the mining companies are not alone in the blame, the government have inability to form a clear plan for resource management and in how they don’t enforce labour standards. In a response to this report Rio Tinto claim that there was consultation with the communities and that “written and signed records (with minutes and agreements) were kept of all interactions involving Riversdale, the Government and the communities”,  this argument is clearly different to the people interviewed by the Southern Africa Resource Watch, and their feelings living in the situation.

The question remains have the citizens of Mozambique been forgotten in lieu of money?