ProSavana, AntiPeasant

It’s not just pith-helmeted Europeans or slick North Americans headed off to buy up Africa. Brazil and Japan are in on the game too. But there’s always a fight back – this time from the UNAC peasant movement in Mozambique. Below the fold, you can read their views on this exciting development opportunity.

UNAC statement on the ProSavana Programme

We, peasants of the Provincial Nucleus of Peasants in Nampula, the Provincial Nucleus of Peasants in Zambezia, the Provincial Peasants Union of Niassa and the Provincial Union of Peasants of Cabo Delgado, and who are all members of the National Peasants’ Union (UNAC), met on the 11th of October 2012, in the town of Nampula with the aim of discussing and analyzing the ProSavana Programme.

The ProSavana Programme is a triangular project between the Republic of Mozambique, the Federal Republic of Brazil and Japan, for the development of large-scale agriculture in the Nacala Development Corridor, affecting 14 districts in the provinces of Niassa, Nampula and Zambezia, covering an area of approximately 14 million hectares. The project was inspired by an earlier agricultural development project implemented by the Brazilian and Japanese governments in the Brazilian Cerrado (savannah), where large-scale industrial farming of monocrops (mainly soybeans) is now practiced. This Brazilian project led to a degradation of the environment and the near extinction of indigenous communities living in the affected areas. The Nacala Corridor was chosen because its savannah has similar characteristics to the Brazilian Cerrado, in terms of its climate and agroecology, and because of the ease with which products can be exported.

Ever since hearing about the ProSavana Programme, we have noticed a lack of information and transparency from the main stakeholders involved (the governments of Mozambique, Brazil and Japan), and this is why we held the aforementioned meeting.
We, peasant farmers, condemn the way in which the ProSavana programme was drafted and the way it is intended to be implemented in Mozambique, which has been characterised by reduced transparency and the exclusion of civil society organisations throughout the process, especially peasant organisations.

Following a comprehensive analysis of ProSavana, we peasant farmers have concluded that:
· ProSavana is a result of a top-down policy, which does not take into consideration the demands, dreams and basic concerns of peasants, particularly those within the Nacala Corridor;

· We vehemently condemn any initiative which aims to resettle communities and expropriate the land of peasants to give way to mega farming projects for monocrop production (soybeans, sugar cane, cotton, etc.);

· We condemn the arrival of masses of Brazilian farmers seeking to establish agribusinesses that will transform Mozambican peasant farmers into their employees and rural labourers.

· We are extremely concerned that Prosavana requires millions of hectares of land along the Nacala Corridor, when the local reality shows that such vast areas of land are not available and are currently used by peasants practicing shifting cultivation.

Considering the way in which the ProSavana programme was drafted and the process for implementing it, we peasant farmers warn of the following expected impacts:
· The appearance of landless communities in Mozambique, as a result of land expropriation and resettlement;

· Frequent social upheaval along the Nacala Corridor, and beyond;

· The impoverishment of rural communities and a reduction in the number of alternatives for survival;

· An increase in corruption and conflicts of interest;

· The pollution of water resources as a result of the excessive use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers, as well soil degradation;

· Ecological imbalances due to vast deforestation for agribusiness projects.

If there is to be investment in the Nacala Corridor, or in Mozambique in general, we recommend and demand that these investments be made in developing peasant farming and the peasant economy, as a priority, which we, members of UNAC and members of Via Campesina, know is the only kind of farming capable of creating dignified and lasting livelihoods, of stemming rural exodus, and of producing high-quality foods in sufficient quantities for the entire Mozambican Nation, all of which will lead us towards the realization of Food Sovereignty.

We remain firmly committed to peasant farming and the agroecological production model– the foundations of Food Sovereignty– as alternatives to the development of the agricultural sector in Mozambique which consider all aspects of sustainability and are, in practice, friends of nature.

Peasant farming is the pillar of the local economy and contributes to maintaining and increasing rural employment, as well as allowing towns and villages to survive. It allows collectives to strengthen their own culture and identity. The development policies in this alternative model must be socially and environmentally sustainable and must be adapted to the real challenges and demands of the people.

Peasants are the guardians of life, nature and the planet. As a peasants’ movement in the family sector, UNAC pursues production models based on the foundations of peasant farming (respect and conservation of the soil, use of adapted and appropriate technologies, and a rural extension that is participative and interactive).

At a time when the United Nations, through the FAO, informs us that one out of eight people in the world are hungry, with hunger especially severe in developing countries, as is the case of Mozambique, we demand that the Government of Mozambique give priority to the production of food by the family farming sector for domestic consumption, aiming to develop local potential and involving different segments of society.

UNAC, 25 years of peasant farming struggles for Food Sovereignty
Fighting to give peasant farmers a greater role in building a fairer, more prosperous society, based on solidarity.

Nampula, October 11th 2012

12 Replies to “ProSavana, AntiPeasant”

  1. Dear Raj,
    I´ve been writing about ProSavana from the last two years nad I may say that you and the UNAC folks are not well informed about ProSavana.
    It is a trilateral programme composed by three main components: research, rural extension and the formulation of a agricultural development master plan.
    It doesn´t have connections with brazilian or japanese agribusiness and it is only a technical cooperation programme. It is a technology transfer project.
    I think ABC, JICA and mainly MINAG are not in a proper contact with mozambican agricultural sector to explain better the benefits of the programme.
    Acoording to brazilian experts, all of them from the public sector, mozambique has a lot to gain from brazilian tropical agriculture like varieties used now Brazil used in the 60´s.
    The UNAC doesn´t know what they are talking about. Really!
    If they have some concerns about the programme they should ask Frelimo. Brazil and Japan are not bringing their private sector to MZ. Brazilian ones has a lot to breed in Brazil.


  2. Dmitri, you seem to be full of hot air.

    This is obviously another big ag venture designed to expropriate land and displace people for the purposes of profit. Why try to deny it? In its own literature, the venture is touted as


    An Opportunity for Agribusiness Development on the Nacala

    and later we learn that it is indeed a

    “Joint Business Mission of Japan, Brazil and

    Yours is, I’m afraid, just another tedious attempt to obscure facts with slick sounding language.

    In coming to the defense of this project by claiming that it is “a trilateral programme” involved in the formulation of a “master plan”, and is a “technology transfer project”, you are not really saying anything in the least bit substantive. What you *are* doing, however, is setting off many a bullshit detector.

    The desperate, harried attempts to promote these corporate lurches as altruistic are becoming increasingly laughable.

    The jig has been up for a long time now.

    And I think I’ll defer to the assessment of the people who actually live in the region, who have the most at stake. Really.

  3. Garrett,

    Get yourself informed. It is amazing how people talk about subjects they don’t know anything about.

    I´ve been working in Mozambique for the last 11 years and I know a lot what people from the region wants. And one thing they want is technology. They are using seeds from the 60´s. Some corn variety that Brazil used to breed in the 70´s. If you adapt and give them a new seed they will increase their productivity in 30%.

    In all the ProSavana documents and initiatives the decent technicians that works there are taking into account the small scale farmers. That is the truth.

    The Master Plan is a shot to implement responsible investment enforcement. People are working hard on that and suddenly someone comes and says bulls hit, the opposite.

    Embrapa is a state owned company that is fighting for space with companies like Monstanto in Brazil and you mention the opposite. Incredible!

    What this UNAC statement, that is written with Brazilian Portuguese, which is incredible, brings which I fully agree is the lack of information from the 3 sides of the programme. They don’t have communication policy. And thats why people like you say all this misinformation.

    I trully believe that people are misusing ProSavana´s name. The programme will benefit Mozambican peasants. I am sure.

    And ask Frelimo and Mozambican government why they are accepting the things you are saying. Because they demanded the programme, as ABC is a demand driven organization.

    Learn, man! Learn!

  4. Dimitri…

    Oh, so you mean Prosavana has all kinds of wonderful things in store for the peasants in the region and just hasn’t gotten around to telling the peasants about them yet? Hmmm. Well, I guess someone better get on the phone then, ya think?

    C’mon DS. Either you are being glaringly naive or a shameless huckster.

    To wit: Prosavanna is a business venture, and always in a business venture, the beneficiaries of that venture are at least somewhat involved in the planning of it. The people of this region have not even been given a general idea of what it will entail.

    So we go to the track record:

    (a few excerpts from a paper presented at the International Conference on Global Land Grabbing, organized by the Land Deals Politics Initiative and hosted by the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University… not unlearned fare here)

    “Given that Prosavana explicitly seeks to ‘replicate’ the experience of agricultural development in the Brazilian Cerrado, it is imperative to ask: ‘Were any of these key claims of sustainability, job creation, food security and poverty alleviation actually realized by expanding monocultures of soy and facilitating the handover of massive tracts of land to agribusiness entities in the Brazilian Cerrado over the last three decades?’ The conflicting reality faced by the region and its people has been overshadowed by the steady stream of propaganda regarding the so-called ‘success’ of the Brazilian Cerrado.”

    “Through Prosavana, Brazil is attempting to export to Mozambique a model of agroindustrial development that has failed profoundly in terms of providing for food security and sustainable development in Brazil.”

    (and the Climate Connection website has this to say on Prosavana)

    “Projects like this, which are ushered in under the veil of the green economy, are sure to displace communities and destroy intact ecosystems, paving the way for export-based agribusiness and biofuel plantations.”

    I could go on and on, Dimitri, but suffice it to say methinks you still blow much hot air.

    Learning is sometimes just a matter of opening your eyes to what has been going on for years and years, and your attempt to characterize Prosavana as a kinder, gentler landgrab just ain’t makin’ it.

    And it’s more than a bit suspect that you are saying you know what these people in Mozambique want, but persist in ignoring what they are explicitly saying they want: No ProSavana. But I guess you would know better than they what is good for them, eh? You must be one of those “experts.”

    Good luck with the Master Plan, man.

  5. Garrett,

    You are still saying what someone else wrote on ProSavana. Maybe when you start to look for the right information with the experts involved with it you may realize that it is not a business venture (my God, what a bullshit) neither a land grabbing initiative.

    You folks, wasting your time fighting for someone whose wishes you don´t even know.

    I am brazilian and I am aware of the benefits of this so called “cerrado revolution” and the concerns about it. And thats what the ProSavana is trying to avoid. Listen: 75% of the brazilian´s food comes from the familiar agriculture.

    And, one last thing as I wont argue with someone that doesnt know anything about the programme, dont put words in my mouth and leave your office and go to Brasilia and Maputo to talk with the experts involved instead of staying in your comfortable chair spreading misinformation all over the internet. Your words may harm peoples lifes in Mozambique. These experts will rub the right information in your face.

    And, no I am not an expert of the programme. I wish I were one of those guys, who are struggling hard against all kinds of interests, from the private sector and from the bad intentioned blogs like this one and you, who may be the owner of this blog.

  6. Dimitri, Dimitri, Dimitri…

    Come now

    ProSavana isn’t a business venture?

    Again I will provide some of ProSavana’s own words from its own literature on the project.

    A bold title on the first page reads:

    “ProSavana – An Opportunity for Agribusiness Development on the Nacala Corridor”

    and later we see it is a:

    “Joint Business Mission of Japan, Brazil and Mozambique.”

    Did you notice the word “business” anywhere in there? Twice maybe?

    Do you see what can be learned without having to get up from a comfy chair?

    And I am not repeating what someone else wrote about ProSavana. I am repeating what ProSavana wrote about ProSavana.

    Do you still claim it is not a business venture?


    Furthermore, the wishes of the peasants in this region are quite obvious to anyone who has read the statement the Peasant Unions in Mozambique have released on the matter. It is posted at the top of this page, believe it or not. Why not take a look and get yourself informed?

    Yes, Dimitri, you have been called on your bullshit.

    That’ll sometimes happen if you’re not careful and stumble onto a website where readers have a few comprehension skills.

    But hey, there’s no reason to storm off in huff calling the whole blog “bad intentioned” or anything. The owner of this blog has way better things to do than call to task every not-so-bright comment that might accumulate herein. Really. And if he *did* choose to correct you on your -ahem- BS, I’m sure he would have done it in a decidedly more gracious and benevolent manner.

    But I must admit that if you are now discouraged from proffering further nonsense on this site, I feel I have reached my objective.

  7. Hello Demitri,

    I am from Mozambique and let me tell you: you are talking as if we were all stupid here! Please, stop your “shameful” tendency of thinking that Mozambicans are not able to write a simple statement, that reject a project which, by all indications, will impact very negatively on local communities.

    Get informed and learn about new spelling agreement of the Portuguese language. Avoid expressing your stupidity and ignorance in public. Respect our ability (as Mozambicans)in writing statements! We know how to organize ideas as well. You are not the only ones, OK?

    For your information, Frelimo is no longer what you the world think they are! This people are selling Mozambique! Believe me! I´ve NOT been working in Mozambique for the last 11 years. NO! I have born here. So, you know nothing about what we need! We know what we need!

    You, Brazilians, want to colonize this country! Frelimo and the Government are willing to open it for you, but the people will fight you! UNAC has started, I think!

    If ProSavana is that good, keep it for yourself!

  8. Hello,

    Anything current on the UNAC efforts and the Pro Savana project? Publications, Mozambique News etc? Is Pro Savana going forward?

    Jim Traub

  9. Dear all,

    I seem to join the debate a bit late.

    I am currently doing academic research on ProSavana, and I have completed my fieldresearch to Nampula were I spoke with a range of stakeholders (government, pro-savana workers, farmers, NGOs etc).

    Raj, Garrett, bOa. I’m sorry (or rather we should be happy) to tell you that the above blog post is severely misguided.

    ProSavana is by and large in accordance with Mozambique’s national agri strategy PEDSA. PEDSA allows for greater government intervention to direct the development of the agricultural sector (a change from the laissez faire policies that the World Bank used to push for in Moz). PEDSA calls for a focus on small-holders (which ProSavana does if you look at the various proposed projects) while encouraging private investment into the agricultural sector (which ProSavana also does).

    The idea is to strengthen small holders position and access to inputs in order to transform the agricultural sector, and have this financed not only by the public sector, but also by private sector investments as the public sector does not have the resources to invest the amounts that are needed.

    It does however NOT mean that ProSavana consists of a bunch of investors that will be “buying” land. In fact ProSavana has mapped out where there is free land, and points out that this is very limited and thus does not recommend large scale land investments outside the few pockets of unused land. Investors are recommended to invest higher up the value chain, in processing for example. Or to engage with smallholders as contractors (providing inputs to small farmers, and then buying their produce).

    And no, ProSavana is not a businessventure. ProSavana is a government development program that aspires to ensure that investments are made in the most beneficial and responsible manner.

    ProSavana consists of extensive research into the agriculture of the region, constraints and potentials etc. This information can then be used to determine what type of investments (and where) is desirable and not desirable. I don’t understand how anyone can think that possessing in-depth information can ever be bad for the government to make adequate decisions.

    You can find the draft plans for ProSavana online and read for yourself. The problem is I don’t think most people can be bothered to read 500 pages of detailed information, and simply continue to rely on blog posts like this.

    I agree that ProSavana can be criticised for their lack of transparency and lack of dissemination. Since November 2012 however they have started to disseminate information and meet with civil society to exchange views on ProSavana. I am sure there are aspects of ProSavana that could be improved through constructive critique from civil society, but this cannot be done if we are not well informed.

  10. And another huckster joins the fray.

    But, y’see, Sigrid, the ‘Master Plan’ for ProSavana has now been leaked, and actually (and not surprisingly) it turns out that it’s just another massive land grab. Not a business venture? Oh, sorry, you’re right. It’s a government program designed to promote, accommodate, and take kickbacks from a multitude of business ventures. All at the expense of the peasants and small-holders in the region, of course, who will be stripped of their resources and pushed around like cattle.

    So, no, Sigrid, it is you who is misguided. And barking up the wrong tree.

    One of the problems (out of many) with your strain of tedious corporate cheerlead-ism is it doesn’t seem to take account of the lengthy track record of devastation these land grabs (yes, say it, Sigrid: *land* *grabs*) leave in their wake. And by the use of ostensibly benign language you think maybe you can pull the wool over peoples’ eyes one more time. But you’re not fooling anyone here. Really you’re not.

    The folks over at have been good enough to give the ProSavana ‘Master Plan’ a thorough looking-over. They have been analyzing these kinds of issues for 30 years now. I would encourage you, Sigrid, and anyone else interested, to read their entire article on the matter, but I’ll include a few choice bits in this forum:

    “Civil society groups have finally seen a leaked copy of the most recent version of the Master Plan for the ProSAVANA programme, which is dated March 2013. The copy makes clear the project’s intentions and confirms that the governments of Japan, Brazil and Mozambique are secretly paving the way for a massive land grab in Northern Mozambique.”

    “The proponents of the ProSAVANA programme have said repeatedly that this is a programme to support small farmers. But the Master Plan only considers how small farmers can support agribusiness.”

    “The Master Plan, in its current form, would destroy peasant agriculture by wiping out farmer seed systems, local knowledge, local food cultures and traditional systems of land management. It will displace peasants from their lands or force them on to fixed parcels of land where they will be obliged to produce under contract production for corporations and to go into debt to pay for the seeds, fertilisers and pesticides required. The peasants that do get private land titles will be left at extreme risk of quickly losing their lands to corporations and big farmers.

    It is telling that only one of the seven clusters in the Master Plan is aimed at small scale farmers and family food production. And this cluster only proposes the same old failed green revolution model of development. The Master Plan puts no real thought and energy into the needs and capacities of peasants in the Nacala Corridor.”

    “Corporations are the big beneficiaries of this Master Plan.”

    “Seeing the Master Plan only confirms our determination to stop the ProSAVANA programme and to support Mozambican peasants and people in their struggle for food sovereignty.”

  11. I would welcome a serious discussion on this topic, but please refrain from dragging the debate down to the low level that you are currently doing.

    Instead of accusing me of being “a huckster” how about you bring up the sections of the project documents that are available online which you find concerning.

    I have read every word in the PD project drafts and the PI project plan more than once. It is apparent that you have not read the documents yet (even though GRAIN very kindly have made them available for dowload on their website) as you are simply copy pasting Grains article. If you had you would know that only one of the 7 clusters focus on large scale farming (and recommends a contract farming approach to involve small farmers) and five clusters focus on small to medium farmers (the seventh cluster focuses on logistics/storage/processing, not production of crops).

    I think there are many things in the PD plan that deserves to be discussed and there is room for improvement, but unfortunately this type of debate will be impossible as long as people like you choose to name-call people rather than reading the available information, and base a coherent argument on that.

  12. There’s no debate here, Sig.

    ProSavana is a land grab. I know that. The people at know that. The 26 civil and social organizations who co-signed their article know that. Friends of the Earth International knows that. The people at Climate Collections know that. Etc, etc.

    When has it ever happened that a group of investors and government elites have gotten together for the purpose of improving the lives of a peasant population? I’ll give you a clue: It hasn’t. These people are interested in making money. Doesn’t matter what kind of language they might come up with to fool people. It’s all about their own profits. Agribusiness is not altruism. And don’t even whoop up with the “ProSavana is not about agribusiness.” Hush now…. Remember what the title of their promo lit was?… “ProSavana – An Opportunity for Agribusiness Development on the Nacala Corridor.” Yes, it didn’t say “An opportunity for Small Holders and Peasants,” now did it?

    No, I’m not interested in a “discussion” or ‘debate” about this any more than I am interested in debating whether the earth is round or otherwise. To repeat: ProSavana is a land grab. I know that. Our host, Dr. Raj Patel knows that. The people of Mozambique whose lives stand to be uprooted know that. And are saying so. And you really expect us to believe that they don’t know what is happening to them?

    Just for that, Sig, I’m going to do some more “copy pasting” on your ass.

    These are excerpts from an “Open Letter from Mozambican civil society organizations and movements to the presidents of Mozambique and Brazil and the Prime Minister of Japan,” signed by 23 Mozambican organizations and 43 international. It can be found at the AfricaFiles website.

    “ProSavana is a tool for creating optimal conditions for multinational corporations to enter the country, which will inevitably rob rural families of their autonomy and disrupt the small-scale food production systems, which could cause the emergence of landless families and increased food insecurity, i.e., the loss of the greatest achievements of our National Independence.”

    “How is it that international cooperation between Brazil, Mozambique and Japan, which should promote solidarity among peoples, is converted into an instrument to facilitate obscure commercial transactions and promote the grabbing of community land, which we use in the age-old manner to produce food for the Mozambican nation and beyond?”

    “Thus, we small-scale farmers, families from the communities of the Nacala Corridor, religious organisations and national civil society signatories to this Open Letter, publicly express our indignation and outrage at the way the ProSavana Programme has been designed and is being implemented on our lands and the communities of our country.”

    So I think I’ll stand in solidarity with the Mozambican peasant union which issued the statement on the top of this page, actually. And if that doesn’t suit you, it really only indicates your direct opposition to these same peasants and their struggles, you see. And while it’s your right to stand in solidarity with the multinationals who have schemed to grab their land… why not just ‘fess up already about your preference for profits over people, eh?

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