Agro-investment in Africa - Impact on land and livelihoods in Mozambique and Tanzania

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The current article is part of a publication by Noragric, the Department of International Environment and Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, on the social impact of investments in Agriculture. The research fosuses on two case studies, namely Mozambique and Tanzania, and explores in details the problem of 'land grabbing' resulting from investment activities in the sector.

Background and scope of the Mozambican case study

The design and focus of the Mozambican case study in this report has been developed through consultations with representatives from both Norad and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Maputo. From the Embassy’s perspective a study focusing on new agro-investments in Mozambique has been of particular interest in connection with the Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor (BAGC) Partnership. This is a public-private partnership initiative followed by the Embassy with great interest, and some seed money, since its initiation in 2008-2009. Among the objectives delineated within the framework of the BAGC initiative is increasing agricultural production through investments in commercial agribusiness, the scaling up of production of specific marketable commodities, and a further development of commodity value chains. The long-term scope of the initiative has been both national and regional, with its axis in the historic ‘Beira corridor’ in central Mozambique. This is the rail and road transport facilities that start in Beira port leading to Zimbabwe/Harare through the Mozambican provinces of Sofala and Manica, with a branch to the province of Tete. As an agricultural development and growth initiative, the BAGC is further foreseen to be linked to coordinated efforts in transport infrastructure rehabilitation and development.

One of the reasons why the Norwegian Embassy has followed the BAGC initiative with particular interest is the fact that Yara International ASA had been instrumental in the starting phase of the initiative, both as a convener and lead partner. Yara’s involvement has further been supported by the Norwegian Government, formally through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Yara aiming to strengthen public-private partnership initiatives and promote an ‘African Green Revolution’. As a main company in the global fertilizer industry, with historical roots in one of the major industrialization initiatives in Norway in the early 20th century (the establishment of Norsk Hydro in 1905) and with current headquarters in Oslo, Yara has over the last years been seeking to consolidate its role on the international scene through e.g. more permanent presence and plans for future expansion in Africa (Yara 2009).

From Norad’s perspective, Noragric’s original study proposal – focusing on factors that can potentially lead to increasing pressure on land in sub-Saharan Africa – brought up a set of related issues for discussion:

  • In the specific context of a public-private partnership for promoting international agro-investments such as BAGC, what are the implications for land use, local people’s livelihoods, and changing relationships between different categories of land users?

Within the broader policy context of the new agenda for an African Green Revolution, national political leaders have stated that major objectives are both to produce enough food and to achieve economic growth through investments and the development of agriculture. 5 The objectives and strategies formulated for implementation by NEPAD/CAADP, as well as by AGRA, form part of the regional policy context for a public-private partnership such as BAGC. These are also initiatives and programmes more directly supported by Norwegian development cooperation. From Norad’s point of view, these interlinked initiatives and recent development trends, in connection with BAGC raise more specific questions about:

  • Who has interests in land in the targeted area, and what kind of interests are these? Who are the main actors? How are the main actors’ interests related and articulated? And how can smallholders be represented in the BAGC agricultural development partnership?

Norad has expressed an interest in getting more concrete and contextualized knowledge on these issues. On the one hand, Norad needs a solid and continuously updated knowledge base for strategies and policy recommendations in focus areas such as food security, agriculture and economic growth, local impacts, and long-term sustainability. But this case study has also been considered of importance to give a basis for more specific recommendations on further Norwegian support to the BAGC initiative. At the same time, the Norwegian Embassy in Maputo has expressed its continued interest in being well-informed about the multiple-level processes involved – with a particular interest in getting more information on local processes, contexts, actors and initiatives within the developing BAGC partnership.

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