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Land Concessions and Rural Livelihoods in Mozambique: The Gap Between Anticipated and Real Benefits of a Chinese Investment in the Limpopo Valley
Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Environmental Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5522-5280
Stockholm University.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2445-2699
Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Environmental Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0260-3978
2017 (English)In: Journal of Southern African Studies, ISSN 0305-7070, E-ISSN 1465-3893, Vol. 43, no 6, p. 1181-1198Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In rural Mozambique, as in other African countries, large-scale land acquisitions are on the rise. This process is usually portrayed by host governments and investors as comprising win–win deals that can simultaneously boost agricultural productivity and combat poverty. This article focuses on one such investment, a large-scale Chinese land acquisition in the lower Limpopo valley, where attempts to modernise agriculture have occurred since colonial times. Based on an analysis of primary quantitative and qualitative data, this study explores livelihoods in the targeted area and local experiences and views regarding land loss and its implications. Our findings reveal a top-down process enabled by disregard for sound legislation, whereby land dispossession was followed by ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ opportunities that were unsuited to the most land-dependent livelihoods, particularly those of single-headed households. As the modernisation of the region is once again attempted through the promotion of large-scale agriculture, important historical continuities prevail. This study adds critical evidence to the discussion on the local development potential of land deals in Mozambique and other areas marked by similar democratic deficits. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2017. Vol. 43, no 6, p. 1181-1198
Keywords [en]
Development studies, community consultation, female-headed household, land grabbing, large-scale land acquisition, Mozambique, rural livelihood
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-33588DOI: 10.1080/03057070.2017.1377932ISI: 000415960000005Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85030561577OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-33588DiVA, id: diva2:1149614
Available from: 2017-10-16 Created: 2017-10-16 Last updated: 2020-11-23Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Livelihood Implications of Large-Scale Land Concessions in Mozambique: A case of family farmers’ endurance
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Livelihood Implications of Large-Scale Land Concessions in Mozambique: A case of family farmers’ endurance
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis examines the process and the implications of large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) for local livelihoods, especially the livelihoods of those who make a living from farming. These individuals were historically known as peasants and are now more commonly referred to as smallholders, small-scale farmers or family farmers. What happens to their livelihoods as land under their control is allocated to investors?

Promoters of LSLAs stress that when land acquisitions are preceded by community consultations, there may be synergism between investors’ activities and local livelihoods. Accordingly, local farmers are expected to gain from, for example, closer ties to the market and new livelihood alternatives such as formal employment. Differently, critical voices contend that despite sound legislation on the matter, in practice LSLAs constitute drivers of dispossession, being therefore disguised land grabs. This research seeks to fill a knowledge gap on the immediate local livelihood implications of LSLAs. By employing a case study design in Mozambique (one of the countries targeted by recent LSLAs), this thesis adds empirical evidence that is crucial to the above-named theoretical debate involving LSLAs.

The analyzed case is pivoted by a Chinese company that in 2012 was granted 20,000 hectares in the lower Limpopo region. Despite legislation that asserts the legality of customary land occupation, in practice, land was seized without adequate consultation and compensation. Consequently, local farmers lost the most fertile areas. Nonetheless, farmers were able to regain or maintain access to farmland that was more peripheral and of worse quality. Concomitantly, the company generated a small number of jobs and created a contract farming scheme that, despite bottlenecks, benefited farmers who were able to handle risk. In general, families who lost land and those who entered the contract farming scheme strive to keep a foothold on farmland – a strategy that is partly explained by the economic rationale of seeking to meet the consumption needs of current and future generations. Additionally, family land is embedded with symbolic value (illustrated, for example, by individuals’ relations with ancestors buried in family land). The existence of symbolic and thus immaterial values that land embodies poses insurmountable challenges to the idea that it is possible to achieve fair compensation for the loss of land and the environment in general.

This study shows the renewed pressure (now through the hands of private actors backed by public efforts) placed on family farmers, derived livelihood trends (i.e., the overall precarization of family farming, the widening of economic inequality, and the feminization of poverty), and family farmers’ continuous endurance. Ultimately, this study illustrates local processes and livelihood implications of LSLAs in Mozambique, and likely also in contexts marked by similar democratic deficits and renewed incursions over valuable land that is intensively used. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Huddinge: Södertörns högskola, 2020. p. 189
Series
Södertörn Doctoral Dissertations, ISSN 1652-7399 ; 180
Keywords
Large-scale land acquisitions, land concessions, land grabs, livelihoods, family farmers, peasants, gender, community consultations, popular deliberation, cultural ecosystem services, Mozambique, Lower Limpopo Valley
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social and Economic Geography Globalisation Studies
Research subject
Environmental Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-42236 (URN)978-91-89109-33-9 (ISBN)978-91-89109-34-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-12-11, MA636/via link, Alfred Nobels allé 7, Huddinge, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-11-18 Created: 2020-11-16 Last updated: 2021-01-07Bibliographically approved

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Porsani, JulianaLehtilä, Kari

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