Top ten interesting comments made by agro-investors in Mozambique

In the past week we have been going through the questionnaires we did with agricultural companies and have been entering the data collected. Although data entry can be tedious it was interesting to revisit the cases, all which are memorable, but a few stand out just a little bit extra.  There were a range of answers falling in to the “other” box as we ticked our way through the survey. Some investors just do not conform to our expectations, and they are not all land speculating, large multinational corporations whom we can make economic business sense of.

Below follows my top-ten list of unexpected and interesting answers we received. Continue reading

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Do investors want roads or virgin land?

Over the decade 2002-2012 Mozambique’s Investment Promotion Center- CPI – registered 328 agricultural projects across Mozambique. What provinces were the belles of the ball in the eyes of these investors? The (relatively) developed southern provinces or the fertile north?

My colleague Filipe made a nice map which I have remade here, showing which provinces are the most popular for investors who registered their interest in Mozambique. Continue reading

The 2008 Food Crisis: triggering agro-investments?

The food crisis in 2008 triggered renewed interest to invest in the agricultural sector. Rising food prices makes investing in agriculture more attractive and it is perceived that this has fueled the land rush in Africa.
But what does the data say of Mozambique in this regard?

The Center for Investment Promotion (CPI) in Mozambique registers potential projects by foreign investors who seek to benefit from the Mozambican investment incentives. The CPI data does not show which projects were actually approved, materialized or currently exist in the country, but the data sufficiently serves the purpose of looking at investor interest.

The CPI data ranging from 2002 until 2012 show that there was indeed an influx of investment registered with CPI in the aftermath of the food crisis, both in terms of capital and the number of projects since 2008. However I don’t think one can ascertain that the food-price hikes has caused a continuous mass-flow of agro-investments to Mozambique. Continue reading

Mozambican land law: The basics

For those of you who are not familiar with Mozambican land law I figured one of the first posts here should be on the very basics of the law that set the scene for pretty much everything else.

All land belongs to the state, and it is not possible for land to be privately held in Mozambique. Instead one holds usage rights to the land, so called DUATs (direito de uso e aproveitamento dos terras- land use rights).  One can say that DUATs operate on a lease hold basis, usually for a period of 50 years renewable.  DUATs can be transferred between actors.

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Land grabbing: what is it and what is it not?

There is no shortage of articles that bring the topic of land grabbing into light. They measure and illustrate the extent of land grabbing, counting the amount of hectares transferred and money invested, then pointing to the usual suspects driving the land grab.

But while the discussion on land grabbing is loud and very present, one thing often seems to be lacking: a clear definition of what land grabbing really is; the definitions that do exist (and only sometimes used) are in my opinion unable to capture the complexities of land deals. The unspoken definition often used of land grabbing is both too broad in the sense that it includes investments that should not be counted as land grabbing; while at the same time being too narrow in identifying actors engaged in land grabbing.

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About this blog

In the aftermath of the 2008 food-crisis the word land grabbing has become somewhat of a buzz word. Renewed interest in agriculture has yielded numerous reports on  land investments, in which Mozambique often is mentioned as one of the major destinations for such investments.

Having worked as a researcher on land, agriculture and forestry issues in Mozambique I wish to contribute to the debate on land issues. A debate which, in my opinion,  far too often is based on abstract and general analysis that ignores the complexities of land issues. Discussions based on vague or incomplete definitions and lacking in empirically backed claims cannot contribute substantially towards understanding the challenges and opportunities presented by the renewed interest in agriculture.

Together with my colleague we have carried out field research in 6 of Mozambique’s 10 provinces, interviewing over 70 commercial farms and collecting both central level and provincial/district level data on agro-investments and land deals. This information is now being complimented by community interviews, which I hope will enrich my understanding of the challenges and opportunities that exist. Previously I have carried out research on Chinese agricultural interests in Mozambique.

In this blog I will attempt to write on land issues in the hopes of gaining some clarity in my own thoughts and impressions of the subject, and hopefully receive some thoughtful input from others to elevate the debate. As with everything one delves into, things become less black and white the further one ventures.  The slightly dramatic blog title was expressed jokingly by my colleague, but it stuck with me as it captures three central elements in the land-deals debate; the local communities that are impacted by agro-investments (people), the companies that seek their fortune (profits) and the government’s role (power).

If you are a researcher on land issues I would love to hear from you and learn from your discoveries.