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Displaced from the Riverside to Barren Land

“People are struggling. Where we used to live, we had many things to do, we used to farm, sell bricks, charcoal and firewood, but here there is no market for it. If you look around you will see houses without roofing, because people have sold it to get some money,” Domingo Foguete from the mining province Tete in Mozambique, […]
“People are struggling. Where we used to live, we had many things to do, we used to farm, sell bricks, charcoal and firewood, but here there is no market for it. If you look around you will see houses without roofing, because people have sold it to get some money,” Domingo Foguete from the mining province Tete in Mozambique, […]
Research: Anna Glent Overgaard, Nete Kyndesen, Anders Brønd Christensen, Louise Voller / Foto: Jesper Kirkbak / Grafik: Peter Larsen
Redaktør: Louise Voller | Executive Editor: Jesper Nymark

“People are struggling. Where we used to live, we had many things to do, we used to farm, sell bricks, charcoal and firewood, but here there is no market for it. If you look around you will see houses without roofing, because people have sold it to get some money,” Domingo Foguete from the mining province Tete in Mozambique, explains. For a year he has been wrangling with the government and the mining company Vale to get compensation for the land he lost when his family first moved to Cateme.

“That was in 2010 and we still haven’t received any money,” he says. He belongs to one of the hundreds of families in the Tete province that have been were moved away when mining companies moved in. Both national law and international guidelines clearly state that the living standards of the resettlement should be at least at the level of the previous residence, but ”this Danwatch investigation finds not only that the resettlements
are far from satisfactory, but that the mining companies knew of this before
they moved the families.”

During 2009-2010, 716 families classified by Vale as “rural” were moved to the locality of Cateme, about 40 kilometres from their homes near the district capital Moatize, while 288 families regarded as “semi-urban” were resettled inside Moatize. In accordance with Mozambique national law, the families were compensated, but today the people in Cateme point to major shortcomings in the resettlement. Vale failed to deliver on their promises and the government failed in keeping the company accountable, they say.

In the course of their first years in Cateme, the resettled families had to live without access to farmland and without a reliable water supply. According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, ‘What is a House Without Food?’, the government’s allocation of land was delayed for three years and most repairs to a deficient water system did not take place until 2012- 2013, four years after the resettlement was initiated.

Cracked houses and leaking roofs

At a first glance the pastel-painted houses provided by Vale look as if they were build to last, but a closer look reveals that they have been placed directly on the ground. Built with no foundation, they will float away like tiny Monopoly pieces when the rainy season turns the red dusty ground into mud.

On the 1st of February 2011, Albertina Tivane, head of the Provincial Resettlement Commission admitted to “some problems in the house building process,” and added that some had “likely not been corrected,” the online news media Deutsche Welle wrote. Today, the houses are still deteriorating with visible cracks in the walls.

“The only thing separating the houses from the ground is a sheet of plastic, so the houses are cracking,” says Delvino Xadreque, a young farmer, pointing to a long line running upward from the corner of his house. He and his household of eight were lucky, because they had the means to build an additional house next to the two-room cottage provided by the company.

Years after Vale started its mining activities in Chipanga, the conflict still hasn’t been solved. Danwatch has tried to interview both the mining company, Vale, and the Ministry of Natural Resources in Mozambique about the process around the resettlement and the current situation in Cateme, but both declined to answer. Vale has also declined to share any documents from the Resettlement Action Plan for Cateme. In an email to Danwatch, Vale states that they decline to participate in an interview because the company has adopted a “low profile strategy” on Mozambique.

A cause for concern

The case of Cateme is one of many examples of people being removed from their land and homes when corporations move in to search for coal, gas and minerals in Mozambique. Since the peace accord in 1992, the country has opened its doors to a growing number of international corporations while securing a massive influx of foreign investment. A list from the Ministry of Mineral Resources, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity Mozambique, shows that by 2012, the government had issued more than 700 licences and concessions, causing thousands to leave their homes.

Rich in coal, the Tete province in central Mozambique is now the epicentre of the country’s mining industry and its land is largely covered with mining concessions, either active or pending. According to Professor Christopher de Wet from Rhodes University in South Africa, who specialises in resettlements and rural development, the speed and scale with which the licences have been granted poses a challenge to the government in making sure that this is accompanied with the necessary measures to safeguard the affected populations:

“Resettlement is an incredibly complex thing – to pick people up and put them down somewhere else, you are not moving objects, you are moving a society,” says de Wet, raising concerns that the government of Mozambique may not be up to the task:

“You can have the best policies in the world but without the political capacity, structures or will in place to implement and enforce them, they are useless,” he says.

The farmer Delvino Xadreque, 37, was compensated with building materials for a barn, chickens and some feed by the Brazilian mining company Vale, when he, his four children, aunt and nephew were resettled, because the area they used to live in was expropriated for coal mining. But the chicken business has turned out with no profit. Before he had land, now he doesn't even though he was promised compensation for that as well. Photo: Jesper Kirkbak

The farmer Delvino Xadreque, 37, was compensated with building materials for a barn, chickens and some feed by the Brazilian mining company Vale, when he, his four children, aunt and nephew were resettled, because the area they used to live in was expropriated for coal mining. But the chicken business has turned out with no profit. Before he had land, now he doesn't even though he was promised compensation for that as well. Photo: Jesper Kirkbak

Poor conditions in Mualadzi

About eight kilometres further up the winding road that cuts through Cateme lies another resettlement community, Mualadzi. Here, far from the main road that leads to the nearest town, people in Cateme are considered fortunate.

“They are lucky because they have transportation to town and a school for their children,” says Tito Fernando, a young father of three. Before the resettlement, he used to make bricks and sell them by the roadside, but the remote location of Mualadzi and an insufficient water supply makes it impossible for him to continue his trade. Instead, he and his wife take turns in travelling to Moatize town to sell some crops at the market. But it is a long journey with little outcome.

“She left this morning and I don’t know when she will be back, because she has to travel by three different cars to get here,” Fernando explains. He and his wife are among the 736 resettled families (approx. 3,680 people) in Mualadzi, struggling to make a living for themselves. Danwatchhas spoken to several members of the community and they tell similar stories about their efforts to get food on the table and make the scarce water resources cover their basic needs.

The resettlement was initiated by the Australian mining company, Riversdale, and British-Indian Tata Steel in 2010, when they started developing what would become the largest coal mine in Mozambique, covering 4,560 hectares in central Tete. Shortly after, the process was taken over by the British-Australian mining company, Rio Tinto, when the company bought Riversdale and held the majority ownership of the Benga mine in 2011. Soon after the takeover, Rio Tinto began the main phase of the resettlement process, moving 358 families from their villages in the mining area to Mualadzi.

The move meant a significant change for the families. They used to live in the villages Capanga and Benga Sede by the Revuboè and Zambezi rivers, near the main road leading to Tete city: this was a location with unrestricted access to water and to the fertile soil near
the river and near to town markets. The river not only provided the villages with water for people and their livestock but was also a place for leisure, where women could undress, wash their clothes and bathe freely, while their husbands, sons and fathers had their own section of the river to themselves.

Emilia Fato, a 58-year-old widow who lives with her son and two grandchildren, is longing to go back to her old life near the riverbank.

“Where we use to live, we had water from the river. There, we could provide for ourselves and we didn’t need help from anybody,” she says. She and her family used to grow crops, break stones and sell them for construction. In Mualadzi, they feel lost.

“My son was supposed to work, but he is just sitting here all day, because there is nothing for him to do. If we were home, I would know what advice to give him, but here I don’t
know what to tell him,” she says.

Before the resettlement to the Mualadzi area, Tito Fernando used to make bricks and sell them by the roadside, but the remote location of Mualadzi and an insufficient water supply makes it impossible for him to continue his trade. Instead, he and his wife takes turns in travelling to Moatize town to sell some crops at the market. But it is a long journey with little outcome. Photo: Jesper Kirkbak

Before the resettlement to the Mualadzi area, Tito Fernando used to make bricks and sell them by the roadside, but the remote location of Mualadzi and an insufficient water supply makes it impossible for him to continue his trade. Instead, he and his wife takes turns in travelling to Moatize town to sell some crops at the market. But it is a long journey with little outcome. Photo: Jesper Kirkbak

No way out of Mualadzi

The Mualadzi resettlement site is 50 kilometres from the river and 40 kilometres from the closest town, Moatize. It is a place so remote it makes it almost impossible for the resettled to survive as a society, according to civil society organisations Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and SarWatch. Reports all point to food and water insecurity as a matter of great concern for the communities.

In the 2015 report Mining Resettlement and Lost Livelihoods, Australian Oxfam described Mualadzi as “a remote location with poor quality soil and an insecure supply of water for personal and agricultural use,” and stressed the gravity of the situation: “This harsh physical environment has put livelihoods at risk with food security being an immediate
challenge.”

The land that was given to the families who used to rely partly on subsistence farming is not suitable for crops and with half a day’s journey to the nearest town they struggle to find alternative ways to make a living. To Tito Fernando, the situation is desperate:

“It is very bad here, we have a lot of problems with both transportation and water. Sometimes we spend months without water,” he says, explaining that when water is in short supply, they resort to using the small creeks in the outskirts of the community. When asked about his thoughts about the future, his face hardens:

“Our future doesn’t look good. We see that. My children and I, we don’t have anything. There is an entrance to Mualadzi, but there is nowhere out. They just left us here.”

Compensation can impoverish

The food and water insecurity in Mualadzi and the remote location that offers little opportunity for the community to connect with other villages goes against both national law and international guidelines that say that resettlement cannot happen if it changes people’s living standards for the worse. Even though people in Mualadzi have been given material compensation, the new houses being of a far better quality than the wooden cottages they left behind, they are still struggling to get back on their feet after the move.

This comes as no surprise to Professor Christopher de Wet from Rhodes University in South Africa, who finds it meaningless to speak of compensation as a simple matter of one asset replacing the other.

“People in Mualadzi and Cateme have technically been compensated, but in fact they are worse off. They have been moved to land of lower quality and they are further from transport networks, which makes it difficult for them to market their goods. In that sense compensation can actually impoverish you,” he says. He stresses the complexity of
resettlements:

“Let’s say you have a trader. You can compensate him for the size of his shop and for his goods, but that most precious thing of all, those relationships of trust, which are actually what his livelihood depends on. How will you compensate him for that? That is what resettlement destroys, and these are the complex issues that compensation doesn’t
begin to touch.”

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