Nhampossa is executive director of the Uni„o Nacional de Camponeses
(UNAC) / National Peasants' Union of Mozambique and a member for
Africa of the International Coordinating Committee of La Via Campesina. La Via
Campesina is an organization of organizations, part of a global
movement of peasants, family farmers, indigenous and landless people.The
interview was conducted (and later edited) by Nic Paget-Clarke for In Motion Magazine on October
18, 2008 during the 5th International Conference of La Via Campesina.
The conference was held at the FRELIMO Party School in Matola, Mozambique.
needs of the family
Paget-Clarke: Do you come from a farming background yourself?
Nhampossa: My grandfather and my parents were small farmers. My
first education was to grow up in farming, which means in the farming
rural areas. A lot of young people leave the rural areas here because
there are not enough schools. To go for higher education you need
to leave your rural area to go to an urban area school. That is
what happened to me. I had to leave my home area to come to Maputo
Paget-Clarke: Where is your home area?
Nhampossa: Itís in Inhambane. Itís a place which is located 500
kilometers north of Maputo. Inhambane is a province but there is
also a town called Inhambane in which I grew up.
Paget-Clarke: What sort of farming did your family do?
Nhampossa: Generally, farming here and in my family is everything:
with animals, cows, goats, chicken, ducks; and also fruits, all
different kind of fruits -- tropical fruits, papaya, keppel, oranges.
And then we have coconuts and other crops like maize, peanuts, beans,
which are part of the needs of everyday life. Basically, we produce
for local consumption, not for selling. It is for family consumption,
to respond to the needs of the family. There is a little surplus
and that goes to the market.
Paget-Clarke: And this was family based or it was a cooperative?
Nhampossa: It was family based.
The World Bank/the IMF and UNAC
Paget-Clarke: Can you please tell me a little about the history
Nhampossa: Yes. Historically, the movement of peasants and small
farmers started right after independence (June 25, 1975) under the
government. The government created a lot of associations and cooperatives
under the centrally-planned economy, but there was no national platform
of these associations until 1987. 1987 was the year that the IMF
(International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank came into the country,
when we got the first loans from these institutions and accepted
all the conditionalities of liberalization, of privatization, of
everything. The government reduced intervention in the economy,
which means it reduced its support of small farmers and associations
that situation, the leaders of these associations and cooperatives
organized a national conference to discuss what would be the future
of the farming community after 1987. They decided to create a national
platform of farmers, which is UNAC.
that moment, there were two basic objectives. One of them was representation
of the farmers before the government, fighting for rights to land,
the right for subsidies, the right for support to produce. The other
one was to implement development projects in the rural areas.
that moment on, it (the government) declared that the private sector
would have the most important role in developing agriculture, but
we did not have any kind of private sector in agriculture. There
was no funding that would help the private sector to work in agriculture.
Agriculture was not attractive. The private sector that we had was
more traders importing goods from outside to sell, but not in production.
was not any kind of support for agriculture and we, as an organization,
decided at that moment that the organization should play a role
in looking for funding to develop agriculture projects in the associations
these are the two pillars of the organization: representation and
implementing local rural development projects.
Cooperatives and associations
Paget-Clarke: What do you mean by projects?
Nhampossa: Projects are specific issues, problems that small farmers
identify in their own community and need to decide on specific solutions
for; to define a strategy of how they are going to implement the
solutions they have for those specific problems. That includes looking
for resources, looking for funding -- wherever it can come from,
from NGOs, from donors, or from government -- to respond to that
say they have a river and they cannot use it for irrigation. What
they need is a small dam, or a pump, or whatever. They work together
in order to obtain that objective of putting the irrigation system
into function. That would be the kind of a project that we are talking
Paget-Clarke: Would those resources sometimes be internal to that
association or is it always looking for external resources?
Nhampossa: The first source of the resources is internal. It would
be the contributions of the members of the specific cooperative
or association. But we donít put aside the possibility of looking
for those funds outside -- taking into consideration that some of
the funding that comes from outside comes with a lot of conditions
and they can endanger the ownership of the process and create dependency.
The most important source of the funding for the projects is the
local capacity to raise, to share the resources of the funding.
Paget-Clarke: What is the difference between an association and
Nhampossa: Today, it is not clear, even in our organization in Mozambique.
Why? Because during the centralized economy the government created
a lot of cooperatives and these cooperatives suffered a lot of intervention
from the government officials and people did not like it. Although
they liked, or they see, association and cooperation as a way to
resolve problems, they did not like the model that was being implemented,
in terms of cooperatives in Mozambique. So, they donít like the
word cooperative, and sometimes they call themselves associations
when they are actually cooperatives.
we usually distinguish associations from cooperatives when a cooperativeís
economics are more for social purposes -- it is a profit organization
but the profit is directed to social purposes. An association is
a non-profit organization; it is only sharing ideas. They are not
supposed to profit from work. A cooperative does profit from work.
Paget-Clarke: And then they distribute that profit among their members?
Nhampossa: Yes. Or they build a hospital for themselves, or a school.
It is for common use.
socialist period in Mozambique
Paget-Clarke: How do you sum up the socialist period in Mozambique?
What were those years?
Nhampossa: There were almost ten years of socialism. They were very
important to affirm the national unity after almost 500 years of
colonization. It was the first opportunity when people were feeling
that we have lives, we are independent, we can think by ourselves.
We can determine our own future without interference from outside.
affirmation of nationality was very important. The unity of the
different tribes was very important. It was only ten years but we
can still feel it today. Things like what is happening in Kenya
would never happen here, at least in the next twenty years, because
of those ten years. We donít see the tribal differences. We donít
talk about race. If you look at our statistics you will never see
ďHow many blacksĒ or ďHow many whitesĒ or ďHow many ChanganasĒ,
or ďHow many TongasĒ. We always talk about people in the country
and thatís finished. We donít make these differences.
differences only come in terms of class: who owns more and who owns
less. We can talk about that. It is important to see where it is
distributed. That was very important.
were also very difficult moments because there was the Cold War
and we were under pressure from the apartheid system and Ian Smith
in Zimbabwe, in Rhodesia. It was a lot of pressure. We were labeled
as a communist country, therefore something to be finished. It was
difficult in that sense.
of the things that happened, like nationalization of the church
property, were the stains of the process. Those were the difficult
things that happened. Also, most people did not like to be organized
as cooperatives. They would like to be in a cooperative because
they wanted to be, not because they were obliged. People were being
moved from one place to another without consent. Those were some
of the difficult moments of those ten years.
you can also see that people experienced equality. They experienced
what equality means. For example, you wouldnít feel that the minister
is more important than I am because I am just a simple citizen.
It was transparency in terms of the salary of the minister, how
the wealth was distributed. It was clear. There was no corruption.
There was no crime. There was nothing.
were very important years, although there were some setbacks, related
to the Cold War, and because of that a war was waged.
Paget-Clarke: The RENAMO war? (ResistÍncia Nacional MoÁambicana)
Nhampossa: Yes. Basically, to destroy communism in the country.
That was the idea. It was not a political movement to change the
situation, it was just a destabilization war to end the socialism
in the country. Thatís why even the RENAMO party today doesnít have
expression. You donít understand what is the ideology. Are they
left wing? Are they right wing? What is their proposal to society?
It is not clear. Although, FRELIMO also has the same problem today.
It is not clear, in terms of strategy, where they want to take the
we had this war which was related to the fact that we were putting
a lot of stress on being independent, to make our own decisions
and be sovereign. Those things were not likeable to some of the
of Mozambique Armando Guebuza (center) with two Via Campesina
leaders Henry Saragin (left) and Rafael Alegria (right).
statue in Maputo of Mozambique's first president Samora Machel.
mural in Maputo near the airport depicts the revolution to
liberate Mozambique from Portuguese colonialism.
apartment building in Maputo.
of a shopping mall in Maputo.
pull in a net of sardines from Maputo Bay.
national flag of Mozambique (right) and the FRELIMO flag.
the perspective of national interest to privatization
Paget-Clarke: Why did socialism end here?
Nhampossa: One thing is, we didnít actually reach socialism, anyway.
We can talk more of nationalism. We are talking about socialism
because those who financed the struggle for liberation were people
from the East, the Chinese, the Russians, the ones who built this
building here, the Germans, the Democratic Germans (editor: the
FRELIMO Central Party School where the conference was held). Thatís
why we went also to go and bring the ideas of socialism, because
they were the ideas that were being discussed by Vietnam and other
countries that supported our struggle. There was more nationalism.
any case, we reached the situation where we were bankrupt because
the system in the East was crashing. The support that came from
the Soviet Union, the support that came from China, it was reduced
very much, and we became bankrupt. So, Samora Machel (the first
president of Mozambique) had to look for solutions from the perspective
of national interest. The solutions could come from anywhere. It
didnít matter where. Thatís why he visited (U.S. president) Ronald
Reagan in 1984, trying to commence some kind of negotiations with
the West to finish the problems that we had. Thatís when the negotiations
to become members of the IMF and the World Bank started.
ended socialism, they ended it, trying to look for solutions for
the economy which was very much down -- because of the war, because
of the pressures from the apartheid system, from the Rhodesians.
In that period, people were going to the U.S. looking for solutions
for the country, now they are not thinking that way. They think
that the correct way of doing things is using the neoliberal model.
That was not the thinking in that period. If we are going to look
for resources to make the country grow, develop agriculture, to
provide basic resources for the people, we go to the West looking
for money for the private sector, for big investments, not for the
development of the people as such.
was clarity in those days, today there is no clarity. Itís just
looking for money, just business. Not looking for solutions for
the problems that the people are facing. Thatís why you see the
gap between the rich and the poor. Itís very big today. It was almost
zero in the past but today it is very big.
have a very rich private sector here, while the vast majority of
people have barely anything to eat. They live in very bad conditions.
No access to health and education. All the schools have been privatized.
The universities have been privatized. Public services, water, electricity,
gas have all been privatized and become so expensive that the poor
people are never going to be able to access them.
Paget-Clarke: So socialism was not run in a sustainable way? It
relied on outside help?
Nhampossa: Yes, it was basically that. It relied very much on the
outside world. Also, we inherited a system from the colonial period
that had to crash first before it could rise again. All the capitalists
were chased away. Or they just left because they did not concur
with the socialist model. Some people destroyed, sabotaged the companies.
Paget-Clarke: The Portuguese?
Nhampossa: Yes. Thereís a refinery nearby which was a very big one.
There was a lot of sabotage. They spoiled it completely. That happened
a lot. We inherited problems from the colonial period which had
to be managed. It took only five years for the economy to go down.
It (the colonial system) relied very much on the support coming
from the English government. The English government gave a lot of
money to the Portuguese, foreign support to the Portuguese colony:
the gold mines in South Africa, the contracts with the Portuguese.
There was a lot of gold coming into the country. All these things
were cut when we became independent. We inherited a very high debt.
(the socialist period) was unsustainable because it relied very
much on external donations. We did not have time, I think, to start
working before the collapse of socialism in the world. Although
we had a lot of support from Cuba, a lot of support from the Soviet
Union, all of them started having problems and we were very much
dependent on them, even to produce what we were exporting. We relied
on their machines. It was, as you say, very much unsustainable.
It was difficult.
Paget-Clarke: And the neoliberal period is not very sustainable
Nhampossa: Of course. There is no better evil. Evil is evil. The
neoliberal model came in 1987 and took away all the industries.
All the industries were privatized. The cotton industry, the textile
industries, tea industries, basically those industries were processing
agricultural crops and were all finished, privatized under the support
of the IMF. And then they never functioned. None of them is functioning.
Paget-Clarke: Did they go to Mozambican private owners or multinationals?
Nhampossa: They were generally given to Portuguese and other multinational
companies. They never operated for more than five years. All of
them just collapsed, even after privatization. We started relying
very much on imports, imported foods.
the government is not relying on taxes that we pay. We are relying
very much on donations -- sixty percent of our budget. When we started,
40 percent of our budget was coming from outside, and it grows every
year. Now we are at a level where 60 percent of our budget comes
perhaps 30 percent of our budget comes from multinational companies.
Thereís a big plant just around the corner from here, an aluminium
production plant that doubled our GDP (gross domestic product) after
it started operation. The Coca Cola company and others contribute
to exports, so they raised the income of the budget.
other words, we, who are citizens, we are only contributing 10 to
15 percent. We are completely dependent on external support.
of the fastest growing economies in the worldĒ
Paget-Clarke: You mention multinationals. You say they are increasing
the GDP and thus the national budget, but doesnít all of the profit
actually go out of the country?
Nhampossa: Yes. We are still very dependent and the powers of the
West donít care about the fact that we are increasing dependence.
They even want us to be dependent so that we can accept all the
conditionalities of opening the markets.
Paget-Clarke: So, just to make sure I understand this. When people
say, ďNow, under the IMF policies, the GDP is increasing,Ē and,
ďMozambique is starting to do well,Ē thatís strictly a numbers game
because most of the profit goes out of the country, leaving you
Nhampossa: Definitely. We have been told that Mozambique is one
of the fastest growing economies in the world. But you donít feel
that in the people. You donít see people changing their lives. The
lives of the citizens have become worse and worse. Yet the numbers
are so attractive. The World Bank has been praising us.
is actually an interesting fact that here, in February, we had a
visit from the president of the World Bank. He left on the fourth
of February and he said, when he was going, ďThis is a very exemplary
economy. You have been performing so well.Ē But, on the fifth, it
was announced that the price of public transport would increase
50% and there were riots everywhere in Maputo. The city stopped.
A lot of violence. Very big riots. Some people got killed. Police
cars were burned. People were exploding from so many problems that
they were feeling.
these people also include the police. The police who were supposed
to stop the riots. The policeman has to walk for a few kilometers
before he reaches the police station to take the gun and go to protect
the people. He is also part of the suffering in society. When you
say you have to increase your fee for public transportation, he
is also very much affected. That is why it was so difficult to stop
the riots around town because the police also did not care. Their
salaries are very low.
just an example of how this is a fast-growing economy and yet the
peopleís lives are getting worse and worse. Food is expensive. School
is expensive. And when I say school is expensive, you are not supposed
to pay for the public schools, but the teachers are badly paid,
in terms of salary. There are no laboratories in the school. There
are no books. You have to buy all your books. And sometimes you
have to pay the teacher to give you a good mark.
is really very difficult for the public sector. All this is because
the IMF says the government should reduce public expenditure to
salaries of the teachers and nurses are very much contained. When
you go to a hospital it is a very beautiful building, painted, and
this of course has been a loan from the World Bank to make this
building. But inside there is no nurse, no equipment. There is nothing.
are the contradictions of this growing economy, but yet extremely
dependent. It could be a source of social instability in the future.
Paget-Clarke: UNAC believes in an alternative method, I take it.
How would you describe what you are doing to try and change that?
Nhampossa: We are organizing as farmers to defend our own interests.
Paget-Clarke: What percentage of the population are farmers?
Nhampossa: 80 percent. 15 million.
Paget-Clarke: And how many are represented by UNAC?
Nhampossa: The ones who are organized, and we can give you the names
of the organizations, are only 65,000.
members are scattered throughout the country but a lot of them are
not part of the movement. Some of them are sorted by NGOs in projects
which never end and never change the lives of the people. Poverty
here is sometimes a source of income for some organizations. They
keep writing project proposals, getting the money, and then spending
it on administration but nothing ever goes to the rural areas.
we do as an organization is make sure that the local organizations,
associations, grassroots organizations, have got power to look for
solutions to their own problems. We do that promoting a lot of meetings,
organizing a lot of training, a lot of exchanges, to strengthen
the farmers to be able to look for solutions for their own problems.
do this taking into consideration the Via Campesina model for development,
which is food sovereignty, (it) is a model which can be accessible
to the rural poor in this country. The model that is being proposed
of mechanized agriculture, with very expensive inputs like fertilizer,
chemicals, and other things, that is not sustainable for our small
farmers. But the model proposed by Via Campesina, which is food
sovereignty, is the one that has been practiced by small farmers
Paget-Clarke: When you say years, is that generations?
Nhampossa: Yes, generations. Most of them are still using the same
method as in the past. My grandmother, she is around 85 now, I grew
up on that farm, she produces food to eat. Today, when I come back,
she still gives me a bag of maize or a bag of peanuts. She still
is producing on the same farm. She is using sustainable models of
production. The soil is not being spoiled and thatís the source
of her health. Her health is pretty good because of that. She doesnít
know what a hospital is. She doesnít know what a doctor is. But
she is going to her nineties because she is related to that land,
to the products that the land gives.
agriculture, we need to put it as a solution, as a political solution,
because today many people put it as an old fashioned way of doing
agriculture that is slow and doesnít bring profit.
is trying to bring it back and say, ďThis is the solution to the
problems. This is the solution for the food crisis today. If all
our farmers were able to produce their own consumption, we would
not have to face this problem of doubling the price of rice or other
products. This is the solution we are bringing to the organizations
that we are organizing in our meetings, and our training, to change
this is the solution we are putting forward to discuss with our
government, the Minister of Agriculture -- talking about research
extension services for the farmers, small infrastructure, irrigation
systems, credit schemes, subsidies for small farmers. We are always
talking about this with the government.
Paget-Clarke: You are presenting the solution to the farmers but
you are also presenting it to the government?
Nhampossa: Yes. The main thing is it is actually the farmers themselves
that discuss these things with their local governments. When we
say ďweĒ, at the central office, the discussion with the Minister
of Agriculture is at that level. But the discussion is also done
through our members in the rural areas with the local governments,
using this perspective.
small village in Niassa province.
Buque of the Bobole 1B Association in Marracuene in Maputo
young boy with vegetable crop in Marracuene.
crop in Marracuene.
Paget-Clarke: In the conference press kit, it lists the objectives
of UNAC and the first one listed is ďautonomy of the local communitiesĒ.
What does that mean?
Nhampossa: Autonomy and sovereignty of the local communities means
that the farmers in their own communities are able to satisfy most
of their needs. It does not mean closing themselves up to the outside
world but it is to use their resources to the best and satisfy their
needs maintaining biodiversity, protecting biodiversity, and connecting
to other societies in other communities to share in solidarity,
to share knowledge, experience, exchange seeds - that is also very
important. All the communities have to be able to affirm that they
have their own culture, their own knowledge, their own capacity
to produce so that they can share with others. We donít see that
some communities have more knowledge than other communities.
Paget-Clarke: How big is a community?
Nhampossa: It depends very much, but our communities would be something
like 500 to 200,000 people.
Paget-Clarke: Whatís the relationship between this autonomy and
Nhampossa: The relationship is very much complex. The organization
size is very much complex. There is traditional society that keeps
traditional chiefs and they have some kinds of commonalities and
linkages. And the linkages are based on blood -- the name of the
family, of the clan, of the tribe. They have some kind of traditional
bonds that link them and there is a chief of that specific place.
But there is also a new kind of organization that was started by
the government, (started during the socialist period) which is also
Paget-Clarke: What is that? Like a community council?
Nhampossa: Yes, we call them barrios. There is a secretary for the
barrio, and other functions.
Paget-Clarke: Those are elected?
Nhampossa: No, those ones are indicated by the central government.
Paget-Clarke: To this day?
Nhampossa: Yes. This year we are having elections for the municipalities,
but that is only in 40 geographic spaces in the whole country. Very
there is another level -- of associations. Those are our members.
Those are linked through economic, social situations in which they
want to solve as a group, so they organize themselves in that way.
And sometimes all these things intermingle, these layers intermingle.
It is very much complicated for the common people.
simplest way to hear that I belong to something is to be part of
an association. An association has a minimum of ten people and the
oldest one, the maximum, may have 200 people. There is direct benefit
that they feel from being part of this specific association or cooperative
and they dedicate a lot of their lives to this thing. Most of our
members are in those associations and they spend their lives working
in the association, joining together, discussing, looking for resources,
advocating for their rights.
the other levels are so much complicated.
Paget-Clarke: The other levels are left over from previous times?
Nhampossa: Yes. They are problems and have been messed up by colonialism,
by socialism. It is so difficult to manage those levels, although,
because of political interests, they are still kept. It is through
these layers that the government works, or appears to be. They are
political and interventive. They can take decisions in the name
of the community. They are more used for political interests.
Paget-Clarke: They represent the state?
Nhampossa: To some extent.
Paget-Clarke: Whereas the people are involved, on their own, through
these associations? Is that accurate?
Nhampossa: Thatís it. The associations feel more represented by
the people whom they have elected.
Paget-Clarke: And that is what you mean by autonomous?
Paget-Clarke: And if one community wants to talk to another community,
they would go from association to association?
Nhampossa: It varies very much. It is not homogenous. It depends,
from place to place. You will find a place where the associations
have some kinds of linkages to the system that is set by the government,
the barrios. It could happen like that. Associations are very important
spaces that the government also uses to dialog with the small farmers.
When there are associations, sometimes itís easy. Thatís why in
some instances they create associations, which is not correct.
well as some NGOs, they create associations because they want to
organize people into groups to facilitate the giving out of goods.
Itís easy to bring people together to discuss within the association,
because is not political.
is more difficult to bring people when you talk about a barrio,
because people start to be suspicious. People donít speak freely
in those levels of organization.
increase the conscience, responsibility
Paget-Clarke: How would you assess the progress in creating the
UNAC type of associations and cooperatives?
Nhampossa: I think there is a lot of change. The small farmers are
becoming more clear of what is their role in the society. Thereís
so many small organizations being created every day by the farmers
themselves. We canít even know exactly what are the numbers because
the groups are created by themselves and are becoming stronger and
have expression and are very much dynamic in the rural areas.
is visible especially in this last three years because the government
established the fund, a local development fund, which can be accessed
by associations or the private sector in specific districts. Small
associations are appearing to be the most active in accessing this
funding and using it for the production of food.
is interesting because even the private sector is being overwhelmed
by the associations because individual people should be more efficient
than a group of people. It is easier for me, myself, to go and get
the money and implement something. But ten people are more efficient
than one, at this moment. Ten are well organized to get the funding,
to implement and distribute. They are appearing to be better organized.
There is a history of twenty years of organizational association,
of struggling, of contributing to increase the conscience, the responsibility,
of the farmers in the changing of their own lives.
Paget-Clarke: Would you say that what these associations are doing
is an example of building an alternative world?
Nhampossa: Not yet. We, the associations are not in complete control.
They are not able to control everything, even in their own community.
Paget-Clarke: Because of these other factors?
Nhampossa: The political situation is very tense. But if you look
back there has been so much change. There is a lot of respect from
outside parts, government, and others, in relations to these associations.
They appear to be a little bit more powerful than they used to be.
Agroecology as a political affirmation
Paget-Clarke: Do you use agroecology?
Nhampossa: Yes, we use agroecology. Our wish is to have it done
in a very systematic way. We are waiting now on a training strategy
for agroecology to make sure our farmers implement this principle,
or way of production, in a more systematic way. Today they are practicing
it because no one came to propose that they use a special fertilizer,
chemical additive, or a special seed, or whatever. The danger of
them changing from their way of production today is bigger because
agroecology is not being put in a very systematic way as a very
political affirmation of what agriculture should be for the small
still have a long way to walk, in terms of informing people, giving
them the political strength to defend agroecology, or defend agriculture
as they are practicing it today.
Paget-Clarke: Thereís a big move to bring the Green Revolution here?
Is that true?
Nhampossa: Thereís even a strategy for a Green Revolution in Mozambique.
We even participated in the definition of this Green Revolution
Paget-Clarke: You did?
Nhampossa: Yes. We highlighted the negative effects of the Green
Revolution in India and Mexico. We said it was very important to
take into consideration these aspects and not repeat them in our
country. For us, we donít care about the word itself, which is ďGreen
RevolutionĒ. What you do is try to explain what agriculture is for
us, and should be for us, and people are going to feel that is opposite
to the Green Revolution.
are not using the word or the sentence, ďNo to the Green RevolutionĒ,
but we are putting things in such a way that people can see that
this is not the Green Revolution. In this strategy, you will see
that it is agroecology, the strategy that we propose, that was written
by the government. It is, basically, agroecology: diversity, in
terms of seed; no use of chemical fertilizer; no use of mechanization.
Paget-Clarke: That is what the government is now promoting?
Nhampossa: That is what the strategy says, the strategy that was
approved. But its actual implementation is different because the
main players of the Green Revolution, Bill Gates, Rockefeller (Foundation),
all these people, believe in mechanization of agriculture, believe
in chemical fertilizers, believe in big irrigation systems, and
the money they have to give our government is to buy those things.
To buy the tractors. To buy chemical fertilizers. It is not money
to subsidize more farmers to make small irrigation dams, to produce
local manure. It is not that.
is happening today is that the government is buying so many tractors
and they are importing a lot of fertilizers, chemical fertilizers,
which goes against the strategy they approved themselves. But it
satisfies, very much, the people who are giving the money for the
Green Revolution. This is the challenge we have. We have a lot of
debate with the government in relation to this and in some places
the government faces a lot of pressure from the small farmers when
they bring solutions that are very much unsustainable.
course, those same systems were used during the socialist period.
Our government became (in debt) for about $15 billion U.S. dollars
importing mechanization equipment into the country, and importing
pesticides and chemical fertilizers, which then brought us problems,
environmental problems. People remember that. We received all these
wild things that never brought production and spoiled our soil.
But it is accelerating and people know it.
the other hand) in the whole of southern Africa, Mozambique is the
country that uses less fertilizer. We only use .8 kgs per hectare,
while others already use above 20, 22 kgs per hectare. We are very
low, in terms of using fertilizer, because of historical reasons.
The government is even trying to build a fertilizer company to produce
organic fertilizer, not chemical fertilizer.
any case, we donít have money and those who have money they want
us to buy a certain kind of product.
Paget-Clarke: Are those loans or gifts?
Nhampossa: Sometimes a loan. Sometimes a grant.
Paget-Clarke: So, they loan you the money to buy their tractors
and then they ask for the money back later?
Nhampossa: Yes, thatís it. Itís a very, very big problem. And that
tractor wonít bring growth and it wonít bring development but yet
later we have to pay the interest, the capital, whatever.
/ No culture
Paget-Clarke: What does food sovereignty mean in Mozambique?
Nhampossa: For us, food sovereignty means the possibility of the
people and farmers to produce their own food according to the local
resources, local capacity, respecting their culture, the taste of
Paget-Clarke: Can you talk a bit about that part, the culture part?
Nhampossa: Yes. Thereís a lot of diversity in the country in terms
of culture. It was messed up by the Portuguese because it was considered
to be no culture, not culture. You had to change to become Portuguese
and that brought us a lot of problems. There was a process during
the socialist period of re-building the town and culture, in bringing
the deep values of the culture in terms of food and so forth, ways
of production. That was very important to regain hope, food production.
Today, there is a lot of diversity, in terms of food, in terms of
knowledge, what to produce, with a lot of mixture of the knowledge
that came from others of the world, Portugal and other parts. But
the culture remains different. In this country if you even go 100
kilometers you will find a more or less different situation, a different
culture, a different way of doing things. And -- and this is very
important -- it does not provoke separatists or a lack of unity.
Those differences are interesting to show the different colors of
the Mozambican society.
groups and cooperatives
Paget-Clarke: As far as where you are going -- you respect the traditional
cultures and yet you are also talking about a culture that involves
cooperatives? Is that correct?
Nhampossa: Actually, within the traditional societies, there are
associations and cooperatives, so the method we are using, we are
not creating new kinds of associations and cooperatives. We work
on associations and cooperatives that are already there in a traditional
manner. We can add to them some aspects but we donít go and say,
ďLetís create an association or cooperativeĒ out of nowhere. That
is a process of the local things that are already happening in the
community. The communities already have solidarity groups. These
are the groups that can develop into something more.
Paget-Clarke: What is a solidarity group?
Nhampossa: Iíll give you an example. Families of two, three people
with 20 hectares. They canít work that. They organize themselves.
They call all the community to work in that specific farm and they
keep shifting like that. They move from family to family, cultivating
the land, planting, and then move to another family. This is a kind
of association to help in the management of the land for each family.
Paget-Clarke: Thatís new or traditional?
Nhampossa: Thatís a traditional approach. We can then add to that.
Add elements of agroecology. We can add political education.
Paget-Clarke: What is political education?
Nhampossa: Giving them the basics of the state. Why am I a citizen?
Citizenship information. Why do I need to vote? Why do I pay taxes?
Why is there a government? General information about what is happening
in society to make sure that he takes decisions taking into consideration
what is happening around the country, in his local area. We also
give this education to our farmers who raise a lot of discussions
on the different problems they face. To help them understand the
environment and take the right decision for their own lives.
Paget-Clarke: And the cooperatives created during the socialist
period -- what about them?
Nhampossa: The cooperatives had a certain nature during the socialist
period but you can see that the small farmers have been very much
creative, introducing a lot of change. That old cooperative is operating
in a different way.
say for example, in the past, the cooperative would go to the government
to get funding and they would plant in the same field, all of them,
and work on the same field. But now some cooperatives they take
this farm and they divide it into families. What they do is say,
ďLetís make a commercialization together. Letís make a market product
and bargain in common.Ē That would be one example. Or ďLetís use
the irrigation system for the benefit of all of us. How are we going
to make the schedule of who gets the water first and who gets the
organize themselves best for that specific resource or service which
was supplied by the government in the past. They were just receptors
of something that came from outside. Now it is the result of their
own work, internally.
Paget-Clarke: So, in the socialist period farmers wouldnít have
been permitted to do that and in the neoliberal period the government
really doesnít care what they do, so theyíve come up with their
Nhampossa: Yes, in the neolibeal period it is a survival strategy.
Paget-Clarke: Am I right in saying that in the socialist period
they wouldnít have been permitted to do these creative things?
Nhampossa: Right. They would not have been permitted because everything
was centrally planned. You had to do what was according to plan.
If this area is for production of cotton, you canít change that.
You have to organize yourself to produce cotton. Today, people can
say, ďNo, I donít want to produce cotton. I want to produce chickens.
Thatís what I think I ought to do.Ē
in the past, although the government said you had to produce cotton,
they did give you the money to produce cotton. Today, you have to
find your own solutions.
Paget-Clarke: What about land reform? Thatís one thing that didnít
Nhampossa: In terms of land reform, the reason for the liberation
war, struggle, was to free people and land. That was the objective
and that objective was obtained. In 1975, land was free, people
were free. Thatís when we had our land reform. So what happened?
All the farms were nationalized. All those really big farms were
taken away and then given back to their owners, as in the past,
the small farmers took over different farms and then that was it.
Paget-Clarke: As families?
Nhampossa: As families. They took their own land as families. But
when the government came four years later creating cooperatives,
some of those farms that belonged to the colonial period were used
as cooperatives. Some of the farms, they were basically the surroundings
of the cities.
Paget-Clarke: So, who owns the land now?
Nhampossa: Who owns the land? At that time, those cooperatives would
own that piece of land which used to be the colonial farm. Under
the new constitution, after independence, the land belongs to the
state. And when I say the state, I am not talking about the adminstration,
the government, Iím talking about the state, the people. The territory
belongs to everyone.
other words, to give you an example, the government is not allowed
to sell land. I have a piece of land and the government wants that
land for something -- they need to consult me. If I donít agree,
they donít touch my land.
government acts at the same level as a citizen when it comes to
land issues, unless itís for public use, letís say for roads or
anything like that. That is different. But if it is for economic
activities, we are at the same level - the government and the people
-- because the land belongs to the state. The state is all of us,
people, government. Thatís where the difference is.
course, some people feel afraid when they say the land belongs to
the state. How can you survive like that? It is possible. People
have use-rights. If you want to do economic activities, it is fifty
years. And you can renew. You pay taxes but if it is for associations
or cooperatives or family use, you donít pay anything. That land
is yours. Thatís it.
Paget-Clarke: And they still have that strength or that ability?
Nhampossa: The law is still active. There was a constitutional revision
in 2004 and there was a lot of expectation from the donors and the
private sector that the parliament would say land should now be
private property; that it should be able to be bought by private
people and then sold if they want. But they did not change that
clause in the constitution.
Mozambique, you cannot buy land or sell land. It is not part of
Paget-Clarke: So the IMF hasnít won that battle?
Nhampossa: No, they havenít. And itís not going to be an easy battle.
As far as I know, the World Bank is not very much interested in
touching that issue any more. It is highly political in Mozambique
and no president would ever do that today because he would lose
elections. They are afraid of touching this issue. Perhaps after
ten years or twenty years.
today, people feel safe the way the issue is because we are watching
the problems in South Africa, where land is private and the vast
majority of people are without land. That is why there is so much
social instability in South Africa. Crime and suffering.
Africa appears to be more developed than Mozambique, but if you
visit the rural areas, the Black communities are poorer than our
Black communities, our communities, because they donít have access
to land, while most of our people have access to land. When there
is a drop of rain that can change their life. But in South Africa
they are not allowed to plant anything at all.
Paget-Clarke: So would you say that was one change of the socialist
period that has been good that remains to this day?
Nhampossa: Yes. And the same happened in Zimbabwe. The problem that
Zimbabwe is facing today is related to the fact that they did not
take that decision when they became independent. They kept the land
under the hands of the old colonials and when they decide to take
it way it is too late. Now, there are no double powers like in the
Cold War period. We managed to do that because of the backup of
the Soviet Union. Today, no one dares to. If you do that you will
have all kinds of sanctions and the international press.
Paget-Clarke: Is it true that what they are doing in Zimbabwe is
they are giving land to their buddies and not to the people?
Nhampossa: It is partly true, but not true. It is true that Mugabe
is corrupt. He is a dangerous man. He is a criminal. And heís been
like that since the í80s. He killed minorities. And yet the British
never said anything at all.
remember in the í80s, when Queen Elizabeth visited Harare, he ordered
that thousands of people should be cleaned from the suburbs to make
the city clean for the Queen. He also did it two years ago and it
was highly criticized. The issue is not Mugabe.
of course, is taking some of the land and giving it to a few ministers.
To keep his power he needs to be able to give a lot of land to people.
But on the other side, there are a lot of small farmers that have
access to land now, who have not had access to land in the past,
through this agrarian reform process that took place.
are two kinds of people in Zimbabwe. One is the urban elites, middle
classes, and the others are the poor in the rural areas. The ones
who feel in their body the problems of Zimbabwe are the middle classes
in the cities. The people in the rural areas are very happy because
theyíve got a piece of land now to cultivate. That makes a lot of
are watching that in our neighboring countries, South Africa, Namibia,
Zimbabwe. Itís happening and people here are thinking we wouldnít
like to see these things happening in our country after a war that
was supposed to liberate people and land. It is like going back.
fact, it is actually something that somebody from the World Bank
told me. He said, ďI think that if you privatize your land you will
be walking behind, going back. The biggest problems in the world
today are related to land, and you have done the job of the land,
giving out the land to small farmers. If you now decide to give
billions of hectares to one man who is going to sit on top of the
community, you are preparing yourselves for war in the future.Ē
I donít know why he said that. I actually have his paper where he
is putting some of these things forward. I think he is a South African
and he knows what is happening in his own country is not a joke.
The level of crime that is there is related to the fact that people
donít have access to resources. Not everybody can get employment
and be able to survive.
unemployment is high but people are self-employed on their own farms.
That is very important. What we need is policies in support of this
agriculture to make sure that we produce a little bit more and are
able to access the market. Our production is not accessing the market
at all. Our markets are occupied by South African products and our
small farmers are not yet able to bring their products to market
centers. This is a problem which we need to solve. But not the land
are not against subsidies
Paget-Clarke: Is there anything else youíd like to say?
Nhampossa: There is one thing that is important to say. It is the
subsidy issue. There is a misunderstanding on the issue of subsidies.
We are not against subsidies. Iím talking about good subsidies,
not bad subsidies. Good subsidies, I consider, are those that are
given to the small farmers to produce in a sustainable manner to
supply the local markets. Bad subsidies would be those that are
given to multinational companies to produce and export and promote
dumping in other countries. I think the issue of subsidies is very
important in the WTO and the Americans are playing an important
role in those issues. It is very important to make the separation
between these two things. Many people are saying, ďIf you give subsidies
to your farmers you are going to clash with farmers in Africa because
they will never be able to export to America.Ē
dream is not to export anything to America at all. Our dream is
to be able to produce for local consumption. We also dream that
Americans should be able to produce in their country to supply their
interview originally appeared in In Motion Magazine.]
Guest Commentator Nic Paget-Clarke is Publisher and Co-editor of
In Motion Magazine
where this article originally appeared December 16, 2008. In Motion
Magazine ģ is a multicultural, online U.S. publication about democracy.
to contact Mr. Paget-Clarke.