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A Piece of Land in a Land of Peace? State Farm Divestiture in Mozambique

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2008


In the first two years following the peace accord in Rome on 4 Ocotber 1992 between Mozambique's governing party, the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Frelimo), and the Resistência National Moçambicana (Renamo) guerrilla leadership, over one million refugees returned to the country while as many as three million moved back to the areas they were forced to flee during the war. With the post-accord commitment of the United Nations to monitor the ‘peace process’ as well as the political transition to a multi-party democratic régime, the international community invested itself strongly in supporting Mozambicans in their attempt to rebuild their war-torn country. The United Nations Operation in Mozambique (Unomoz) presented an acid test for the future of UN-sponsored ‘peacekeeping’ initiativesthe recent difficulties or failures in Angola, Somalia, and Bosnia having thrown into question the sensibility of such expensive operations with little probability of producing sustainable results. For the donor community, the end of the war signalled an opportunity to advance discussions and practical steps towards liberalising the Mozambican economy and decentralising state power — thereby offering a new laboratory for model testing.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

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1 The movement of refugees was reported in Mozambique Peace Process Bulletin (Awepaa, Maputo), 10 07 1994;Google ScholarPost-War Population Movements in Mozambique (Unohac, Maputo), 06 1994;Google Scholar and Population Information (Unohac, Maputo), 11 1994.Google Scholar

2 Government of Mozambique, Law No. 3/94, Maputo, 13 September 1994. See also, Garvey, Jennifer, ‘Review and Analysis of the Municipalities Law’, Maputo, 1994.Google Scholar

3 The PRE constituted Mozambique's attempt to unilaterally implement structural adjustment rather than adopting an International Monetary Fund programme as such. See Hanlon, Joseph, Mozambique: who calls the shots? (London and Bloomington, 1991), pt. 3.Google Scholar

4 Since the elections in October 1994 there has been an increase in official discussions about land issues concomitant with greater media focus on land conflicts.

5 See, for example, Cahen, Michel, Mozambique: la révolution implosée (Paris, 1987),Google Scholar and Geffray, Christian, La Cause des armes au Mozambique (Paris, 1990).Google Scholar

6 This estimate is based on data collected at the national level, as well as in several provinces and districts, albeit often contradictory, with gaps evident in either source. In addition, some ministries have published concessions while others have not. For this reason, our information is only partial: the actual number of hectares conceded could be substantially larger. (Since January 1994, the rate of granding concessions has actually accelerated, resulting in the alienation of additional hundreds of thousands of hectares.) See Myers, Gregory W., Elephants in the Trees: land and resource administration in Southern Maputo Province (Madison, 1996).Google Scholar In any case, the legal validity of concessions ranges widely. This estimate does not include the 20 million hectares reportedly placed at the disposition of the ‘Heaven on Earth Development Corporation’. Although the Government appears to have entered into a contractural arrangement with this organisation, according to Savana: seminário independente (Maputo), 20 05 1994, newspaper coverage and sharp criticism seem to have forced the régime to break its commitment.Google Scholar

7 Our contributions to this discussion are based on research, which has taken us to 20 sites in eight provinces since November 1991, on the restructuring of the state agricultural sector and the issues of resettlement, land access, and land-related disputes in post-war Mozambique. The findings of the LTC project are presented in greater details in Myers, Gregory and West, Harry, Land Tenure Security and State Farm Divestiture in Mozambique: case studies in Nhamatanda, Manica and Montepuez Districts (Madison, 1993), LTC Research Paper No. 110;Google ScholarTanner, Christopher, Myers, Gregory, and Oad, Ramchand, Land Disputes and Ecological Degradation in an Irrigation Scheme: a case study of state farm divestiture in Chokwe, Mozambique (Madison, 1993), LTC Research Paper No. 111;Google ScholarMyers, Gregory et al., Security, Conflict, and Reintegration in Mozambique: case studies of land access in the post-war period (Madison, 1994), LTC Research Paper No. 119;Google Scholar and Myers, Gregory, ‘Competitive Rights, Competitive Claims: land access in post-war Mozambique’, in Journal of Southern African Studies (York), 20, 4, 12 1994, pp. 603–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

8 ‘Intervention’ only occurred in former freehold areas, and did not constitute the legal seizure of land and capital assets. In cases of colonial freehold, the 1975 Constitution and 1979 Land Law had merely transformed rights into leaseholds, and assured that titles could be transferred to the state where this was deemed necessary or appropriate. As compared with formed Crown and /or Colony Lands, freehold parcels were not ‘nationalised’ until the state formally and specifically claimed them. It rarely bothered to do so. See Bruce, John, Land Policy and State Farm Divestiture in Mozambique (Madison, 1990), pp. 69 and 19–21,Google Scholar and Garvey, Jennifer, ‘Mozambique's Land Law: contradictions within the legislative framework’, in Second National Land Conference in Mozambique edited by Weiss, Ricky and Myers, Gregory W. (Madison, 1994).Google Scholar

9 The Government has presented conflicting information about the number of farms in the state sector and the areas involved. Some farms were never made operational and have, therefore, been occasionally included/omitted on official lists. Others underwent processes of consolidation or subdivision, further confusing the number of actual units at any given time. Area statistics are inaccurate since cadastres of many farms were never taken. In addition, most farms ‘claimed’ far more land than they ever utilised, and estimates of their size sometimes included such areas.

10 In practice, where customary leaders were excluded from participation in local institutions, state appointees could not resolve the greater part of area disputes for lack of time and knowledge of personal claims and histories. Conflicts between smallholders frequently continued to be resolved within unofficial institutions.

11 See Sheldon, Kathleen, ‘Women and Revolution in Mozambique: a luta continua’, in Tetreault, Mary Ann (ed.), Women and Revolution in Africa, Asia and the New World (Columbia, SC, 1994), for a concise evaluation of the relationship between rural woman and state agriculture.Google Scholar

12 Renamo's tactics have been well documented. See, for example, Hall, Margaret, ‘The Mozambican National Resistance Movement (RENAMO): a study in the destruction of an African country’, in Africa (London), 60, 1990, 3968;Google ScholarVines, Alex, RENAMO: terrorism in Mozambique (London and Bloomington, 1991);Google Scholar and Finnegan, William, A Complicated War: the harrowing of Mozambique (Berkeley, 1992).Google Scholar

13 These difficulties are examined in greater details in Myers and West, op. cit. 1993.

14 Cited in Hanlon, Joseph, Mozambique: the revolution under fire (London, 1984), p. 101.Google Scholar

15 Roesch, Otto, ‘Rural Mozambique Since the Frelimo Party Fourth Congress: the situation in the baixo Limpopo’, in Review of African Political Economy (Sheffield), 41, 1988, pp. 73–9.Google Scholar

16 This evaluation is reproduced in Myers and West, op. cit. 1993, Appendix 8.

17 Ibid. Appendices 9–10, 12–13, and 18–20.

18 Ibid. 15 and 16.

19 This legislation included Laws 13/91 and 14/91 of 3 Augast 1991, Decrees 27/91 and 28/91 of 21 November 1991, and Decree 31/91 of 26 November 1991.

20 As explained by the legal counsel, Ministry of Agriculture, in 1993.

21 See Myers and West, op. cit. 1993, for a more detailed account of these cases.

22 The provincial government in Manica set aside some land in Vanduzi as a reserve for smallholders. Such initiatives have also been undertaken in the southern part of Maputo province, where pressure on land is heavy due to competition among residents in the capital (many of them government officials), South African investors, and returning refugees. However, the creation of reserves can be problematic for the smallholders they are intended to protect-it can limit their chances to benefit from commercial activities in the region and create ‘homelands’, which remain isolated from infrastructural improvements and social services. Yet in the current context, reserves may serve as a stop-gap measure for protecting smallholders in a chaotic environment.

23 Two rounds of land grabbing have taken place. The first, early after the farms closed, focused on land formerly belonging to the state, much of which was ‘grabbed’ by government officials or others well-connected politically. The second, which is still taking place, includes lands near or around the former state farms as well as other ‘good’ lands. Thereafter, land acquired in the first round is frequently resold to investors with more capital or farming experience-usually foreign interests. See Myers et al., op. cit. 1994.

24 The 1987 Land Law regulations gave former colonial landholders three years in which to renew their existing claims, but since no legal mechanisms determined what would happen once the time elapsed, many continue to invoke these regulations. See Myers and West, op. cit. 1993, p. 32 , and Alexander, Jocelyn, ‘Land and Political Authority in Post-War Mozambique: notes from Manica Province’, LTC typescript, Madison, 1994.Google Scholar

25 Private farmers reported that lands located near former state farmer are also desirable because they, too, have better access to roads and other improvements; consequently in Nhamatanda, as well as elsewhere, divestiture has affected land that did not previously belong to the state. In the colonial period, some of this land had belonged to Portuguese settlers, while some had been occupied by smallholders.

26 See Myers et al., op. cit. 1993 and Myers, op. cit. 1995 for a more detailed account of this agro-industrial complex. For historical background, see Roesch, loc. cit. 1988 , and ‘Migrant Labor and Forced Rice Production in Southern Mozambique: the colonial peasantry of the lower Limpopo Valley’, in Journal of Southern African Studies, 17, 2, 1991, pp. 239–70;Google Scholar Anna Wardman, ‘The Cooperative Movement in Chokwe, Mozambique’, in Ibid. 11, 2, 1985, pp. 295–304; Berg, Jelle van den, ‘A Peasant Form of Production: wage dependent agriculture in southern Mozambique’, in Canadian Journal of African Studies (Toronto), 21, 3, 1987, pp. 374–89;Google ScholarHermele, Kenneth, Land Struggles and Social Differentiation in Southern Mozambique (Uppsala, 1988);Google Scholar and Bowen, Merle, ‘Peasant Agriculture in Mozambique: the case of Chokwe, Gaza Provinces’, in Canadian Journal of African Studies, 23, 3, 1989, pp. 355–79.Google Scholar

27 See Myers and West, op. cit. 1993, for a detailed account of this case.

28 Romanian aid was delivered through a state project covering 40,000 hectares in Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces.

29 Though our informants included members of Lomaco's board of directors as well as other employees, much of the data that we have about the company has been disputed in correspondence received in response to the publication of Myers and West, op. cit. 1993.

30 The Government determines the price of cotton annually after consulation with the major producers, including Lomaco.

31 Lomaco's arrival in 1990 brought a reduction in histilities two years before the war ended: though its transport vehicles were sometimes attacked, its militias were undeniably the strongest armed force in and around Montepuez. Lomaco's relations with Renamo are historically complex, but it was clearly not in the latter's interests to harass the company or the region under its control.

32 In the village created by Frelime after independence, customary authorities in Montepuez sometimes held posts as village presidents. Obviously, working through them would be an affective way to prepare a political or economic initiave–not by ‘respecting local tradition’, but by bringing the power of the state to bear on populations that have for generations been subject to a political hierarchy with a military/security logic of operation. Perhaps nowhere in Mozambique is this more true than in Cabo Delgado.

33 See Isaacman, Allen, Cotton is the Mother of Poverty: peasants, work and rural struggle in colonial Mozambique, 1938–1961 (Portsmouch, NH, 1996).Google Scholar

34 Intially, Lomaco de-emphasised food crops, claiming that they were stolen at a high rate, but in the past two years has not only raised seed for cereals but also bought any surplus from local farmers.

35 It is not clear if the Sociedade Agricola Algodoeira was ever nationalised. Nor is it apparent whether the state has the authority to grants rights to land previously owned by private interests (including smallholders) who, at least theoretically, may reclaim these under the current legal structure. Without title, Lomaco's access depends on the goodwill and stability of the Government.Google Scholar

36 Seversl smallholders suggested that cotton was rated as second grade when it shouls have been first grade. Lomaco, however, has provided statistics which indicate that it has actually rated cotton as first grade at a much higher proportion than normal.

37 Lomaco admits overdue payments to outgrowers in the 1990–1 season, but states that this has not occurred again.

38 SeeLofchie, Michael F., ‘Africa's Agrarian Malaise’, in Carter, Gwendolen and Meara, Patrick O's (eds.), African Independence: the first twenty-five years (Bloomington,1985);Google ScholarBrett, E. A., ‘State Power and Economic Inefficiency: explaining political failure in Africa’, in IDS Bulletin (Brighton), 17, 1, 01 1986, pp. 22–9;Google Scholar and Wunsch, James S. and Olowu, Dele, The Failure of the Centralized State: inatitutions and self-governance in Africa (Boulder, CO, 1990).Google Scholar

39 See Bates, Robert H., Markets and States in Tropical Africa: the political basis of agricultural politices (Berkely, 1981),Google Scholar and Sandbrook, Richard, The Politics of Africa's Economic Stagnation (Cambridge, 1985).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

40 For discussion of the experience with reform of state sectors in Ethiopia and East Africa, which give evidence of the interconnections between economic, political, and broader socio-cultural aspects, see Pausewang, Siegfried, Cheru, Fantu, Brune, Stefan, and Chole, Eshetu (eds.), Ethiopia: options for rural development (London, 1990);Google ScholarPickett, James, ‘Liberalization and Privatization in Tanzania and Zambia’, in World Development (Oxford), 21, 1993, pp. 1981–8;Google Scholar and Lofchie, Michael F., ‘Trading Places: economic policy in Kenya and Tanzania’, in Callaghy, Thomas M., Ravenhill, John (eds.), Hemmed In: responses to Africa's economic decline (New York, 1993), pp. 398462.Google Scholar

41 Moreover, divestiture established a foundation for a wider politics of land, allowing for more detrimental patterns of land transfers–from the persprctive of smallholders–in the future.

42 Linkages between tenure security, productivty, and ecological sustainbility are persuasively argued in Barrows, Richard and Roth, MichaelLand Tenure and Investment in African Agriculture: theory and evidence’, The Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge), 28, 2, 06 1990, pp. 265–97;CrossRefGoogle ScholarFeder, Gershon and Feeney, David, ‘Land Tenure and Property Rights: theory and implications for development policy’, in World Bank Economic Review (Washington, DC), 5, 1991, pp. 135–55;Google Scholar and Bruce, John and Migot-Adholla, Shem E. (eds.), Searching for Land Tenure Security in Aftica (Dubhuque, IA, 1994).Google Scholar

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