Hidden victims of the 'green revolution'

Biofuels are nothing new to Simeon Mayimel. He's been burning charcoal and elephant dung for years. He had never expected that they would change his or his people's way of life.

One of the elders in his village, Nangene, Mr Mayimel is the leader of a community of two dozen or so families facing an uncertain future. They are Shangaan people, whose way of life in the borderlands of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, based on crops and cattle, has altered little for generations.

That is about to change. Nangene and seven other villages have been consumed by the recently created Transfrontier Limpopo National Park, which straddles the three countries, and the villagers along with more than a thousand other families are to be resettled outside its borders. They have been promised houses, electricity, running water and grazing at a new site.

But now the government has given a huge tract of the same land to a biofuels company, Procana, and their putative home is set to become Mozambique's largest sugar-cane plantation.

"They have told us there is room for both [villagers and plantations] but we haven't seen it," Mr Mayimel complains. "All the time we are told we will be moving next month. Then when next month comes we are told it will be next month."

The resettlement plan was only agreed after three years of fractious negotiations and the intervention of a local human rights group, Oram, which taught the villagers how to stand up to the authorities.

Issuto Tankar, who led Oram's fight, says that without support they would have been driven off their land as others have been elsewhere in the country. "They would have left by now without compensation. The people would have lost everything."

The Limpopo park headquarters is only a few miles from Nangene but it belongs to a different world. The park commissioner, Rodolfo Cumbane, receives visitors in a polished boardroom with leather chairs. He admits that the sudden arrival of the biodiesel revolution has delayed the resettlement of the villagers but insists the promise of a better life will be kept. "We are trying to improve the environment and create job opportunities together with the resettlement," says Mr Cumbane. Then he adds: "Work will start later this month, or next month."

Is there enough water for industrial agriculture, small-scale farming, grazing, hydropower and irrigation? "Yes," he replies, before admitting that rainfall varies sharply from year to year.

This week the streets of Chokwe and Maputo were transformed into battlegrounds after the government dropped price controls and the cost of bread soared. At least 11 people were killed with many more wounded.

Fears remain that there is more of this to come as the twofold effect of the biofuel boom is felt: global agricultural commodity prices surge and local food security is undermined by the switch from food to fuel. Places such as Chokwe and Massingir will feel the worst of it.

In Maputo, Tanja Kleibl, from the Catholic development agency Cafod, which funds Oram's work, says that Mozambique's economic miracle – hailed by the president of the World Bank this week – could prove a dangerous illusion. "It is all political," she says. "The government supports big agricultural interests ... not small-scale farmers who are 80 per cent of the population." There is already serious malnutrition in one province, she adds, and recent floods show how quickly people become dependent on food aid. "They are storing up conflict for the future."

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?