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26 Sep 2017

Heather Grady, vice president at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, board member of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and member of the Global Future Councils of the World Economic Forum and the NationSwell Council

Mozambique: Sustainable investors need to better educate themselves about the local context in which their funds are deployed

"Sustainable Investments Are Not Always What They Seem-Investors need to better educate themselves about the local context in which their funds are deployed", 21 September 2017

...I took some time off work to visit the incredible Gorongosa National Park, and volunteer for the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, on whose board I serve. Together with a colleague from Brazil, I set out to learn more about the framework for business and human rights in the region, and explore a complaint filed by local communities against a company that is using thousands of hectares of community-owned land to monocrop tree...for biofuel and export markets. In Mozambique, like many other African countries, the national government wants to increase foreign direct investment. Foreign companies love cheap or free land. Benefits to investors and consumers include higher land productivity and carbon sequestration. Government may see benefits in developing the economy, and local government officials sometimes get rewards...or a promise...Sometimes there's a simple pay-off of individuals to overlook regulations or follow the lead of a higher level of authority...[P]oor communities are losing land they depend on...for purposes such as farming, grazing animals, hunting, and collecting water and firewood...[and]...for cultural purposes such as worship and burial. Their loss of land and subsequent increased impoverishment is exacerbated in a globalized economy with great inequalities in wealth and power. Developing countries in particular often have informal or incomplete land titling, and lack clear maps of existing individual and community land use, empowered community representation and local government, written contracts in local languages, and clear arbitration procedures...[T]he patterns of investment in forestry...are harming these communities...What worries me most in all of this is that the company and investor considered the plantation a "social" project...But they haven't calculated the income and food lost from farming and other traditional land use. The company sees social benefits and potential positive impact on climate change; the community sees the loss of the local water supply and sacred sites...This is a pivotal time for countries like Mozambique. High growth rates can still leave them amongst the poorest countries in the world, with low human development indicators. This doesn't mean we stop funding, but a crisis in confidence in business and government can and must spur more citizens and investors to define new approaches to accountability and new pathways for development...
[It refers to Alfa Agricultura, Green Resources, Mozaco]...