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3.1. Overview

The
Programme of Triangular Cooperation for Agricultural Development of the
Tropical Savannahs of Mozambique (ProSAVANA) is an ongoing trilateral
initiative backed by the governments of Japan, Mozambique and Brazil that is
aimed at increasing, over the span of 20 years, agricultural productivity along
the Nacala corridor, an area encompassing some 14 million hectares of land
currently cultivated by peasant farmers and serving local markets. The region
is to be converted for the production of soybeans, maize and other commodity
crops modelled on Brazil’s cerrado
(FGV Projetos 2013). The basic framework for the programmed was signed in 2009 by
the institutions responsible for the implementation of the programme on behalf
of the three governments—to wit, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), Japan
International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Mozambique’s Ministry of
Agriculture (MINAG)—and officially launched in 2011.

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Among
other Brazilian agricultural development programmes, ProSAVANA is by far the
most ambitious, as it covers the vastest area, uses the highest budget and also
outspokenly claims to put forth a new model of development (FGV Projetos 2013;
ProSAVANA n.d.). Yet, the programme has faced a barrage of criticism (Durán
& Chichava 2017, Shankland & Gonçalves 2016, UNAC et al. 2013, UNAC et
al. 2014), not least related to its conception of what development entails,
highly opaque language, erratic dissemination of information and continued
delays. This has heightened the public’s fears related to land grabbing,
resettlements, reduced food security, widening income inequality, environmental
sustainability and social inclusion of native communities. As will be
demonstrated in the next sub-sections, many of these concerns are not
unjustified.

 

3.2. The discursive construction of
Brazil’s South–South development cooperation model

Careful
analysis of documents revealed that Brazil’s South–South experiment is packaged
in a language of success that evokes storylines about Brazil’s domestic
achievements (regarding its agricultural trajectories specifically) (FGV
Projetos 2013), about landscape-based, historical ties and cultural affinities
with African countries (MRE 2003a, MRE 2011), about the emergence of the global
South (Brazilian Presidency 2014), about the portrayal of Brazil as a
friend/brother who lends a hand to those in need (MRE 2003b), and about the
suitability of Brazilian technologies and solutions to the African context
vis-à-vis the purported inappropriateness of the Northern models of development
(MRE 2011; Brazilian Presidency 2014). These statements can be regarded as
examples of discursive articulation that have been strategically used in the
country’s international projection and lie at the heart of Brazil’s South–South
rhetoric.

Furthermore,
governmental documents claim that SSDC should be “demand-driven” and
“responsive to national priorities” of partner countries, bear “no association
with commercial interests or profit”, occur “without impositions or political
conditionalities”, be “participatory”, be based on “the concept of solidary
diplomacy” and have a “structural approach” so as to lead to higher positive
impacts from social and economic standpoints and long-lasting outcomes (ABC
n.d., ABC 2010, ABC 2011, IPEA 2011).

 

3.3. Gaps between discourse and
action

In
what follows, I will attempt to provide an empirical anchor for the argument
advanced so far by showing that the actual practices break with the promises in
SSDC in ways that reflect the broader retroliberal trend in mainstream development
cooperation which perpetuates cycles of private capital accumulation that
continue to favour ruling elites in both donor and recipient countries and
marginalise the poverty-stricken.

 

3.3.1. Demand-driven vs
donor-proposed cooperation

According
to the official discourse, projects and programmes under the umbrella of SSDC
should be demand-driven (ABC n.d., ABC 2010, ABC 2011, IPEA 2011). However, as
it happened, the initiative did not arise out of a request from the Mozambican
government. Additionally, neither was it envisaged as a way to address the
actual needs of people living the Nacala corridor, nor was there any meeting
with local peasants, farmers or CSOs prior to the signing in 2009. On the
contrary, ProSAVANA was a spin-off of the Japan-Brazil Partnership Programme
(JBPP), stretching back to 2000, and was designed entirely by politicians and
diplomatic officials of those two countries, with Mozambique only being
incorporated into the formulation of the programme in a second stage (Funada-Classen
2013, Silva 2016). This finding is critical to understand the fundamental
problem at the heart of the ongoing disputes over ProSAVANA, namely a heated debate
between different stakeholders (the state and civil society) on the very
ideological precepts underlying the notion of agricultural development—an agribusiness-centred
model or a peasant-centred model. Clearly, each position will comprise radically
different understandings of what constitutes development, the ways in which it
can be best pursued, and how the associated risks and benefits are distributed among
the stakeholders.

 

3.3.2. “Without impositions or
political conditionalities”?

The
fact that ProSAVANA was proposed by Brazil and Japan raised questions among
civil society actors as to whether the programme is primarily motivated by
political interests, despite the Brazil’s argument that its development
cooperation is untied. Cabral et al. (2013) and Chichava et al. (2013)
highlight that ProSAVANA has been a key foreign policy manoeuvre deployed by
Brazilian bureaucrats to secure Mozambique’s political support for Brazil’s
geopolitical pursuits in international fora. Mozambique’s backing was,
according to both authors, pivotal for Brazil’s attainment of top positions in
translational agencies such as FAO, as well as in the Community of Portuguese
Language Countries.

 

3.3.3. “No association with
commercial interests or profit” vs “private investors as the dynamic force for
development”

Brazilian
development cooperation efforts are claimed to have “no association with
commercial interests or profit”, although a leaked version of the programme’s
Master Plan states that private and foreign investors are “the main dynamic
force for development” (ProSAVANA-PDQIP 2013). The plan also foresees the
implementation of Quick-Impact Projects which are aimed at generating rapidly
visible impacts as a means “to attract local and foreign companies to invest in
agriculture and agribusiness projects in the Nacala Corridor” (ProSAVANA-PDQIP
2013). In this regard, Funada-Classen (2013) posits that, with support from the
Brazilian representatives, a number of field trips were organised for business
delegations with potential investors to collect impressions of the area, which
serves as a further indicator of the commercial motivations behind ProSAVANA.

Please note that this
analysis is not a blanket indictment on the potential value of a diverse,
transparent and well-regulated private sector in aid programmes and policies,
as such actors are not a monolithic block whose effects can be easily
caricatured (Haslam 2017). Rather, the issue of concern is the predatory nature
of the companies that are being enrolled and the insufficient rigour as to specifying
how their activities will lead to growth and how such growth will, in turn,
promote local development.

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