World Rainforest Movement

Mozambique: Paving the way for industrial tree plantations

In May 2006, the Mozambique Ministry of Agriculture submitted for discussion the document “National Reforestation Strategy” (the complete document in Portuguese can be found at As stated in the document, the bases to promote the establishment of tree plantations in the country involving fast-growing species are set out.

Following the pattern present in all the other countries that have introduced large-scale monoculture tree plantations, the proposal comes with the promise of generating jobs and eradicating poverty, contributing to national development particularly in rural zones.

Similarly, it starts with what we could say is the “original sin” of this whole package, which so far FAO has transmitted in proposal after proposal: the identification of monoculture tree plantations with forests. And it is thus that the Mozambique project promises that the tree plantations will serve to: preserve soils and water (!), restore fragile and degraded ecosystems and increase levels of productivity (!), improve environmental quality (!) and increase social awareness on the value of nature!

The World Rainforest Movement has extensively documented this issue and our world campaign against large-scale monoculture tree plantations is aimed at disseminating and alerting on their nefarious effects, precisely and especially on soils and water, but also on rural populations and the real economy of people.

The project announces that 7 million hectares have been identified as potentially fit for forestation in the provinces of Sofala, Manica, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa. It proposes to establish at least 2 million hectares of tree plantations over the coming 20 years. It also announces that the zoning of close on 3 million hectares of land fit for forestation will be made and that “it should be available for potential investors for the development of industrial plantations.”

In order to attract investors, the projects proposes that forestry legislation should provide incentives for industrial tree plantations and for exports to the emerging markets, particularly those of the Pacific and Indian Ocean, especially China, India and other Asian countries that are avid for raw material to produce pulp and paper to feed the needs of a wasteful consumer model.

Obviously and as affirmed by the document itself, the campaign for the promotion of industrial monoculture tree plantations in Mozambique is promoted and sponsored by the major forestry companies engaged in the production of pulp and paper. There is nothing new under the sun…

This process is just staring in the country. In their favour the Mozambique people have the experience gathered in countries that have been “invaded” for years now by these “green deserts” and that can testify that none of the promises have been fulfilled. On the contrary, tree plantations have caused devastation to water resources and to soils and a loss of biodiversity. And, with regard to the thousands of jobs, many people can tell how rural communities have become impoverished, as they no longer have the forest or grassland ecosystems that served – to al least some extent – to support them. No alternative has been left to these communities but to emigrate or to work as captives in the plantations on a seasonal basis, generally through outsourcing, in appalling conditions and often even in semi-slavery. Many Mozambicans who immigrated to South Africa in search of employment are well aware of this as they have suffered from it.

Everywhere it is the same discourse: that pulp or logs exported from the industrial tree plantations will bring development to the country, generating jobs and export earnings. However, the scenario is everywhere the same: export earnings reach the country, but the benefits go to the hands of the major plantation companies, while the people and the environment end up loosing.

Now it is up to the people of Mozambique to stop the looming disaster.

By Raquel Núñez, World Rainforest Movement, e-mail:, based on documentation sent by
Vera Ribeiro, Coordinator of GeaSphere in Mozambique, e-mail::