Climate risks and environmental justice: how land deals constrain resilience practices in Mozambique

16:15 Tuesday 28 May




Carla Gomes (Portugal) 1

1 - Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa

The surge of land deals over the last decade has made resettlement and compensation processes a common currency in target countries such as Mozambique. These rearrange the physical and social landscape, and ultimately have the potential to push already vulnerable groups to peripheral areas around the private concessions. An aspect that has not deserved enough attention in empirical studies on land deals are the effects on the climate vulnerability of local rural communities, in territories considered to be at high risk of extreme events and subsequent food insecurity (Gausset, 2012).

There is a pressing need for more empirical evidence that helps us understand how land concessions interfere with local resilience practices, and how these trends might evolve with climate change, as droughts and floods become more frequent and severe. This paper intends to contribute to filling this gap, by analysing the impacts of the 2015 floods on resettled rural populations in Mozambique. The findings draw from observation, documental analysis and semi-structured interviews with smallholder farmers, as well as customary leaders and district officers in two villages in the North, a region where levels of rural poverty have been persistent and climate vulnerability is amongst the highest in the world.

Although in Mozambique all land concessions are subject to community consultations, the possibility of immediate monetary compensation often overshadows long-term concerns. In both these cases, I was able to observe how sudden climate events change perceptions of fairness amongst resettled populations. Moreover, it became evident how local strategies for risk mitigation – scattering farm plots between the river and the village – were determinant for the resilience of local populations, and how the resettlement process impaired them.

These findings raise concerns that land deals, especially when these involve resettlements, can ultimately worsen the vulnerability of local households to environmental change. Further empirical and local-based research is needed to clarify the extent of this influence, especially in top target countries and regions with higher climate vulnerability and rural poverty. The insights of this research are relevant to improving resilience and wellbeing of those most vulnerable to climate change, in Mozambique and elsewhere.