1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. Southern Africa

Mozambican romance gone sour for Zimbabwean migrants

[Mozambique] Informal market in Nicoadala distric, Zambézia province, Mozambique. [Date picture taken: 02/08/2005] Amancio Miguel/PlusNews
Zimbabweans come to Mozambique to trade, work, invest and live
//This is the second in a series on the impact of Zimbabwe's meltdown on the region, and focuses on Mozambique// Mozambique started openly courting Zimbabwe's mainly white commercial farmers after the ZANU-PF government instituted its fast-track land reform programme in 2000 and the agricultural sector, a mainstay of the neighbouring country's economy, began to crumble. But unlike Zambia, Mozambique's romance with the migrant Zimbabweans appears to have faded in the past two years, "mostly because Mozambique was not ready for them", said Joseph Hanlon, a senior lecturer in development policy and practice at the London-based Open University. Hanlon has written extensively on the subject. Encouraged by tobacco and paprika companies, which provided financial support, at least 42 farmers moved to Mozambique, mostly in the central Manica province on the Zimbabwe border, where the government allowed them to rent up to 1,000ha of land for 50 years. According to Joel Caibone, a member of local civil society, the Zimbabwean farmers not only helped uplift subsistence farmers in the province, but "also brought and taught new farming techniques to the local farmers". Small-scale farmers were also contracted to plant paprika and tobacco to meet the companies' demand, and at the peak of the agricultural boom that followed, 13,500 families were growing tobacco, 3,600 growing sunflowers and more than 3,000 growing paprika, as well as over 100 groups organised to grow baby corn and other vegetables for export, said Hanlon's paper, 'The Manica Miracle is Over', written jointly with researcher Teresa Smart. The farmers managed to create 5,000 permanent and seasonal jobs. Four units were also set up to process roses and vegetables for export to Europe, and sunflower oil and milk for local sale, creating hundreds more jobs, according to Hanlon. In the last two years the situation has changed drastically. "Most of the Zimbabweans are in deep financial trouble and some have already left," Hanlon told IRIN. Production of roses and sunflower oil has ended, while medium-scale Mozambican and Zimbabwean farmers are producing smaller quantities of tobacco and paprika. The number of families growing tobacco has dwindled to 5,000 and there are few jobs on farms. The main problem was that the Zimbabwean farmers lacked funds and Mozambique does not have an agricultural support system. There was a "lack of technical support, there is a total lack of finance for farming - both short-term annual finance for inputs and wages, and long-term investment finance. In many other countries, land is cleared and dams and basic irrigation infrastructure built by the government, usually on very long-term soft loans. In Mozambique, this is all the responsibility of the farmer, and there is no credit," explained Hanlon. The state owns all the land in Mozambique and although the Zimbabwean farmers were allowed to rent the farms, Caibone said "the condition of the lease is that if the land is not put to use properly, the state has the right to take it away anytime - so there is that uncertainty". The Zimbabwean government's recent decision to redistribute seized farms could also have prompted farmers to return home, as "most of the farms which are being redistributed are located along Manica's border with Zimbabwe". According to Hanlon, "The great white commercial Zimbabwean farmer is a myth. We must understand that several decades of funding and subsidies by the former colonial government in Zimbabwe, the Rhodesian government and the apartheid government ... had helped make commercial farming profitable in the region." A similar strategy should to be adopted to boost agriculture in Mozambique, "as even the local farmers do not have the capacity" to run commercial operations. The farmers also discovered that paprika and tobacco were not the most appropriate crops to grow in Manica. The climate is more suitable for subtropical fruits such as mangoes, litchis, avocados and citrus. "But fruit trees take five years to begin producing, and again, there are no loans," Hanlon pointed out. The downside to the impact of Zimbabwe's economic collapse has been the loss of considerable earnings as a result of shrinking traffic volumes along the Beira corridor, the strategic transport route crossing Mozambique to link Zimbabwe with the Indian Ocean, said Silvestre Filipe Junior of the Mozambique Debt Group, a local civil society coalition. "I personally know Mozambicans who were running successful export businesses who have had to close shop because of Zimbabwe's decline. The central region of Mozambique has really suffered with Zimbabwe's collapse." Zimbabwe provided troops to protect the Beira corridor during the 16-year Mozambican civil war because Mozambique had helped in its liberation struggle, and the route was critical to land-locked Zimbabwe. Filipe commented that increased investment, which has driven Mozambique's growth rate to a healthy eight percent, was attracted largely by its relative stability in the region. But most Zimbabweans putting money into Mozambique have opted to invest in tourism, because "land investment is high risk - investors are not going to risk it when a new government might come in and change the legal framework". Manica province has close ties to Zimbabwe - between 2,000 and 3,000 people pass through its two border posts every day, to trade, visit and work, according to local immigration authorities. Many others come via border posts in the northern Tete province and Gaza province in the south. Some Zimbabweans also illegally pan for gold along the border in Mozambique. "Zimbabwean adults who find employment in Mozambique can work Monday to Friday, often in agriculture, and then return home to their families for the weekend. Others arrive and depart on a daily basis because they cannot leave their properties unattended for extended periods, for fear their homes and assets will be seized by neighbours," said Save the Children-UK (SC-UK) in 'Visitors from Zimbabwe', a recent report by the international rights NGO. Zimbabwean girls earn money selling bed sheets, clothing and other products they bring with them by bus from Zimbabwe. Many Zimbabwean women and children, driven by their desperate economic situation, have also taken up sex work in Mozambique. SC-UK said some Zimbabwean sex workers in Manica are younger than 18 years. The Zimbabwean migrants' knowledge of English has helped some find jobs. In the central province of Sofala a small number of Zimbabwean teachers are reportedly teaching English; restaurant owners sometimes employ Zimbabweans as a status symbol because English-speaking staff impress customers and can attract more business. According to Zimbabwe's independent SWRadio, about half a million Zimbabweans are now based in Mozambique and most of them are finding it extremely difficult to adjust, with language as the most critical barrier. The radio quoted Joseph Matongo, an official of the recently formed Zimbabwe Action Support Group, as saying, "People here speak Portuguese and Zimbabweans basically fit in well in any English speaking environment - the language barrier has caused a huge problem for most of us here." The Zimbabwean migrants' inability to speak the local language has made them easy targets for authorities, according to Matongo, and investment has been mainly short-term, as most Zimbabweans hope to go back to their country. SOUTHERN AFRICA: Zambia reaps as Zimbabwe lies fallow SOUTHERN AFRICA: South Africa gives Zimbabweans a haven, but at what cost? SOUTHERN AFRICA: Zimbabwean money flows to Botswana, but tensions underlie it

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article

Get the day’s top headlines in your inbox every morning

Starting at just $5 a month, you can become a member of The New Humanitarian and receive our premium newsletter, DAWNS Digest.

DAWNS Digest has been the trusted essential morning read for global aid and foreign policy professionals for more than 10 years.

Government, media, global governance organisations, NGOs, academics, and more subscribe to DAWNS to receive the day’s top global headlines of news and analysis in their inboxes every weekday morning.

It’s the perfect way to start your day.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian today and you’ll automatically be subscribed to DAWNS Digest – free of charge.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.