Land grabs

A note from the editor

Hazel Healy

‘We don’t like to turn people away’

When I landed in Mozambique’s gleaming Chinese-built airport in Maputo, a large group of South Asian men from my plane were doing their level best to appear calm. As we went through immigration, officials steered them to one side when it transpired they didn’t have visas.

They had fallen foul of immigration rules that had changed just one day earlier, sending me scrambling to get a visa in time. Now most foreign visitors had to secure a visa before arrival. The rule-change was partly targeting people like my fellow travellers, but also Westerners – we’re not so used to that – after some job-seeking Portuguese got sent home in January.

Refusing entry to citizens of a former colonizing nation is a novel place to be for the Mozambican state. ‘We don’t like to turn people away,’ commented a woman from the forests department, whom I had got talking to on the plane. She was watching the anxious group of South Asian men with some sympathy. ‘They are only looking for work. But it was all getting too hard to handle at the airport.’

It’s a testament to the upswing in Mozambique’s economic fortunes that even Europeans are heading here in search of work and opportunity. But with this new interest come huge challenges. Private capital can move freely across borders, unlike the worker hopefuls I saw at the airport. The Portuguese hope to supply meat to the expanding cities while Britain is digging up coal and rubies. Players from the global South – Brazil, China and Indian firms like OLAM – also want a piece of Mozambique. The government will need to manage this influx with a firm hand and integrity to have any hope of the investment benefiting its people, without whom none of this ‘emerging Africa’ would have been possible.

Elsewhere in the magazine, a shocking story of how lack of public healthcare leaves people to die on the streets in Ghana – a chilling account as Britain sets about dismantling the NHS. This month’s issue also carries a review of Eduardo Galeano’s poignant and vibrant new book.

Hazel Healy for the New Internationalist co-operative.

The big story

‘They'll have to kill us first’. The land of villagers in Kitica, Cabo Delgado province, is under threat from a local landgrabber. They pose with machete, hoe and a coil of homegrown tobacco, the trappings of home – and self defence. Photo: Hazel Healy

The smallholders’ last stand

A visit to Mozambique dispels any notion that big business is going to ‘feed Africa’. Hazel Healy reports on a land rush in full swing.

Buy this magazine


Stemming development: Tools used for breast ironing are often those found around the house and then heated. This mother holds a stone and pestle.© Aurora Photos / Alamy

Tales of taboo

Breast ironing is seldom talked about, but the practice has a devastating effect on the girls in whose communities it is performed. Amy Hall investigates.

Buy this magazine

Coming back from the brink? C.Gomersall / WILDLIFE / Still Pictures

Coming back from the brink?

India’s vultures nearly went extinct. Graeme Green on the efforts to save them.

Buy this magazine

Land Grabs - The Facts

Big land deals are forcing people from their homes and damaging livelihoods.

Buy this magazine

Small-scale farmers like this rice-grower,  account for 23 per cent of Mozambique’s GDP.Hazel Healy

Invest in small farmers

With proceeds from hydrocarbons set to roll in, Mozambique has a unique opportunity to reverse the fortunes of its smallholders. Land activist Diamantino Nhampossa makes the case.

Buy this magazine

The land is ours!  The community of local leader Pedrou Salange has mapped out their territory.
Hazel Healy

Cazizi village holds its ground

Forestry companies want to carve up Mozambique’s northern highlands. Peasant farmers and their allies are working to hold them accountable. Hazel Healy investigates.

Buy this magazine

‘Don’t mess’: the proud owner of a certificate that recognizes the land rights of the Chicoco community in Cuamba, Niassa.Gun Lindberg, Swedish Co-operative Centre (SCC)

Securing the global commons

The land rush started back in 2008. It has not gone unnoticed – or unchallenged.

Buy this magazine

Land Grabs - Hotspots

Land Grabs - Hotspots

Some of the world’s biggest and most controversial land deals.

Buy this magazine

Family farms have brought production levels back up to the 1990s average, when white farmers were still in charge. They now make up one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy. From top to bottom: tying tobacco, shelling maize and taking a break. 
Joseph Hanlon

The eye of the farmer fattens the beast

Can smallholders be more productive than agribusiness? It looks that way in Zimbabwe, which has broken up its big farms, and where growers have nearly matched production of their white predecessors, in fewer than ten years. Joseph Hanlon reports.

Buy this magazine

This is Africa Steven Hall / Three in a Box

This is Africa

David Fedele relates a true and uncomfortable tale of a tardy Good Samaritan.

Buy this magazine


The case for a maximum wage thinkstock

The case for a maximum wage

Would the world be better off if the US had one?

Buy this magazine



The wealth that walks Illustration: Sarah John

The wealth that walks

A Motswana (A citizen of Botswana) could probably give you a dozen reasons why the cow crossed the road, as Wame Molefhe discovers.

Buy this magazine

Rob Newman Interview

Rob Newman Interview

Comedian, author and activist Rob Newman talks to K Biswas about the corporate welfare state, WH Auden and austerity, and offers an intriguing solution to Greece’s economic woes.

Buy this magazine

A seller in a traditional market on the island of Sumba prepares oil lamps at her stall as night falls. On the outer islands, electrical power is often unreliable or non-existent. Photo: Josh Estey

Country Profile: Indonesia

Facts, figures and a profile of Indonesia.

Buy this magazine

Film, Book & Music Reviews