07 December, 2015

Mozambique’s former President Chissano to the Academic Community: Natural Resources Should Not Overshadow Agriculture

by Carla Bringas

Mozambique's former President, Joaquim Chissano, spoke on 30 November to a mostly academic audience at the Institute for Transport and Communication in Maputo, commemorating the 40 years of independence of that country. The former President took note of the discovery of reserves of gas and coal in northern Mozambique, but urged Mozambicans to not overlook the agriculture sector. He said “agriculture is at the core of Mozambique’s development, around 70% of the Mozambican population make a living out of agriculture”. He stressed the need to build stronger synergies with other actors including academia. Given that most of the audience were students, professors or researchers, he emphasized the need to build effective educational institutes and technical schools with a focus on local realities. He criticized senior technicians in the agriculture sector and ineffective approaches in providing solutions to local problems, stating that “it is inconceivable that an agronomist in Maputo is afraid to work the land and would want to wash his hands as soon as he touches the soil, it is almost as if a veterinarian is afraid of an ox”.

Chissano also recalled the achievements of the agriculture sector during the first years after independence. He remarked that achievements were disrupted by the sixteen years of civil war. In his view, there were many pre-war achievements in education, health and agriculture that were disrupted by the “destabilization war”. The former President referred to RENAMO as the group of Mozambicans who sought destabilization. After the peace agreement, he said, Mozambicans guided by FRELIMO rebuilt the country but everything was centralized in the South and Maputo at the expense of the resources found on the northern part of the country (mainly Niassa and Nampula). RENAMO took advantage of that structure to provoke a destabilization war.

Another important topic mentioned in this seminar was the nationalization of the land by the ruling party FRELIMO. He stressed that the act was justified as it aimed to eliminate injustice and discrimination practiced by the Portuguese colonial domination: “the nationalization of the land was important because it was a way to provide 'value' to natural resources and the nationalization of education and health aimed to eliminate discrimination”, said Chissano.

He finalized by stressing the importance of examining the past in order to provide solutions to present challenges. It is important to remember, he said, the aspirations and dreams of Mozambican women and men who were embedded in uncertainty until the declaration of independence. He called for a more proactive participation of the academia in developing an improved long-term country plan.

* The seminar was organized by the Working Group on the Commemoration of 40 years of Independence on November 30th, 2015 at the Institute of Transport and Communications (ISU-TC) in Maputo – Mozambique. The full text of Chissano’s speech can be found here.