Mozambique: Swedish development cooperation violates rights of peasants in Niassa province

End of action: 30-4-2013

In Niassa, Mozambique, the establishment of large-scale tree plantations promoted by Sweden is causing food insecurity and violations of the right to food of peasant communities. Peasants from the districts of Lago, Lichinga and Sanga have lost access to land used for food production, to natural forests, and they face risks of insufficient water availability and serious environmental impacts. Join our URGENT ACTION by writing to the Swedish government demanding a development aid Human Rights assessment.


Mozambique is one of the poorest countries of the world. Around 35 per cent of Mozambican households are chronically food insecure and 46 per cent of all children below 5 years are malnourished. 80 per cent the population lives in rural areas and depends on subsistence agriculture and the use of natural resources for their livelihoods. Especially women play an important role in guaranteeing sufficient food supply for families.

In order to boost development, the Mozambican government and donors, such as Sweden, have been actively promoting large-scale private investment in tree plantations for many years. The national Reforestation Strategy sets the objective of establishing tree plantations on 1.3 million hectares in the next 20 years. Niassa province in the north of the country is one of the areas where plantations are currently set up. According to recent figures, six companies are operating on a total project area of 550,000 hectares, of which around 28,000 hectares are planted with pine and eucalyptus.

One of these companies is Chikweti Forests of Niassa (hereafter referred to as Chikweki), a subsidiary of Global Solidarity Forest Fund (GSFF), a Sweden-based investment fund. Behind the GSFF stand investors from different countries, including the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Chikweti started operating in 2005 and has acquired around 45,000 hectares of land in the districts of Lago, Lichinga and Sanga, of which 13,000 have already been planted. The Mozambican Land Law of 1997 guarantees peasant families access to and use of their lands. According to this law, consultation with the community is needed, even if a company has a concession from the national government for use of community land. However, this process was not effectively carried out, and the communities’ views were not properly heard.

Chikweti’s operations are having severe impacts on peasant communities in the project area, whose most important source of livelihood is family agriculture. Local people complain about the loss of access to farmland, because tree plantations are set up on lands that were previously used for food production. Native forests which provided additional source of income and food were also cut down to make way for plantation. While Chikweti announced that it would provide jobs, the jobs created are scarce, instable and not well paid, and thus do not provide alternative sources of livelihood. The tree plantations in Niassa could also lead to water shortages and water contamination. Finally, the projects are likely to have severe environmental impacts, which range from destruction of ecosystems to loss of biodiversity and soil degradation.

The introduction of large scale tree plantations is thus having considerable impacts on the enjoyment of human rights, especially the right to food and to water of the local population. The partial loss of access to land, forests and water as consequences of the operations of Chikweti impairs the enjoyment of the right to adequate food and the right to water of the peasant communities in the project area. Since so far only a relatively small part of the areas dedicated to tree plantations is planted, their impacts and the related human rights violations are very likely to increase during the next years.

An investigation by the Mozambican government in 2010 confirmed the complaints of the local population. However, so far no adequate and effective measures have been taken.
Sweden is involved in several ways in the establishment of tree plantations in Niassa: the Swedish government has supported and financed the establishment of large-scale tree plantations in Niassa through its development cooperation agency Sida. Sweden is further the home state of GSFF, whose subsidiary Chikweti is. Finally, Sweden is the home state to an investor in GSFF, namely the Diocese of Västerås. While the problems with the plantation projects in Niassa had already been analyzed in a report for Sida, it remains unclear to what extent the problems have been addressed.

Even though the main responsibility for the violations of the right to food of the affected people lies with the Mozambican state, Sweden carries responsibilities as well. The Mozambican peasant organization UNAC, which supports the affected communities, has therefore requested FIAN to address the Swedish government.

FIAN Mandate

Sweden is a State Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Swedish government is therefore obliged to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, in particular the right to food and to water. The human rights obligations of states include extraterritorial obligations (ETOs), according to which they have the duty to take measures to respect and protect the enjoyment of human rights in other countries. The extraterritorial human rights obligations have recently been clarified in the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

By promoting and financing the setting up of large-scale tree plantations in Mozambique and by not taking sufficient and effective measures to regulate GSFF and to ensure that investors do not nullify or impair the enjoyment of human rights, the government of Sweden has failed to abide to its obligations under international human rights law.


Please send the sample letter in English by e-mail or ordinary mail to the Swedish foreign ministry, the ministry for trade and the ministry for international development cooperation, to demand a human rights impact assessment of the forest policy promoted by the Swedish development aid in Mozambique, and the Chikweti project in particular; the adoption of effective measures to ensure cessation of violations of the right to food and land in Niassa, including the regulation of the GSFF; and the introduction of a monitoring mechanisms to track companies’ activities and to receive complaints from local communities and human rights defenders.

The sample letter can be found on the website of FIAN International. (scroll down)