President Kikwete's recent visit to Kilombero Plantation Limited's (KPL) 'Mngeta farm' has generally been presented in the 'old' and 'new' media in a highly celebrated tone (see, for example, this link & post) - lest we forget the other side of the story below is a section that Udadisi wrote in 2010 after a visit to the farm:
3.1 Kilombero Plantations Limited
Kilombero Plantations Limited (KPL) is a relatively new private company incorporated in Tanzania. It was formed as a joint venture between a public agency, Rufiji Basin Development Authority (RUBADA), and a private company, Agrica, from the United Kingdom. In 2008 the company started commercial farming in a 5,818 hectare farm commonly known as Mngeta Rice Farm. This name stems from the fact that, geographically, it is located in Mngeta Village though it does not officially belong to it. In a similar way it is also part of Mkangawalo and Lukangawalo villages. Nevertheless it is officially registered as ‘Farm Number 411 Mngeta’.
The farm was started during the transition from the ‘state nationalization era’ in 1986 under the Korea Tanzania Agricultural Company (KOTACO). However, like other parastatals that collapsed during the economic crisis of the so-called Africa’s lost decade of the 1980s, this public company failed to run the farm as the country transited to the ‘statist neoliberal era’ of privatization. However, as the author of this report observed in 2009 in The State of the Then NAFCO, NARCO and Absentee Landlord’s Farmers in Tanzania, the window period provided by the transition between the two eras was long enough for villages to settle, graze and cultivate in the idle land. The government then hardly interfered with such reclaiming of land for indeed most of the land was claimed, through the Land Acquisition Act of 1967, from the people in the first place. It is only in the relatively recent wake of a strong wave of foreign direct investors that the government is waking up to this reality. In the case of Mngeta Rice Farm this caused a ‘crisis of eviction’ after a new investor entered into the scene. By 2009 this company had planted about 2,000 hectares of paddy and sought to expand yet some villagers were not ready to move away.
In October 2009 Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda visited the area as part of his mission to promote the government’s agribusiness oriented ‘Kilimo Kwanza/Agriculture First’ initiative. While there he was quoted, in various media sources, as directing regional and district officials to remove about 2,000 villagers from the farm and relocate them elsewhere. In line with the discourse of invasion that informs many governmental evictions in the country, these villagers were labeled ‘squatters’/‘invaders’. These were said to occupy, albeit illegally, about 300 hectares of the farm.
Clearly drawing from the agribusiness capitalist model the Premier “said the peasants could still be useful to the commercial farmers as out-growers and contract farmers” (The Citizen 19 October 2009) and “the move would enable the farmers acquire farming skills and access to rice farming infrastructures” (The Guardian 19 October 2009). The ever sensitive leader was cautious enough to offer the following disclaimer: “But this should be done in a proper manner. I would not prefer the use of force during the process of relocation” (The Guardian 19 October 2009).
Official correspondence reveals that this process proved to be contentious. A letter from Mngeta Village Office dated 28 July 2010, signed by the Village Executive Officer (VEO) and directed to the KPL Manager under the title ‘Kuwaondoa Wakulima Wanaokaa/Kulima Katika Shamba la RUBADA’, that is, ‘Removing Farmers Residing/Farming in RUBADA Farm’, reminds the manager of their agreement with those villagers. It refers to the Village Council of 27 March 2010 and a meeting held with the villagers on 1 April 2010. Then it lists the following promises the company made and by which, upon their fulfillment, villagers agreed to move from the farm:
(1) Kuwatafutia wakulima hao mashamba ya kulima na kuwalimia [To find farms for those farmers and cultivate/prepare those farms for them [(presumably for the first season)]]
(2) Kuwatengenezea miundombinu [To construct infrastructure for them]
(3) Kufanya tathmini ya mazao yao na nyumba [To valuate their crops and house/property]
(4) Kuwalipa fidia [To compensate them]
(5) Kuchimba mifereji ya maji hadi Mto Kihansi kwenye eneo la makazi lililotengwa kwa ajili ya wakulima hao [To construct water canals up to River Kihansi in the place earmarked as the [new] residential area of those relocated farmers]
Out of these promises, the letter noted, only one had been fulfilled, that of valuating crops of 210 farmers. It then describes the following ‘inconveniences/problems’ that have resulted from that:
(1) Wananchi wameshindwa kulima ipasavyo kilimo cha kiangazi kwa vile walijua watalipwa fidia na kuondoka mwezi Julai kama ulivyoahidi [People could not farm properly during the ‘summer farming season’ because they knew they would be compensated and relocated in July as promised]
(2) Wananchi wanashindwa kufanya maandalizi ya kilimo kwa msimu ujao [People cannot prepare for the next/upcoming farming season]
(3) Umewasababishia wananchi adha ya njaa kwani walijua wanalipwa fidia na kuondoka hivyo walishindwa kuhudumia mashamba yao ipasavyo [You have caused hunger distress to the people as they could not utilize their farms properly knowing that they would be compensated]
Invoking the Prime Minister’s directive cited above the letter then closed with this stern warning:
Kwa barua hii unatakiwa kutekeleza ahadi zako ili wananchi/wakulima waweze kufanya shughuli zao kwa uhuru kwani hadi sasa hawajui watalipwa lini, watalima wapi na wala hawajui nini kinaendelea. Pia kijiji hakitajihusisha/husika endapo kutatokea matatizo ya baadaye kwani Uongozi wa Kijiji umejitahidi kutekeleza agizo la Waziri Mkuu [As per this letter you are supposed/required to fulfil your promises to the people/farmers so they can freely undertake their activities for up to now they do not know when they will be compensated, where they will farm or what is (really) going on. The village would also not be involved or responsible for any problems that will occur as the Village Leadership has tried to implement the Prime Minister’s directive]
The minutes from the villagers’ meeting cited above affirms that they agreed to move upon the fulfilment of promises. However, it documents them as stating that they would do so if they shall be fulfilled on time given that the company has been giving false/empty promises. Moreover, it thus quotes the latter’s claim about the legality of compensation with respect to land ownership:
Juu ya fidia ya mazao alisema kuwa Kampuni ya KPL italipa fidia ila malipo hayo hayatakuwa ya kisheria kwani shamba hilo ni miliki ya RUBADA hivyo kampuni italipa kama kifuta jasho…ili kujenga mahusiano mema [On the compensation for crops he said that KPL shall pay the compensation but the (said) payment will not be considered legal (as in a valid legal compensation) because the farm is owned by RUBADA and therefore KPL will pay the (said) compensation as a token... so as to build cordial relationship]
Yet on 24 August 2010 the company entered a new agreement with these villagers and their village government. It lists 210 affected villagers, 60 of them being those with farms and settlements (in Isago) while 150 are those who farm there though they reside afar. It also lists 13 KPL promises/agreements. These include providing ‘good/improved’ seeds (7 Kilograms of Saro 5 Seed) to all of them in the first season; equipment and advice on paddy farming; a maximum of 3 acres to everyone. Moreover, KPL promised to allow 150 villagers who want alternative land to secure it by themselves whereby a payment that does not exceed Tsh 30,000 per acre would be granted. The company also claimed to have secured land in Njagi and Mkangawalo villages and it was agreed that those villagers who want to relocate there will be given a letter of introduction.
In the case of Mngeta village, the agreement further documents, KPL has agreed with its village government to freely give an area totalling 180 acres in Kisangani that would provide residence to 60 affected villagers. It was agreed that the company would pay this village Tsh 20,000 per acre being the price of land and other costs incurred in the process. The list of promises also include: giving 100 kilograms of rice per person to all affected villagers as a compensation for delays in compensating them on time for farming in the ‘summer season’; planning to farm or paying for preparation of farms ready for the November/December season – the cost of ploughing being Tsh 30,000 per acre; compensating for the investor’s land ‘held’ by the affected villagers – at a rate Tsh 10,000 per acre – as a ‘sign/token of goodwill’ (“ishara ya nia njema”).
Finally the agreement provides the following dates for the fulfilments of promises: 16 November 2010 for the compensation of trees and houses; December, 2010 for constructing two canals.
Thus by 27 August 2010, when the researcher visited the area, the situation has become relatively relaxed. Apart from the agreement cited above this relative state of tranquillity was due, in part, to the fact that the investor has been subtly making use of strategic Public Relations (PR) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to appease villagers. For instance, it has started a grant for development project in these villages. Tsh 50 million is set aside per year for this purpose according to this breakdown: Mkangawalo (Tsh 32 Million); Mngeta (Tsh 12 million); and Lukangawalo (Tsh 6 Million). However, according to official correspondence between the company and one of the villages, some of these funds have not been disbursed due to alleged ‘shortcomings’ (“mapungufu”) that causes a village to lose its eligibility (“hadhi”). Tellingly, when such a situation occurs the unused funds are not carried over to the next financial year.
According to the company’s representative consulted, KPL also sells rice, at a relatively cheap price or discount, to villagers when they have run out of their own rice towards and during the beginning of a new farming season (December – February) and thus under threat of hunger. It also hires about 200 and 300 villagers during harvesting and weeding respectively. Sometimes the hiring is in a contractual basis. Apparently most of the time is on a casual basis especially when the work is subcontracted as in outsource to an external entity that make use of villagers.
All this, in a way, is a pure capitalist strategy of competing with (consuming) villagers in the production of paddy and marketing of rice. It thus constitutes what the epigraph of this study refers to as a disarticulated form of accumulation. As Shivji (2009) notes, one of the first instances of such structural disarticulation is that between the structure of production and that of consumption. What happens in such a case is producing what is not consumed and consuming what is not produced. It should be noted that in the case of KPL the actual main market of the company’s paddy is not the village (the periphery); rather, it is the city (the center). In fact, Dar es Salaam has been main destination of the paddy from the company especially when the government had ban export of food. As such, regardless of its role on alleviating hunger, the rice that is sold in villages – presumably of low quality – is simply a means of disarticulating or divorcing subsistence farming that has been feeding villages. The same applies to the peasant labour that is being devalued by the company. This reproduces food insecurity at the periphery.