The strength of Seeds of Discontent is that it shows what land grabbing means to the affected communities, and how difficult it is for them to resist. Cases like this one are happening every day, all over the globe. Communities are confronted with investors who arrive and promise a lot to them: jobs, “development”, money, a bright future.
And the investors have a lot of money and are usually supported by the authorities. What should communities do in this situation? Give away their lands to investors? Or at least some land? Can they refuse anyway? What happens if they don’t agree? And what happens if the investors then take more and the promises turn out to be empty?
The people of Licole were confronted with all these questions. Some community members at first thought that this was a good opportunity and that they should give away some of their land. Others refused. Then it turned out that the company had also taken lands that had not been ceded. The schools, roads, churches and hospitals that had been promised were never built. Some people got a job, but the pay was bad and they were fired after a while.
The company claimed that it had consulted everybody, but people said that they had only discussed with the chiefs; and there were no records from the consultations.
Then people started to complain and resist. But some community members now actually had a job and didn’t want to lose it, even if it was not well paid. There were new conflicts inside the community and people had to decide what to do, while the company planted ever more trees.
The film shows all this. And it therefore shows very well how complex land conflicts are. In some cases, land conflicts are straightforward theft of land, with people being evicted by force. But very often things are more complicated. And it is more difficult for people to get heard and listened to by investors.
These conflicts are a dynamic process: in the beginning, people might be lured by the promises of investors, or simply be overwhelmed by the situation – we shouldn’t forget that the power relation is not balanced. But then they see what is really happening and they start to complain and resist.
Looking at one community helps us to understand what land grabbing really is about. Listening to the people of Licole takes us away from the academic discussions of whether this kind of investment projects brings “development” or not. It reminds us of the fact that what is really at stake is the right of people to decide how to use their resources and how to live a life in dignity.
And finally – and most importantly – Seeds of Discontent shows that people are organizing in order to resist to the land grabbers and to fight for their rights.
Philip Seufert works at FIAN and is author of The Human Rights Impacts of Tree Plantations in Niassa Province, Mozambique, September 2012.