Ethanol Fuel Plant Land Conflict, Zimbabwe


The Chisumbanje ethanol plant producing agrofuel out of sugarcane started construction around 2009. About 40 000 hectares of land has been earmarked for compulsory acquisition leading to a fierce conflict between the villagers and the company. Some veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation war have been reportedly paid off to intimidate villagers into submission. About 83 families from Rimirayi and Chinyamukwakwa villages have moved into neighboring Mozambique under pressure from the war veterans. However the ethanol product has failed to make inroads on the market, resulting in the company and some connected politicians demanding that the Ministry of Energy impose mandatory blending of petrol and ethanol. This has hit a brick wall as the responsible ministry has refused to budge. This resulted in the ethanol plant shutting down after stockpiling 10 million litres which exhausted its storage capacity. The community is divided over the project. Others feel the project is a worthwhile development whilst others are fighting for compensation after being forcibly removed from their ancestral homes. The plant was built without an EIA having been conducted. Villagers complain of livestock dying after drinking water contaminated by emissions from the ethanol plant.

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Basic Data
NameEthanol Fuel Plant Land Conflict, Zimbabwe
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Specific CommoditiesLand

Project Details and Actors
Project Detailsmillion litres
Project Area (in hectares)60000
Level of Investment (in USD)600000000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population500,000 - 700,000
Start Date2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesAgricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) from Zimbabwe
Rating Investments from Zimbabwe
MACDOM Investments from Zimbabwe
Greenfuel Investments from Zimbabwe
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Ministry of Local Government
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCenter for Natural Resource Governance, Platform for Youth Development Trust (Chisumbanje)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Land demarcation
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Criminalization of activists
Development of AlternativesThe mobilizers want the companies with shares in the Ethanol plant to compensate them for loss of land and livelihoods. They also want to participate in the project through employment and other community development projects. Mobilizers have been successful in lobbying government to force the companies to compensate them. The Minister of Energy and Power development Elton Mangoma and the Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara have since demanded that affected families be compensated

Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Government is protecting business interests at the expense of the human security needs of the local people. The fact the an EIA was not conducted prior to the project tells of the political nature of the project: It is being implemented outside the law. The powerlessness of the villagers also means they cant successfully defend their environment against pollution by the ethanol project
Sources and Materials

Environmental Management Act

The Energy Regulatory Authority Act

Agricultural Land Resettlement Act



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plant workers rough-up Mangoma/news.aspx
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Media Links

Other CommentsThe Ethanol Project is one of the national projects that is being patronized by ZANU PF to campaign ahead of elections. The plant is being run by a renowned war veteran Basil Nyabadza. Politicization of the project has undermined the project and divided government with ZANU PF saying the project will reduce fuel imports whilst the MDCT is demanding that villagers be compensated first. This bickering and politicization has weakened the work of the Environmental Management Agency which appear afraid of being caught in the cross fire. Consequently little is being done to monitor the environmental impacts of the project for fear of being labelled saboteurs.
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ContributorFarai Maguwu
Last update08/04/2014