I came to the conclusion that only the government can work out a deal to claim back the local community’s rights… It is a huge challenge for people to draft a letter and send it to the respective authorities. Most of us are illiterate… The only opportunity for the people of St Luce to express their complaints is through interviews like this.
Constand, male, 31, St Luce
Many of the narrators refer to what they see as the failures in communication between QMM and villagers affected by the mining activity. They describe their difficulties and powerlessness as largely non-literate people in terms of negotiating with a powerful company backed by the government.
Many feel that they were misled by QMM and by some government officials, who “pretended” to be consulting the villagers but who, as soon as they had “their foot in the door”, stopped communicating. They feel that QMM’s requests regarding land appropriation are constantly increasing, and describe a general feeling of mistrust. Some people, especially in St Luce, have voiced particular concerns, but never received any response. They are frustrated about their exclusion from the spaces of decision-making.
Some feel a strong sense of injustice about the compensation package for their land. Another source of intense frustration is that the government gave QMM and not the community the power to conserve and manage the local resources, especially the forest.
The reality is that these mining activities are taking place in a situation where drought, climate change and population pressure were already challenging people’s ability to rely on their natural resource base. But the company’s actions and restrictions on access to common land and forest has reduced people’s options further and intensified their sense of having no control over their worsening situation.
QMM announced that they only needed one place. But then, to people’s surprise, QMM appropriated most of our land… [In addition] the Malagasy government spread news that QMM would take our land anyway, so people became fearful and accepted the deal… If it was only QMM taking the land, I am sure people would do anything in their power to fight against these foreigners, even to the death. But people thought that the government is the owner of all the land, so once the government got involved people lost confidence. People said that the government should have protected them; instead it was helping QMM…
Paulette, female, 37 years, Ilafitsignana
I think QMM only cares about their own interests. They did not think about the real impact of their projects on the lives of people around here. I am sure that people will be reluctant to attend a meeting any time one is going to be held with villagers. Since people felt betrayed, they no longer trust anything QMM says or wants to implement. People are sad about the whole situation but they feel powerless, so they keep their sadness to themselves… If QMM could have shown us the people in this village, that they care about us, people would not oppose so much of what QMM wanted to have around here.
Ilay, male, Ambinanibe
A government official told us to accept any amount of money offered because if we would not accept the offer we would lose both the land and the money. We were in an undesirable situation because nobody in our village of Ambinanibe was well educated enough to explain the deal to us.
Mbola, male, 67 years, Ambinanibe
I want the government officials to come here and look at what happened; how people still suffer after getting paid [compensation]. In addition, I want the government officials to look into the exact amount of money villagers should have received. In my judgment, QMM took advantage of local people and paid them less money than they should have.
Marie Louise, female, Ilafitsignana
If someone, or a woman like me, tries to complain and talk to the mayor, he may say, “What does a woman know about this problem?” I may be treated like someone who has too much to say; women and children know nothing about problems and should not get involved. Even if a man complains, the mayor will not necessarily listen… Only someone who is richer, or has money, can be heard in the village.
Olina, female, 83 years, St Luce
My land was included [in the appropriation by QMM]… Now I cannot farm and I cannot do anything to sustain my life. If they had asked my permission, I would not have accepted their plan, but since they were powerful they came here and announced that they needed my land. I could not oppose them. They have such an authority that it influences everything… What happened was that they took our land, saying that they were concerned about people’s safety if they explode with dynamite the mountain close to our village. They used this tactic… and now we are landless.
Reviry, male, 40 years, Ilafitsignana
We put our lives in God’s hand because he is the one who can let us live or die. Besides, we cannot argue with or fight against foreigners… We remain powerless. We cannot find any alternative [livelihoods]. Our rice fields, ancestral tombs and agriculture lands were taken over… We tried to oppose this but were not successful. We did not approve of the action, but they insisted….
Lambo, male, 72 years, Petriky
The government should be aware of the lack of education around here because when we signed the [QMM] agreement, no one could sign except by putting down our fingerprints. It was a shame. People could take advantages of us being illiterate.
Mbola, male, 67 years, Ambinanibe
Although people have different opinions, the village chief continues to find ways to convince and bring people together so that we can create an association to protect our rights and benefits.
Alter, male, 65 years, St Luce
We know that QMM is not all bad… People are worried because they know that QMM has money and can purchase all the land they want. If that takes place, we all lose, big time… I believe that if QMM and the people from Manafiafy (St Luce) could agree to work together, everyone will benefit and the collaboration may lead to real development in our village.
Flemmond, male, 48 years, St Luce
Who will be able to oppose these foreigners? I don’t think people in my village will be able to oppose them. For sure, our hardships will be accentuated and we will suffer a lot more, because of a lack of food and resources. If there is someone or a group of people who could oppose the appropriation of our land, maybe the local community would join in, but we cannot do it on our own. People did not sell their land; QMM appropriated our land with force. People did not see it coming until QMM built the road from Manambaro to our village. People were stunned and felt powerless when they saw that QMM started building the road.
Kasambo, male, 70 years, Petriky