We inherited land from our ancestors… So this land should belong to our next generation.
Jean-Claude, male, 39, Ambinanibe
Land is one of the main natural resources that the Anosy have traditionally depended on for their survival, along with forests, rivers and the sea. Several narrators point out that the increasing population has meant that pressure on land has been building up for some time. But it is the implications of loss of land connected with mining activity that is at the heart of many of these testimonies.
Narrators in Ilafitsignana and Ambinanibe have already had to sell their land and the economic implications are now fuelling deep fears for the future. They are saddened that their children will not enjoy the land that previous generations have relied on. Several also focus on the symbolic significance of the ancestral land now lost to them. Narrators from Petriky and St Luce fear a similar fate, and voice concerns about the threat to their land.
Most improved their homes or built new ones, transforming the cash payments into a physical asset. However, many problems soon surfaced. In Ambinanibe several narrators mention the difficulty of compensation being paid in instalments: the smaller amounts meant that people tended to spend the income on essentials such as food and clothing rather than being able to invest in long-term assets like tools or equipment. Others feel that their land’s value was significantly underestimated. They also explain that they were obliged to divide the compensation money among all family members — as many as 14 people — which left each person with a small amount.
Many now regret selling their land, which provided them with food and could have been passed on to their children. One person refers to the cash compensation as “rain”, which comes quickly and is then gone. Cash, they point out, is a finite resource – land goes on producing, year in, year out. However, at the time, they felt pressure to sell, fearing their land would be taken anyway if they did not agree to the compensation package offered.
People keep increasing in numbers so people must build new houses. But there is no more vacant land to build on. In the past people didn’t build that many houses, but the younger generation has built many houses. Soon, I suspect, people will be forced to buy farmland where they can build houses, because our village is saturated. People will have to trade farmland for housing, whether they like it or not.
Manintsy, female, 40 years, Petriky
[QMM’s] ancestors were not Malagasy so I don’t see why they are the ones who make a decision about the land around here… What I want is for the government to establish a plan to protect our rights to own land, so that our land can be inherited by our children and not taken by force by other people, against our will. How come people can lose land that they have worked on and inherited from their grandparents?
Flemmond, male, 48 years, St Luce
When the estimation of our land was finished, people from our village complained a lot about the results. People went to see the Prefet de Région and the mayor in Fort Dauphin, and QMM. They changed the price of our land to 100 Ariary per square metre. Their excuse was that for fallow land, the price was a lot cheaper. But I know that Ehoala didn’t have fallow land because people farmed extensively there… I think it was a way to reduce the value of our land…
Rosette, female, 54 years, Ambinanibe
We received the money in return for our land by installments. This [payment] method did not help us in our plan to buy fishing and farming equipment… every time we received an installment, we also had to buy food, so it was hard not to use to the money when it was available… I think we could still have bought some equipment [but] only if the payment was in full.
Mbola, male, 67 years, Ambinanibe
A government official told us to accept any amount of money we would be offered because if we would not accept their offer we would lose both the land and the money…I think [QMM] fooled us… The [compensation] money could be spent in a day or few days but our land is a valuable resource that stays with us throughout the years… The future generation will suffer because they will not inherit our land, only our house will remain for them… The land should belong to them so that they can in their turn continue to cultivate and transfer these lands to their own grandchildren.
Marie Louise, female, 62 years, Ilafitsignana
Another reason they were angry was about the estimating of the area of land that people owned… The staff sent by QMM shrank the size of the land they measured when they registered the information on their notes. As a result, people in Ilafitsignana ended up getting less money than the actual value of their land. However, a few of QMM’s staff took pity and…registered the exact size of land…. So a few people from this village received money worth the actual value of their land.
Paulette, female, 37 years, Ilafitsignana
People did not know how to do anything beyond what they learned from their parents, such as planting cassava and sweet potatoes. Our lives are now miserable because our lands have been taken from us… Now, people in Ilafitsignana are suffering because they have lost their opportunity for food production…
Reviry, male, 40 years, Ilafitsignana
So what happened to people who owned crops other than fruit trees on their land? Were not these crops important to their owners? What about cassava and sweet potatoes? Were not these as important as fruits? To me staple foods are more important than fruits… Fruits cannot replace staple food. So it was a mistake that QMM did not give much attention to people who owned land with staple crops on it.
Paulette, female, 37 years, Ilafitsignana