Heading east from Mutare into Mozambique we glide through villages and small towns on a brand new asphalt highway that is the main line to Beira. The highway was opened the day after we passed through by the president of Mozambique. Like so many other countries in Africa, the highway has been built by the Chinese in exchange for access to the natural resources of this timber, pelagic and mineral rich country.
Rather than back track west on our tracks, we decide to drive directly north from Gorongosa on the N1 and branch off road on a 100kms jeep track to Macossa and Comacha. The track heads north west and shows as a brown line on Tracks4Africa but doesn’t appear anywhere else on our Garmin navigation system. It’s a risk, we know. We could get marooned. Or have to track back. But it’s a risk worth taking. And it pays off: we get to see countless raptors in the tracks that are drinking from road pools created from recent rain showers. And the track gives us the unsettling experience of seeing deep into the deforestation of the Mozambique hinterland. Everywhere, as we drive over the isolated tracks, we find large ancient trees lying face down on the ground. Dead. Felled by a hungry village woodsman. Now waiting for the flatbed trucks to haul them to Beira and beyond to China. When we finally reach the main north road to Tete, we find ourselves behind row upon row of these flatbed trucks hauling huge logs of timber. And if it’s not logs that they carry, it’s massive granite blocks that have been carved out of the mountainside and are now being hauling overland. Behind the timber trucks.
But it’s not just the big red mahogany woods and the granite for foreign export that we see. It’s the whole countryside that is being torn apart. It looks in places like a wasteland. A horror show. Big chunks of miombo forest torn out. The wooded backbone of the land all felled for charcoal production for the cities. And then the open earth is share cropped for a single season and is now lying fallow. Mozambique’s natural resources are being raped. That’s how it seemed to me from all I saw and all I heard on the street conversations I had with local people. The truckers themselves tell stories of no controls and the expats tell stories of rape and pillage “free for all”. Of officialdom happy to have foreigners mine or harvest whatever they want in return for building some infrastructure or getting some bribe money or tax revenue.
Its an economic recolonization. This time from the east. One shudders to think about the end point knowing after the mining and logging and fishing is done. There isn’t much left of the natural world to sustain itself or its citizens. And so with the death of that world our humanity suffocates and dies too. And with that, for the next generation at least, our species itself is at threat.