This paper discusses South–South cooperation by examining ProSAVANA, a flagship agricultural development program seeking to apply Brazilian experience to Mozambique. ProSAVANA is a joint Japan–Brazil–Mozambique initiative in the savannah zone of Mozambique’s Nacala Corridor region that was initially inspired by the Japan–Brazil PRODECER program in Brazil’s Cerrado region.
ProSAVANA subsequently became the focus of fears about land-grabbing in the Nacala Corridor, attracting strong civil society contestation. We show how distinct imaginaries of agricultural development in Mozambique and Brazil were used to mobilize for and against ProSAVANA, thus revealing the contentious nature of the similarity claims underpinning South–South cooperation. In particular, we focus on the role of landscape imaginaries associated with the savannah and the Cerrado.
We examine the use in the promotion and contestation of ProSAVANA of visual representations that draw on these imaginaries, including GIS maps of Mozambique’s savannah region made by Brazilian agribusiness consultants and an advocacy video of Brazil’s Cerrado region filmed by Mozambican land rights activists. Noting that the latest ProSAVANA planning documents differ significantly from those expressing its initial vision, we argue that the contestation of ProSAVANA has had a series of productive effects even before the program has moved to full implementation. These productive effects are visible not only in the program itself but also in the wider context of state-society relations shaping debates on South–South cooperation in Mozambique, Brazil, and beyond.