Negotiating meaning and practice in the Zambezia Agricultural Development Project, Mozambique
In this thesis I look at the ways in which relationships were negotiated within the Zambezia Agricultural Development Project (ZADP) in Mozambique. Drawing on eighteen months of fieldwork spread over nearly three years, and using both 'development discourse' literature and writings on clientelism, I examine interactions and interfaces from the level of the donor to the level of 'beneficiary' farmers. I show that the way the project worked was affected by different actors' divergent understandings of key concepts, including 'community' and 'development' itself. The relationship between DFID (the project's donor) and World Vision (the implementing agency) mirrored that between ZADP and its beneficiaries. Both were described as 'partnerships', but they more closely resembled patron-client relationships. Relationships and meanings were subject to constant renegotiation over the life of ZADP. In my field sites of Mutange and Mugaveia I show that villagers' view of the project was shaped by their past experience of outsiders, while for project managers changes in policy discourses were more influential. I look at the practical implications of assumptions made when the project was designed. I argue that there were strongly divergent understandings of the relationship between project staff and beneficiaries; this was not recognised, and the misunderstanding had profound implications. The accusations made against the project, which surfaced at times of tension and were cast in terms of the occult, show both actual and potential beneficiaries asserting their agency over the project, in a realm in which project staff could not claim control.