António TRIGO DE MORAIS (1895 – 1966).
“Ministério do Ultramar / Inspeção-Geral do Fomento (Moçambique) / Plano de Fomento [Terrenos no Vale do Limpopo] / Notas sobre a posição no fim do 1º. Semestre de 1955. / Proc. No. 4 P-II”.
Aldeia de Guijá [Gaza District, Portuguese Mozambique], August 19, 1955.
4° (28 x 21.5 cm): [1 f.], 14 pp., all typescript, printed single-sided on ‘Ministério do Ultramar / Inspeção-Geral do Fomento’ letterhead, signed on p. 14 in original mss. by ‘António Trigo de Morais’, handstamped ‘Confidencial’ on first endpaper; plus, 59 original photographs mounted on 23 leaves of thick grey card with mss. captions in blue pen, plus, 2 large folding sepia photo-lithographed engineering plans (1 diagram: 28 x 108 cm; 1 map: 27.5 x 91 cm) with original hand colour on thin tracing paper, all stapled, bound in original paper wrappers with typescript title to letterheaded front cover, annotated in mss. blue crayon to front cover as having been received in Lisbon on August 31, 1955 (Very Good, overall clean and bright, just some very mild marginal wear to edges of text leaves and diagrams, covers cleanly loose).
BRIGADA TÉCNICA DE FOMENTO E POVOAMENTO DO LIMPOPO. / António TRIGO DE MORAIS (1895 – 1966). / Emílio Eugénio de Oliveira MERTENS (b. 1919).
Colonato do Limpopo / 26.VII.64. // Inspeção-Geral do Fomento / Brigada técnica de fomento e povoamento do Limpopo / Barragem e Pontes do Limpopo / Esquema geral da barragem, albufeira suplementar de Macarretane e das zonas de colonização 1A6 / Escala = 1/40.000.
Lisbon: Papelaria Fernandes, 1964.
Colour photolithograph, printed on both sides on card, folding ‘accordion style’ to create 16 panels on both sides (Very Good, overall clean and bright, just some light wear along original folds), 52 x 110 cm (inches).
An archive highlighted by an extremely important and interesting original document concerning Mozambique’s Irrigação-Colonato do Limpopo project (built 1953-70), one of the largest and most successful water management, irrigation and colonization schemes ever endeavored in Sub-Saharan Africa that (for a time) alleviated hunger in Southern Mozambique, while serving the Portuguese Estado Novo regime’s ideological objectives, being the original ‘Confidential’ typescript report submitted to the Colonial Minister in 1955 by António Trigo de Morais, the visionary mastermind of the project and one of the world’s preeminent hydraulic engineers, providing unique insights into the nature, progress and objectives of the Limpopo project, illustrated with a custom album of 59 photographs and 2 grand engineering plans (1 diagram, 1 map) showcasing the endeavour to Trigo de Morais’s specifications, and published in Lourenço Marques by the prominent photographer Carlos Alberto Vieira da Silva; accompanied by a richly-illustrated map-pamphlet showcasing the project as it was during the 1964 Presidential Visit to the Colonato do Limpopo.
Water management has historically, and remains today, one of the greatest issues affecting Africa. Many parts of the continent have potentially ideal conditions for high-yield agriculture, yet the seasonal variability of the water supply prevents the reliable raising of crops, a problem made even more severe in recent years due to climate change. However, in many cases, good water management, including the construction of reservoirs and irrigation schemes, can both increase water supply and make it more seasonally consistent, allowing crops to thrive, so alleviating the food shortages often afflict many parts of Africa. The challenge is that such water management schemes are expensive and technically sophisticated to build and maintain, such that many worthy projects are undermined by political and economic instability.
During the early and mid-20th century, European colonial regimes, while authoritarian and racist, sometimes provided a level of political and economic stability that enabled the realization of grand-scale water management projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. Portugal’s Estado Novo regime (1933-74), a conservative dictatorship controlled for most of its existence by Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, enforced an ideologically authoritarian and paternalistic Apartheid-like system in Portugal’s African domains, enacting laws to exploit indigenous labour primarily for the benefit of the state, commercial concerns and white settlers. However, to its credit, for most of its rule, its technical management of governance of the African colonies, especially of Angola and Mozambique, was relatively competent, and many impressive infrastructure projects of great consequence were realized (even if the benefits were enjoyed unequally).
One of the grandest and most promising mega-projects in Sub-Saharan Africa during the post-WWII era was the design to irrigate a 310 km sq tract of the Lower Limpopo River Valley (‘Baixo do Valle do Rio Limpopo’), in the Gaza District (today Province) of southern Portuguese Mozambique, and to populate the area with an agrarian colony dominated by white Portuguese settlers.
The Limpopo River, which had its source in the highlands of the Transvaal drained a basin of 415,000 sq km and flowed 1,750 km down towards the Indian Ocean, forming the boundary of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) before entering Mozambique, of which 600 km of its course runs through that country. The mid-stench of the Mozambican part of the Limpopo possesses exceptionally fertile alluvial soil, excellent temperatures and ample sunshine, however, there are extreme seasonal variations in rainfall, with a high evaporation rate, while the river level of the Limpopo fluctuates dramatically, occasionally resulting in devastating floods.
Before any irrigation works were endeavored in the Baixo Limpopo, the natural conditions saw that 53% of the seasons were famine years; 25% yielded poor harvests; and 22% produced good harvests that, in some cases, were astonishingly bountiful yielding huge surpluses in produce. During the 1920s, a brilliant young Portuguese hydraulic engineer, realized that the Baixo Limpopo possessed massive latent potential for agrarian production, indeed, being one of the most promising such areas in all Africa. Such a scheme could see the land consistently yield bumper corps sufficient to feed everyone in the Gaza District (white and black alike), while also supplying the colonial capital, Lourenço Marques (today Maputo), located about 185 km to the south.
Enter António Trigo de Morais: Master Engineer of Mozambique
António Trigo de Morais (1895 – 1966) was one of the greatest hydraulic engineers working in Portugal and Sub-Saharan Africa during the 20th century, as well as a leading intellectual and political figure in the Estado Novo regime’s conception of Portuguese colonialism. A native of the small village of Samõesin, in the Terras de Trás-os-Montes region of northeastern Portugal, he graduated with a degree in civil engineering from the Instituto Superior Técnico in 1918. He then worked for a few years as an engineer for Portugal’s Southern and Southeastern Railways, while serving as a professor at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia.
In 1921, Trigo de Morais moved to Mozambique, where he embarked upon a grand study of how the Lower Limpopo Valley could be irrigated and made into an agrarian powerhouse fit for white colonial settlement. He called for a great dam to be constructed across the Limpopo at a point 23 km upstream from the village of Chókwè, which would permit the irrigation of 29,000 hectares on the right bank of the river, as well as to serve as bridge for the proposed railway that would run from Lourenço Marques to Southern Rhodesia. His initial report was competed in 1925, whereupon it was greeted with great enthusiasm by the Governor-General of Mozambique, Manuel Moreira da Fonseca, who recommended that Lisbon agree to fund the plan. However, Trigo de Morais’s vision was a generation ahead of its time, and political turmoil in Portugal and the state’s barren finances ensured that the project was a ‘dead letter’.
Trigo de Morais’s technical brilliance and ideological zeal was recognized by the new Estado Novo Regime. In 1933, he became the President of the Autonomous Board of Agricultural Hydraulics, and, in 1936, the General-Director of Public Works for the Colonies. He cemented his role as a foremost authority on water management and colonization in Sub-Saharan Africa with a series of academic lectures and publications, such as Para uma política hidráulica e de colonização em Moçambique: conferência (Porto, 1934) and Contribuição para o estudo da colonização europeia das zonas de regadio do Império Colonial Português (Lisbon, 1936).
Trigo de Morais subsequently returned to Portugal, whereupon he climbed the ranks of the regime, while overseeing critical engineering projects, notably in Madeira. In 1942, he was appointed to the Câmara Corporativa, Salazar’s powerful executive advisory board, a post he would hold for the rest of his life.
In 1946, Trigo de Morais submitted a masterplan for building the grand Matala Hydroelectric Dam in the Cunene Valley of Angola, that was built and completed, in 1954, according to his specifications. The Cunene project provided a large quantity of electricity, while the associated irrigation scheme hosted white agrarian settler colonies. This project was a successful ‘dry run’ for his grander ambitions in Mozambique.
In 1951, Trigo de Morais assumed the powerful position of Undersecretary of State for the Colonies, serving under Colonial Minister Manuel Maria Sarmento Rodrigues (and the future Governor-General of Mozambique), who was an ardent supporter of the engineer’s vision. Trigo de Morais advanced that such projects were integral to Portugal’s raison d’etre in Africa, sentiments articulated in his work, A água na valorização do ultramar: conferência (Lisbon, 1951). During this period, Trigo de Morais had a wide degree of authority to investigate and promote his designs, objectives greatly aided by his secretary, Emílio Eugénio de Oliveira Mertens (b. 1919), himself a highly talented hydraulic engineer, who later served as his righthand man in Mozambique, before becoming the Interim Mayor of Lourenço Marques (1969) and a Member of the Portuguese Parliament (1969-73).
The Irrigação-Colonato do Limpopo Project: A ‘Gamechanger’ Becomes a Reality
Most importantly, while serving as Colonial Undersecretary, Trigo de Morais revived his 1920s dream of irrigating the Baixa Limpopo to create a white settler colony that would become an agrarian superpower, a gamechanger that could end hunger throughout southern Mozambique.
Trigo de Morais proposed a massively ambitious design that called for the construction of a 650-metre-long wide hydroelectric dam (the Barragem de Macarretane) crossing the Limpopo River, near the village of Chókwè (called ‘Vila Trigo de Morais’ from 1964 to 1976), a location that was 23 km downriver from the original site suggested in the 1920s. The dam would create a large reservoir (the Albufeira de Macarretane) and could generate enough electricity to power the entire region. The barrage would buttress a road and railway bridge that would carry the envisioned extension of the Lourenço Marques-Limpopo Railway to the border with Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) that could, upon its completion, carry 11.5 million tons of goods transport, making the area a trading hub. From the dam and reservoir an elaborate system of canals would be built that could irrigate 310,000 hectares (310 km sq.) of exceedingly fertile land, such that the area could yield continuous bumper crops of rice, cotton, corn, hemp, tomatoes, green vegetable, potatoes and alfalfa, not to mention other products. The dam would prevent flooding and would hold sufficient reserve waters to keep the farmland irrigated even during the worst draughts.
Notably, on the irrigated territory, the Colonato do Limpopo would be created, a white agrarian settler colony, supported by indigenous black labourers. Fourteen nuclear ‘aldeais’ (villages) would be constructed upon their own sectors of irrigated land, along with associated dryland pasture and forestry reserves on the non-irrigated countryside beyond.
The aldeias would house up to 3,000 white Portuguese families, with each being given their own homes and farm plots, while schools, community halls, stores, churches, food processing plants, warehouses and an agricultural college would be constructed. Additionally, the colony would sustain 2,000 indigenous families, albeit in less pleasant conditions. The colony was designed to be reasonably self-contained and self-sufficient, yielding enough crops to feed all southern Mozambique and to turn a profit that would both sustain the settlers and, in time, to recoup the government’s costs for the entire project, which was estimated to have a total cost of almost 1.5 million contos (a conto is a term for 1,000 Portuguese Escudos).
In 1951, Prime Minister Salazar issued the “decisive order” to approve Trigo de Morais’s Limpopo project. In February 1953, it was decided that construction would begin without delay, and would be completed in three stages. Phase I (1953-8) would see the building and completion of the dam, reservoir and road-rail bridge, the main canals and the first two of the settler villages. Phase II (1959-64) would see the completion of the irrigation system, to cover the full 31,000 hectares, the completion of the railway and the establishment of all 14 settler villages, along with most of the facilities and the arrival of around half of the intended white settlers, such that the colony would be ‘up and running’. Phase III (1965-70) would realize the completion of all the villages, the facilities, and see the arrival of all 3,000 of the white Portuguese colonist and the 2,000 black worker families, as well as the development of the nearby dryland areas.
Later in 1953, Trigo de Morais, resigned as Colonial Undersecretary to return to Mozambique to assume the role of Inspeção-Geral do Fomento de Ultramar (Inspector-General of Public Works of the Colonies), in charge of overseeing all infrastructure projects in Portuguese Africa, highlighted by the Limpopo project, but also the ongoing irrigation-settlement schemes in Angola.
The Brigada Técnica de Fomento e Povoamento do Vale do Limpopo was an elite engineering corps specially formed the carry-out the construction of the Limpopo project. Trigo de Morais’s protégé, Emílio Eugénio de Oliveira Mertens, was appointed to lead the brigade, which would undertake its work to the great master’s plans and under his close supervision.
Critically, the Estado Novo regime did not see the Limpopo project as being merely of practical benefit, but rather it was also part of its sweeping (and racially patronizing) ideological vision of Portugal’s role in Africa, sentiments which are perhaps best summed up the project’s ‘Mission Statement’:
“The settlement work that is intended to be carried out, rooted in irrigation, is for whites and blacks, and is located on the path followed by Portugal since always in the civilizing action. There’s room for everything in it, it is a work in which life in a group of black and white people will be fraternally linked in a desire for the martial and spiritual aggrandizement of the Nation.
The water flowing from the great Limpopo River (in the future increased by the flows derived for the additional reservoirs that may be created upstream of the dam) is for whites and blacks, as for both the villages, the agricultural implements, the work of preparation of the lands that will be undertaken. We are inhabitants of a single nation, and we have to participate in the benefits of the work for the common good carried out by the State in the Limpopo Valley.
We want, of course, that as many White families as possible in the Metropolis to settle in the villages of the Limpopo, creating vigorous settlement centres, well rooted in the soil, owning the land where they work, exercising the traditional values of the Portuguese farmer – tenacity, sobriety, attachment to work, serving as an example for his brothers in Africa. To this end, modest houses will be built to accommodate them, and special attention will be given to quality” (as quoted in Part II, ‘Introdução’, Colonato do Limpopo… (1964)).
THE ARCHIVE IN FOCUS
The present offering consists of two distinct parts:
Part I is António Trigo de Morais’s original typescript report, dated August 19, 1955, and signed at the Aldeia de Guijá, Mozambique, and marked ‘Confidencial’, that he submitted to the Portuguese Colonial Minster. Here the Inspector-General assesses the progress of the construction of the Limpopo project at a point about halfway into Phase I of its development. By this stage, the Macarretane Dam and Reservoir and the main canals partially built, with the first 2 of the intended 14 villages having been established upon irrigated land (including the Aldeia de Guijá, where Trigo de Morais wrote the present report, plus, the Aldeia de Barragem). This likely a unique document, with its detailed, profusely illustrated text providing an extraordinary, privileged insight into the creation of one Sub-Saharan Africa’s greatest and most successful water management and colonization projects, written by one of the era’s most visionary and talented engineers.
The document consists of three distinct, but mutually reenforcing, sections. First, the typescript text (which is signed by Trigo de Morais in original manuscript on the final page) provides a very detailed account of the progress, costs, chronology and challenges to construction of what was a very technically difficult mega-project distant from European supply chains. It also gives an in-depth breakdown into the amenities offered to the white Portuguese colonists, and their expected financial situation (itemized costs vs. income) once they were productively working in the Colonato.
Second, the report is illustrated by an album of 59 original photographs, concerning all matter of the project’s technical progress and the predicament of the first wave of Portuguese colonists.
Third, are a pair of large-format sepia photolithographed engineering plans of the Limpopo project (1 plan, 1 map), showcasing it as it existed in the middle of 1955.
Highlighting the importance of the overall financial profile of the project, Trigo de Morais summarizes this information on the title page, noting: A) Use of Resources and Settlement:
1) Irrigation and Drying of Land in the Limpopo Valley will cost a total of 464.000 contos; while 2) Preparation of Land in the Limpopo Valley, Compensation, Installation and Transport of Settlers and Technical and Financial Assistance will cost 220,000 contos.
He provides ‘Notes on the Position at the End of the 1st Semester of 1955’, recording that 1) Irrigation, etc. for Phase I will cost 399,000 contos; while 2) Preparation of Land, etc. will cost 30,000 contos.
The first page of the report comes in the form of a letter to his “Excellency” the Colonial Minister (the report was commissioned by Manuel Maria Sarmento Rodrigues, but would have been inevitably been submitted to his successor as minister, Raul Jorge Rodrigues Ventura, who assumed office on July 7, 1955).
There then follows the I. Introduction, where Trigo de Morais outlines that the work continues to be carried out normally through 3 contractors “under a regime of direct supervision”:
1a) Moniz da Maia, Duarte & Vaz Guedes, are the contractors for the dam and railway and road bridges, approximately 651 metres long, over the Limpopo River, where feed water is taken for the general conductor channel to the 28,820-hectare irrigated area. Their contract was signed on November 28, 1952, with their work expected to be complete by the end of 1956.
- b) Sociedades Reunidas de Fabricações Metálicas, Lda., the contractor for the supply and assembly of 39 automatic hinge gates using floating houses in chambers in the bridge pillars, measuring 13.30 x 3.20 m, for the dam, plus 4 gates (2 maneuvering and 2 safety) for this water intake, measuring 3 x 3.6 m. Their contract was signed on November 8, 1952.
- c) Azevedo Campos, Irmãos, Lda., the contractor for the construction of the general conductor channel, 14 km long, plus 18 km for the right canal. Their contract was signed October 8, 1954 (p. 2).
2) Of the 399,000 contos allocated to construction for Phase I, the percentage used in relation to the total, by item of its investment, is given: Total Spending until 1958 = 399,000 contos, with the sum already spent by June 30, 1955 = 149,802 contos; balance on June 30, 1955 = 249,198 contos (being 37.5% of total). Elements of Work: ‘Dam, Bridge and Water Intake’ (165,000 contos – 56.6% of total budget spent); Dam and Water Intake Gates (18,151 contos – 26.3 %); Irrigation Canals (105,000 contos – 18.4%); Drying Ditches (12,000 contos – 29.6 %); Flood Dikes (9,000 contos – 21.5 %); Adapting Irrigations, including Fertilizers, Forestry Lots, Hoes and Service Installations (67,000 contos – 24.2%); Administration (22,849 contos – 46.7%) (pp. 3-4).
As for II. Work Elements (refer to the Engineering Plans): 1 – Dam, Road and Railways Bridges, Intake Supply for the General Conductor Channels (refer to Photos 1 to 12), it notes that Moniz de Maia, etc. commenced work but severe delays occurred due to 3 months of flooding on the Limpopo; completion of dams and bridge by schedule on December 31, 1956 is no longer possible (p. 5).
Concerning 2 – Dam and Water Intake Gates, assembly should begin in April 1957. As for
3 – a) General Conductor Channel, work commenced in April 1955, but it is not yet in operation; b) the Left Channel is completed and integrated into colonization areas (refer to Photos 24 and 25); while the main canal, with a length of 13.68 km, can carry 38,595 m3 water. Updates are also provided for the 4 Drying Ditches (refer to Photo 23); and the 5 – Flood Defense Dikes (refer to Photos 18 to 22), whereupon it is revealed that 9 km of defense dikes have already been built which proved highly effective in alleviating the 1955 floods. As for 6 – Adaption to Irrigation (refer to Photos 26 to 30, 42 and 44 and 59), it is noted that 16,336 metres of subsidiary channels have been completed, while 48,000 trees have been planted (pp. 7-8).
Regarding the establishment of the settler villages, the Aldeias de Guijá and Barragem are partially built and functional, with the prior having 56 settler houses, 30 stables, 1 church, etc. (p. 9).
Focusing upon III. Colonization (refer to the Map and Photos 31 to 41, 45 and 58), it is noted that in the Left Channel area, 20 European families are already settled (amounting to 127 people), plus 175 indigenous settlers, while there are expected to be up to 50 white families there by the end of 1955. It is noted that each settler family will be given 4 irrigated hectares, with fertilizer, amounting to a value of 64 contos. Additionally, they will be given shared access to a further of 24 hectares of fertilized land for raising cattle, etc. They will also be entitled to a three-bedroom house of a value of 64 contos, while a breakdown of all their other granted assets is given (p. 10).
It is noted that the Colonato do Limpopo will eventually support 2,000 indigenous families. Fortunately, Dr. Alberto Soeiro, the director of anti-insect programs, has successfully eradicated mosquitos in the work area of the Colonato, and that both the European and indigenous peoples there are in good health (p. 13).
There then follows a detailed chart itemizing the expected sources of revenue for each white setter family, with the result that each is expected to have a total annual revenue of 50,920 Escudos, against total expenses of 39,800 Escudos, so leaving a healthy profit of almost 11,000 Escudos. The text ends with the document being “Signed at Guijá, August 19, 1955” in original manuscript by António Trigo de Morais (pp. 13-4).
The photo album, which immediately follows the typescript text, is entitled “Irrigação do Vale do Limpopo / Fotograficas” and features 59 original photos mounted upon 23 leaves of thick grey card, with each having a manuscript title. The photos, which illustrate the text, are grouped into 6 sections, as follows: I. Barragem & pontes do Limpopo [Dam & Bridges across the Limpopo] (12 photos); II. Cheia de 1955 (janeiro – abril) [The Flood of 1955 (January – April)] (11 photos); III. Irrigação [Irrigation] (10 photos); IV. Moradia [Housing] (11 photos); V. Colonos [Colonists] (14 photos); and VI. Faixa florestal viveiros [Forest Nurseries] (1 photo).
The final section consists of 2 impressive large format folding engineering plans, being sepia photo-lithographed, with original hand colour, on thin tracing paper. Both follow the specifications of Trigo De Morais and were drafted and published especially for the report in Lourenço Marques by the firm of Carlos Alberto Vieira da Silva, a leading publisher and one of the most prominent photographers in Mozambique.
Inspeção-Geral do Fomento / Brigada técnica de fomento e povoamento do Limpopo / Barragem e Pontes do Limpopo / Esquema geral da barragem, albufeira suplementar de Macarretane e das zonas de colonização 1A6 / Escala = 1/40.000.
[Lourenço Marques: Carlos Alberto Vieira da Silva], 1955.
Sepia photolithograph with original hand colour, bearing imprint of ‘Vieira e Ponini’,
folding, 28 x 108 cm.
This beautifully rendered and meticulously detailed plan showcases the Barragem de Macarretane, the 651-metre-long wide hydroelectric dam that spans the Limpopo River, being the greatest single element of Trigo de Morais’s vision. The composition shows a rendering of the dam, taken from above, as well as a side-profile of the same. In the upper left, is an image the granite monument bearing the works of Salazar that was placed at the southern approach to the dam.
Inspeção-Geral do Fomento / Brigada técnica de fomento e povoamento do Limpopo / Barragem e Pontes do Limpopo.
[Lourenço Marques: Carlos Alberto Vieira da Silva], 1955.
Sepia photolithograph with original hand colour, bearing imprint of ‘Alberto Vieira. Des.’, folding, 27.5 x 91 cm.
Here is a splendid map of the Colonato do Limpopo as it had been developed up the middle of 1955. The Limpopo River runs horizontally through the scene, with the dam, reservoir and Aldeia de Barragem located on the lefthand side. The main canal, or ‘Canal Condutor Geral’ leads from the reservoir down the valley to the irrigated lands near the newly established Aldeia de Guijá, and which are colour-coded and divided into many numbered cadastral lots (designated for settler families).
Part II is a map/pamphlet, Colonato do Limpopo / 26.VII.64. (Lisbon: Papelaria Fernandes, 1964), that was published for the Colonial Ministry to commemorate the July 26, 1964 visit to the Colonato do Limpopo by Portuguese President Américo Thomaz, Colonial Minister António Augusto Peixoto Correia and Mozambique Governor-General José Augusto da Costa Almeida. This occurred near the end of Phase II of the project.
Printed upon both sides, on thick card-like paper, the work folds to create 16 panels both recto and verso. On the front side, the panels form something of pamphlet containing Estado Novo propaganda and useful quantitative information, including photos of Salazar, Thomaz, and Peixoto Correia; Trigo de Morais’s message of ‘Gratitude’ to Thomaz on behalf of the project’s workers; a series of 13 photographic images of the project; a large panorama of the ‘Barragem’; as well as detailed text by written by Emílio Eugénio de Oliveira Mertens, in his role as chief of the Brigada técnica, recounting the story of the genesis of the Limpopo project and of its progress up to the end of 1963. Mertens notes that there is already 31,000 hectares under irrigation and that 1,467 families (out of the 3,000 planned) live on the Colonato, with each owning 5.5 hectares of irrigated cropland, and a further 2 hectares for cattle, etc.
Mertens breaks down the budget for the project noting that a total of 1,484,136 contos is planned to be spent by the end of Phase III in 1970, of which, Irrigation, Physical Plant, etc. = 595,000 contos (40%); Colonization = 817,586 contos (55.1%); and Administration = 75,546 contos (4.9%). A total of 972,002 contos has already been spent to date. The costs already incurred for irrigation per hectare are 18.6 contos, while the cost of installation of each settler family is 198.8 contos.
The 31,000 hectares of irrigated land has been divided into 14 ‘aldeias’, or villages (being: Barragem, Guijá, Lionde, Sagres, Ourique, S. Tiago, Senhora de Graça, Folgares, Freixel, S. José de Rimabar, Madragôa, Santa Comba, Santana, and Pegões), running in size from 226 to 4604 hectares, with populations ranging from 40 to 550 families. Bountiful crops are already being produced under the management of the Cooperativa Agrícola do Limpopo.
The verso of the work features a large coloured map prepared by Mertens that shows the Colonato’s 14 ‘aldeias’, with their respective zones colour-coded and divided into cadastral lots. Canals, roads, and dikes are depicted, while technical profiles of dam and canal augment the composition. The railway is shown to run up from Lourenço Marques (noted as being 185 km to the south), and along the southside of the irrigated area, and then over the dam bridge on the Limpopo to continue towards the South Rhodesia frontier.
The photographic images that surround the map show the Practical Agricultural School, Dam with Railway Bridge, granite monument with an inscription after Salazar, the Right-Side Canal, and the Hotel at Barragem Village. The inset map, lower left, details the ‘Talhões de Sequeiro’ (Dryland Plots) to the south of the irrigated area that include forest reserves, noting those plots already allocated to the respective villages.
By the late 1960s, the Irrigação-Colonato do Limpopo project, upon is completion, was universally hailed as momentous success. It was a ‘gamechanger’, providing ample produce year-round to feed all southern Mozambique, and granting gainful employment to thousands of people, both white and black. While the project was one of the Estado Novo’s greatest practical and PR success in Africa, this triumph was not to last long. The Mozambiquan War of Independence (1964-74) raged in the northern Mozambique, and while the conflict did not directly affect the Colonato do Limpopo, upon the fall of the Estado Novo regime, in 1974, Portugal voluntarily resolved to leave Mozambique, granting it independence the following year. The Portuguese vacated the Colonato do Limpopo, with all the white colonists returning to Portugal, along with the technical staff that maintained the dam and irrigation works.
Tragically, shortly after Mozambique had freed itself from colonialism, the country was plunged into the Mozambican Civil War (1977-92). The Colonato, renamed by the new regime as the ‘Chókwè Irrigation Scheme’, fell into sharp decline due the absence of the necessary technical staff, while the area eventually came into the active conflict zone, seeing the destruction of the farms and irrigation works. In the wake of the war, the Chókwè project was a shadow of its former self, with the fields essentially turned to wasteland, and the severely degraded dam incapable of containing much water, making the areas vulnerable to terrible floods. The deluge of 2013 displaced 170,000 people.
However, since 2017, with the aid of the World Bank, the Mozambican authorities have restored the dam and reservoir, and revived the irrigation works. Today there are now 37,000 hectares of productive farmland, employing 50,000 people, and this has done much to relieve hunger in southern Mozambique, such that the technical side of Trigo de Morais’s dream lives again!
References: N/A – Confidential Report seemingly Not Recorded. Cf. António TRIGO DE MORAIS, Irrigação do Vale do Limpopo (Lourenço Marques, 1956); António TRIGO DE MORAIS, O colonato do Limpopo (Lisboa, 1964).