Aldeias Comunais (Communal Villages),

Dossier MZ-0131


Collective work in the communal village: building a house

Above: Collective work was a valued activity, seen as politically virtuous. In this picture villagers are cooperating to build a house for one of the families in an aldeia communal; all the houses were built in the same way.

This dossier contains general articles about specific communal villages from the pages of the weeklies Tempo and Domingo, as well as multiple news reports. During the revolutionary post-independence period the communal village was a key component of the Frelimo Party’s strategy for the “socialization of the countryside”. The villages were similar in many ways to Tanzania’s ujamaa settlements and were intended to concentrate rural populations so as to provide basic social services, such as health posts, primary schools, and clean water, and to facilitate collective production in rural cooperatives. They were thus an extremely ambitious attempt at social engineering.

The policy emerged in part as a reaction to the crisis in the countryside in the immediate aftermath of the Portuguese settler exodus from Mozambique in 1974-1975. Rural trade networks were disrupted and marketed agricultural production fell dramatically, with local administration coming close to collapse.

In response, Frelimo drew on its experience of organizing peasant production in the liberated zones during the armed struggle, with families growing food for self-consumption while working in collectives to produce surpluses for the market.

By August 1982, according to official sources, there were an estimated 1.2 million people living in 1,200 communal villages all over the country. The circumstances of their establishment varied: some were new settlements; some were formed after natural disasters such as floods; some were converted aldeamentos (colonial fortified villages); and, later on, during the conflict with RENAMO, some were founded to accommodate the return of refugees and displaced people.

The villages sometimes involved the abandonment of ancestral lands and were unpopular in many areas, with local populations resisting being moved into them. In Zambézia, for example, by 1981 there were only 21 communal villages in existence, although a further 100 or so were in the planning stage. As the conflict between the government and RENAMO progressed through the 1980s, the villages took on more of the characteristics of the colonial aldeamentos, with security and control aspects paramount, and were often affected by hunger.


Click on the yellow folder image below to download an unsorted zipped archive of the entire dossier, consisting of documents and press clippings in PDF format concerning communal villages. Note that new items will be added to this dossier from time to time. This version contains 82 items and is dated 10 March 2021

Zipped file image