The oil-bearing nut was meant to yield fuel, and even companies like Deutsche Lufthansa took part in the scheme. Around 2,000 hectares of Jatropha was planted in the Chimoio region. The UK’s SunBiofuels made use of fallow tobacco and cotton fields dating back to colonial days. And now the bushes are standing there, just like the old colonial villa and the swimming-pool that the Portuguese plantation founder used to bathe in. Two guards keep an eye on the site. In 2011, SunBiofuels filed for bankruptcy. The Chimoio Jatropha project, which so many had placed their hopes on, had failed. “This is what the people here don’t understand,” says missionary Ujwigowa. “That plants are grown purely for exports, such as Jatropha, sugar cane or eucalyptus, whereas it is food that they are in need of most of all.”

Fears of losing land

Smallholder Anoria Vurande lives next to one of the abandoned plantations.