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Informality and urbanisation in African contexts: analysing economic and social impacts

Aline Afonso

Forced Resettlements: From Impacts to Opportunities – The Case of Moatize Mine (Mozambique)

Joana Pedro


The combination of an increasing population and the expansion of needs imposed by consumer society has triggered an increase in the number of projects such as roads, dams and mines. Many of these projects lead to the displacement of populations that are voicelessly taken to other locations through forced resettlements, thus becoming “development refugees”. In region of Tete, Mozambique, the discovery of one of the largest world’s coal reserves has led to a mass resettlement process that has affected and will continue to affect thousands of people in the next years. The World Bank states that it should be ensured that resettled populations have their living conditions improved. The current paper analyses, trough quality of life indicators, the resettlement made by the mining company Vale in Moatize, Tete province, between 2006 and 2011. Although it is still very early to tell whether the quality of life will improve or deteriorate in the future, certain results can already be identified in the present. On the one hand, improvements have been registered in some basic living conditions such as education, health or access to water and energy. On the other hand, the level of cultural identity of the population and their survival strategies seem to have deteriorated – which is reflected today in the impoverishment of some families and in the claim shared by part of the population they feel like guests in their own houses.

Entrées d'index

Texte intégral

A race for coal1

  • 1 This article was writen in September 2013 and reflects the author view at that point in time.

“In the beginning Vale sent a team that was courting us. They were saying that a company would came to exploit the coal, so we would have to get out, and go to Malupancha, that is this Cateme. Until that moment we thought it was a lie… then we realized that it was true and we actually came here.” (Cateme inhabitant, interviewed in June, 2011)

1The world we live in is based on a paradigm of continuous economic growth through an increasingly globalized consumer society. The combination of an increasing population and the expansion of needs imposed by this consumer society has triggered an increase in the number of projects such as roads, dams and mines. These projects have different environmental and social impacts; one of the most visible being land-grabbing, which leads communities, through more or less forced processes, to abandon their houses and homesteads. As such, many of these projects lead to the displacement of people who, voicelessly, are taken to other locations through forced resettlements, thus becoming “development refugees” (Colson, 1994; Cernea, 1996).

2In the region of Tete, in North Western Mozambique (figure 1), the discovery of one of the largest coal reserves in the world (Aurecon, 2010) has led to a mass resettlement process that has affected thousands of people and will continue to do so in the years to come.

3In recent years, this province has witnessed an unparalleled economic growth as a result of the political safety and stability of the country, coupled with the discovery of one of the largest coal deposits in the world (COBA & Impacto, 2011). The existing deposits are estimated to hold 23 billion tons of coal, and 34% of the province is already under mining concessions. This area should rise to 60% if all currently pending licenses are approved (Human Rights Watch, 2013) (figure 2).

4In November 2004, following an international tender, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of Mozambique has granted Vale S.A., a Brazilian mining company, the right to explore the Moatize coal reserve, one of the Tete’s area concessions (Aurecon, 2010). Vale resettled 1046 households between 2009 and 2011, over an area of more than 10 000 ha (Pedro, 2011), in order to exploit this open-pit mine. These households were resettled either in the rural settlement of Cateme, 40 km from Moatize, or in the peri-urban neighbourhood of 25 de Setembro, inside Moatize Village.

Figure 1 – Tete Province localisation (Aurecon, 2010)

Figure 1 – Tete Province localisation (Aurecon, 2010)

Figure 2 – Mining licences in Tete province (Human Rights Watch, 2013)

Figure 2 – Mining licences in Tete province (Human Rights Watch, 2013)
  • 2 During her Masters dissertation the author conducted semi-structured exploratory interviews with di (...)

5In 2011, between March and August, the author had the opportunity, as part of her Masters dissertation, to conduct a field research in the resettlement carried out by Vale. During this period, the author interviewed various2 players involved in the different stages of the process, including members of Vale company and the local government, and had the opportunity to visit Cateme and 25 de Setembro, to carry out interviews and set up focus groups with the resettled populations.

6Based on this field work, together with a data review made since then, this article aims to look at the “development refugees” through the case study of the resettlement carried out by Vale, in Moatize. For this analysis we will use the eight intrinsic risks Cernea (1999) identifies to cause impoverishment in resettlement processes, trying to understand which risks materialized, and how they could still be remediated.

The new world

“There we had places to go and we knew how to live, it was the home land. But here this is new land for us, everything is always new, everything is new to us.” (Cateme inhabitant, interviewed in June, 2011)

7In the preparation of the resettlement resulting from the Moatize mine development, a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) was made, encompassing three parts: socioeconomic baseline, RAP development and RAP implementation.

8All RAP actions were preceded by discussions with the government and, in March 2006, a Resettlement Commission was created, in order to monitor all the work. This committee consisted of Provincial Council representatives (from the Mineral Resources, Environmental Coordination, Public Works and Housing and Agriculture sectors), the Moatize District Administrator and the Moatize Municipal Council President. The Permanent Secretary of Tete Provincial Government chaired the committee (Pedro, 2011).

9Analysing the territory occupied by the mine, we find two types of human settlements. The first, which includes the communities of Chithata, Bagamoyo and Chipanga, has peri-urban characteristics, belonging to the municipality of Moatize Town (30% of the resettled community). The second, composed of the scattered settlements of Mithethe and Malabwé, presents rural characteristics and is located outside the municipality of Moatize Town (70% of the resettled community) (Rio Doce Moçambique, 2006a).

10Depending on their classification as rural or urban, the resettled families were moved to either Cateme (families considered rural) or the neighbourhood of 25 de Setembro (families considered urban). In addition, close to 25% of the families received two forms of compensation: assisted compensation (7,2%), which consisted of helping families who refused to go to the resettled areas in the search and purchase of a new home, and simple compensation (17,7%), which consisted of the direct exchange of goods for a certain value (Aurecon, 2010).

11Cateme was elected to receive the resettlement of the rural population, as it was considered to fulfil the housing needs as well as ensure conditions of access to farmland.

12This is an area of approximately 3.800 ha, 36 km away from Moatize town (previously the people living further were just 10 km away) and 11 km off the main road (N7). These 11 km consist of a dirt road in poor condition, which makes access difficult (Pedro, 2011).

1325 de Setembro, on the west side of Moatize town, became the new home for the resettled people who were considered to have an urban model of living. The location within Moatize town allowed the population to keep having access to workplaces and other facilities they used before the resettlement.

14In the next paragraphs, we describe the main characteristics of the two resettlements:


15Both Cateme and 25 de Setembro were drawn into perfectly linear and orthogonal plots (figure 3). The organization consists of residential, non-residential and green areas, following the communal villages model (Raposo, 1999), which is an organization that contrasts with the usual scattered organization (Austral e Impacto, 2006).


16The majority of the houses in this region are built using the wattle and daub technique and thatched roof. However, alongside a relative increase in the household income, there has been a substantial increase in homes built with brick and zinc roofing, particularly in peri-urban areas. (Austral e Impacto, 2006; Rio Doce Moçambique, 2006a) (figure 4).

Figure 3 – Layout before (top) and after (below) the resettlement (left: Cateme; right: 25 de Setembro)

Figure 3 – Layout before (top) and after (below) the resettlement (left: Cateme; right: 25 de Setembro)

Fonte: Diagonal Urbana, 2006

Figure 3 – Layout before (top) and after (below) the resettlement (left: Cateme; right: 25 de Setembro)

Figure 3 – Layout before (top) and after (below) the resettlement (left: Cateme; right: 25 de Setembro)

Fonte: Pedro, 2011

Figure 4 – Example of traditional houses in the region of Tete

Figure 4 – Example of traditional houses in the region of Tete

Fonte: Pedro, 2011

17The new houses were designed by a Mozambican architectural office and each one includes the main house, a kitchen and a latrine / toilet, as well as some ancillary buildings (figure 5). The house model (for both rural and peri-urban areas) is much closer to what the peri-urban population wanted. The size of the houses was assigned depending on the size of the family’s house at the time of the resettlement.

18A model home was initially built in Cateme for the community leaders to visit and suggest changes and improvements. However, at that stage there was no longer opportunity for many changes.

Figure 5 – Example of the houses built in the new settlements

Figure 5 – Example of the houses built in the new settlements

Fonte: Pedro, 2011

Education and Health

19Regarding education and health, a primary and a secondary school were built in Cateme, along with a health unit with a maternity facility. These had the capacity to accommodate all the resettled community as well as the people that were already in the host areas. These structures were built by Vale, but given to the Government, which is now responsible for its administration and management. A “Knowledge Centre”, now called a Model Farm, was also built in Cateme, aimed at providing technical courses.

20In 25 de Setembro no new school infrastructure was built, but the existing one in the town of Moatize was rehabilitated in order to accommodate the new students demand. In addition, a health centre was built in the neighbourhood, which came into operation 2 years after the resettlement.

Electricity and Water Access

21Cateme has electricity in the main avenue (all households that previously had electricity were resettled around this avenue) and the water supply was provided through standpipes. A concrete tank to provide water by gravity feed to the community was planned. However, several plastic tanks were installed instead. To be able to work by gravity these tanks were placed on wooden structures. This supply system has a short life span and relies on electricity to pump water into the tanks.

22In 25 de Setembro everyone has access to piped water in their own backyard, even the householders that didn’t have it before. Nevertheless, most people use the surrounding neighbourhood standpipes as they don’t have money to pay for water at their homes. A similar situation occurs with electricity, which was also installed in all houses.

Resettlement risks

“Here we don’t live any better, there are no ways of getting money” (Cateme inhabitant, interviewed in June, 2011)

23Despite studies of the resettlement social impacts, mistakes continue to be repeated, with dramatic results for the displaced populations. Most resettlements fail to improve, or even to equal, the population’s original income and livelihood (Cernea, 1999).

24Cernea (1999) identifies eight risks that lead to the impoverishment of the resettled populations that should be avoided during resettlement: Landlessness risk; Joblessness risk; Homelessness risk; Marginalization risk; Food insecurity risk; Increased morbidity and mortality risk; Loss of access to common property resources risk and Community disarticulation risk.

25According to Cernea, a successful resettlement will largely depend on the capacity to avoid these risks. Thus, we analyse each of them to understand to what extent they were taken into account in the considered resettlement. We also present suggestions as to how these mistakes could have been prevented or still be corrected.

26Landlessness risk In Cateme, each household was entitled to one hectare of farmland, but landlessness risk still exists. Firstly, this is due to conflicts with the former owner of the land. In fact, part of these farmlands had owners before, who received monetary compensation to leave their lands. However, some of the owners didn´t agree with the received compensation and are taking the land back. Secondly, an issue mentioned in all focus groups was the low productivity of the farms. This is due to:

  • Weak agricultural capacity of the soil – the host areas identification report (Rio Doce Moçambique, 2006b) considered that this area has only moderate agricultural potential.

  • Invasion of farms by animals – in the new settlements the farms are situated very close to the houses. Previously, the population used to spend more than an hour traveling between their houses and their farms (Austral e Impacto, 2006). This was due in part to the fact that people seek the land with the higher agricultural potential for their crops, but also to avoid the animals that traditionally walk freely in the village, destroying the closest farms. The time that people would walk every day to get to their fields was also seen as a time to socialize.

  • Water shortages – This was particularly raised by the Malabwé community, who practiced agriculture on the banks of the Revuboé River. The lack of water for agriculture and livestock was the main issue. It should be noted that before the resettlement, the majority of the population also grew various vegetables, which served mainly for subsistence, especially in the lowlands of the rivers (Austral e Impacto, 2006).

27In the neighbourhood of 25 de Setembro, this risk became a reality because the population lost their farmland and, thus, the basis for their production and livelihood.

28In Cateme, the local population’s customary systems should have been used in the land acquisition to avoid this risk. In fact, although the indemnity required by Mozambican law has been attributed to the former owners of the land, they are likely to continue to feel entitlement to it (Raposo, 1999; Geffray, 1991). It will be important now to try to remedy the problem with respect to the traditional systems and laws.

29Regarding the neighbourhood of 25 de Setembro, this risk could have been avoided if the resettlement process had occurred only after the government had defined which land would be given to this population. It is vital to remedy this problem by providing land for this population. While it is true that for all households resettled in this neighbourhood at least one person had a formal job, family farms previously played a key role in their monthly budget.

30Joblessness risk – Most of Cateme population is unemployed and the people are now further away from both Moatize Village and Vale´s mining project, thus making it difficult to access the job opportunities created by it.

31Employment in this context is mostly provided through the informal economy. Subsistence agriculture provides the main livelihood for most of the resettled population (Austral e Impacto, 2006), but other survival strategies were also disturbed, and weren´t taken into account in the resettlement. These include direct trade with Moatize village, impossible now in Cateme due to the distance and fishing, which is non-existent in the new settlements. Also the potteries were a main source of income for many workers, even if the bond was essentially informal. The owners have been monetarily compensated, but there was no consideration for the workers. Nowadays, potteries have not been resumed in Cateme because it is too far from the points of sale, or in 25 de Setembro, because a license has to be paid and people do not seem willing to move from the informal to the formal system, which is usually closed to low income populations (Pedro, 2011).

32It is important to note that an informal market has already emerged. However, it only serves local people with little acquisitive power, so there is no external monetary input that can stimulate the local economy.

33The “Knowledge Centre”, which came into operation in 2012, under the name of “Model Farm”, with technical courses, was presented as a measure to combat unemployment. However, even considering the huge importance of this training, the creation of a survival strategy based only on training will not be enough to restore the economic wellbeing of these families. As Yunus (2006) highlights, in the real world the poor are not poor because they lack training or because they are illiterate: they are poor because they cannot retain income from their work. Therefore, although education is extremely important, and in the long run will help decreasing the unemployment rate, the relative inadequacy of some courses and the lack of a market in which to apply the knowledge make this intervention insufficient to prevent the joblessness risk.

34Thus, in the case of Cateme, given the distance to Moatize Village and to Vale’s mining project, and an employability strategy aimed only at training, unemployment may become chronic for the population. A public transport scheme between Cateme and Moatize could be created to provide transportation for those who want to take advantage of job opportunities in these areas.

35The neighbourhood 25 de Setembro remains within the Moatize Village, so the population remains close to their jobs and can also take advantage of the opportunities that this new mining project can bring.

36Homelessness risk This risk was avoided at the outset, as all people had houses. However, the population has identified some problems.

37The type of construction and materials used in the houses were unknown to the population, which doesn’t feel at home there. For example, the new houses have cement walls (for a population in which one of the major income sources is mud brick fabrication) and glass (a very fragile material and hard to replace for the rural communities). This inadequacy is evidenced by the fact that many families are using the kitchen as a bedroom, or even as the main house, and renting the rest (figure 6) (Pedro, 2011).

38The picture on the left is now where the owner of the house lives, after renting out the rest of the house to someone from outside the neighbourhood. The construction on the right is being used as the children’s room (Pedro, 2011).

39In addition, the houses were built according to the size of the previous ones, not taking into account family growth. This could lead to critical issues in the future, as people will probably not be able to afford to expand the houses using the same materials and techniques.

40Regarding housing quality, after about a year of use the houses began to display a number of problems including cracks, holes in the roofs and drainage problems in the latrines. Besides these problems, in all focus groups and interviews people complained about the construction techniques used, which were different to what they were used to.

Figure 6 – Examples of closed kitchens.

Figure 6 – Examples of closed kitchens.

41These issues are emphasized by the fact that the population didn’t participate in the construction of their own homes, which is particularly relevant given that previously about 90% were living in self-built homes (Rio Doce Moçambique, 2006a).

42So, the homelessness risk can still become a reality for both resettlements.
To avoid this risk, the local community, should have built the new houses, using earth construction techniques and materials that people know, or employing new and more resistant techniques, given they were accessible to the majority of the population.

43The option of constructing some infrastructures with earth construction techniques could still be considered. This would enable people to learn and use new construction techniques, without needing to use concrete blocks, which the majority can’t afford.

44Marginalization risk – In Cateme, this risk was aggravated by the distance to Moatize, which limited a number of employment opportunities, either in the village or in the project. The resettled population were victims of economic and geographical marginalization. The resettlement should have been done closer to where the people used to live. 25 de Setembro community has lost one of their most important production assets – their fields, which may lead to their impoverishment. Also, the new mining projects in the region have created a new economy accessible for the population that was already resident. The resettled population are therefore victims of economic marginalization.

  • Food insecurity risk – This risk has a fairly high degree of occurrence, given the low quality of soil and the lack of water, resulting in the low productivity of farms in Cateme. The same happens with the absence of farms in 25 de Setembro, together with the impoverishment of the population, as a result of the breakdown of their production activities.
    In 25 de Setembro, new farming land should be given to the population. In Cateme measures should be taken to ensure the availability of water for agriculture, and the provision of loans and credits for the purchase of inputs for other projects. An effort should also be put into the extension system, with training and teaching of new farming techniques and the provision of support to small farmers.

  • Increased morbidity and mortality risk In Cateme a new health centre was built and there have been several health education courses, therefore it is expected that there will be a decrease in the mortality rate in the coming years. The situation is different in 25 de Setembro, were the population is now further from the hospital. However, a new health centre in the neighbourhood is expected to open soon.

  • Loss of access to common property resources risk Loss of common resources was not taken into account in the resettlement process. This is now one of the largest constraints in terms of survival strategies. In Cateme, for instance, people lost water sources that were used for agriculture and livestock, firewood for home use and for trading, and reeds used to make mats, among others.
    An inventory of all common resources should have been made and the population compensated accordingly. Particularly in relation to water, some water capture or irrigation systems should still be looked at. In relation to reeds and similar materials, studies should be done to determine if there is another material people could use for the same purpose. Alternatively, other types of activities to substitute the above should be researched.

  • Community disarticulation risk – This risk is almost impossible to avoid. However, an effort was made to keep the same neighbourhood relations and traditional power structures in the new resettlements.

What now?

“Like this, if there is money, Cateme can get better and grow well.” (Cateme inhabitant, interviewed in June, 2011)

45It is still too early to tell whether the quality of life will improve or deteriorate in the future for Cateme and 25 de Setembro populations, but certain results can be identified at present. On the one hand, improvement was noted in some basic conditions such as education, health or access to water and energy. On the other hand, there was deterioration in the level of cultural identity of the population and in their survival strategies – which is reflected today in the impoverishment of some families and in the feeling, shared by part of the population, of living as guests in their own houses.

46This failure is in part a result of the lack of community participation. Although involuntary resettlement is, first of all, a top-down process where people are forced to leave their familiar territory without being able to oppose, an effort has to be made so that the population has a voice in the way the resettlement process is undertaken. In this case study, as in the majority of resettlements (Cernea, 1997), the contact with the communities was essentially informative. The population was informed about the project and how the resettlement would happen, but without actually participating in the process. An example of this is the model houses case: people were asked to express their views during visits to model houses, but the project was almost finished by then and no major changes could take place. Also, the community was not represented in the resettlement committee, so their voice was never included in the main decisions.

47This led to a situation where the population treats the resettlement as belonging to the company Vale. This is evident in the way people constantly refer the resolution of the neighbourhood problems to the company. The “space appropriation” would have been easier if, from the beginning, the population had been actively involved in the various stages of the process: resettlement site selection (using their empirical knowledge, both in terms of agricultural potential and in spiritual terms); design and choice of construction materials (according to traditional techniques); layout selection (respecting their livelihoods) and in the construction itself (as, for generations, this population has been building their own houses).

48However, the population is still adapting to the new reality and the resettlement process is not yet complete.

49In conclusion, it appears that the quality of life can still be improved, but that will require continued work with the community to mitigate the risks that became a reality. This applies in particular to:

  • The loss of farmland by the population of 25 de Setembro, who currently owns no farmland, having lost their production system and part of their daily routine;

  • The employment loss and marginalization in Cateme, mainly due to the great distance to Moatize and the project site, which is leading to an impoverishment of the population; and

  • Food insecurity, mainly due to the poor agricultural suitability of Cateme farmland and absence of farmland in 25 de Setembro, the impoverishment of the resettled population and the loss of access to common resources.

50Also, for the population to improve their quality of life, they must in fact exercise ownership over the place they live in and recreate their survival strategies. This effort has to be led by the project accountable for this change in their lives, and be done “with” the people, as opposed to “for” the people. According to Costa (1994), these populations are not passive victims waiting for help, but they are actors who develop strategies conducive to their survival.

51However, no strategy seems to be in place at the moment, and the population cannot wait longer for this to happen. In January 11, 2012, Cateme made headlines in Mozambique, and in the rest of the world (see, for example: AllAfrica, 2012; Angola Press, 2012; Jornal do Brasil, 2012, Polgreen, 2012, Pantie, 2012.) when the inhabitants obstructed the railway line that transports coal from the mine to the nearest port, stopping all operations.

52As a direct result of this protest, in July 2012, the Government and Vale signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which Vale has pledged to repair homes, improve the water supply system, increase training opportunities and provide the resettled families with fruit trees (Human Rights Watch, 2013). Government also restricted all visits to the resettlement (Santos, 2012), and prohibited all communication between the company and the population, when not accompanied by a government representative.

53However, more than one year after this MoU was signed, no concrete strategy is yet in place. In the long run, and in the absence of sustainable strategies, this may translate into the emergence of social conflicts, not only in Cateme but in all the other resettlement areas.

54As stated before, this case study is not a unique case in the province; the number of development refugees in this area will continue to grow. Whenever these resettlements cannot be avoided, it is important to see how they can be transformed into opportunities. Resettlement, such as the one made by Vale, should be used as a case study to avoid the risks presented in this article becoming a reality for more people.

55The Mozambican Government plays a fundamental role in this process. It is up to the Government to take a central role in defining policies and strategies for the companies to follow, and start thinking in an integrated way, trying to minimize negative impacts while trying to understand all possible opportunities arising from these processes namely in terms of territorial planning (by giving people access to social infrastructures).

56In line with this, a Land Master Plan for the province should be written, clearly defining areas that shouldn’t be given to any mining concession due to their valuable agriculture capabilities and high population density. The provincial planning authority (DINAPOT), in close cooperation with the Mineral Resources (MIREM) ministry and the House and Public Services (MOPH) ministry should manage this plan. The impact of such a plan would also depend on the institutional capabilities of the provincial government.

57The revision of the mining law, which presently indicates that if a concession is given, all the existing land use rights are considered extinct by the payment of a fair and reasonable compensation to the rights holder, should also be considered. Thus, this law does not protect the mining concession areas’ inhabitants and their livelihoods.

58It is worth mentioning the recent adoption by Mozambique’s Government of a Regulation for Resettlement Resulting from economic Activities (August 2012). This is the first legal instrument made to protect these communities and Mozambique is one of the first countries in the world to have a specific law on resettlements. Although this document has been criticised and needs to be improved, it is still an important step in the Government’s position.

59This paper concludes with the necessity to create territorial planning mechanisms that guarantee continuity in the identity and traditional lifestyle of communities, integrated with the ecosystem and physical environment, in a way that transforms resettlement into possible opportunities. This necessarily requires the inclusion and participation of affected communities, as well as the involvement of provincial and district authorities in the design of integrated economic and social development initiatives.


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1 This article was writen in September 2013 and reflects the author view at that point in time.

2 During her Masters dissertation the author conducted semi-structured exploratory interviews with different social and resettlement experts (7 interviews were done during this phase), after which she went to Cateme and 25 de Setembro where she worked with different focus groups (local/traditional authorities, women, men and young people), and interviewed more than 10 different stakeholders. The detailed methodology can be found in the original dissertation document Pedro, J. 2011. Reassentamentos Forçados: Dos impactos às Oportunidades. Master dissertation, Lisboa, ISCTE.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1 – Tete Province localisation (Aurecon, 2010)
Fichier image/png, 947k
Titre Figure 2 – Mining licences in Tete province (Human Rights Watch, 2013)
Fichier image/png, 863k
Titre Figure 3 – Layout before (top) and after (below) the resettlement (left: Cateme; right: 25 de Setembro)
Légende Fonte: Diagonal Urbana, 2006
Fichier image/png, 271k
Titre Figure 3 – Layout before (top) and after (below) the resettlement (left: Cateme; right: 25 de Setembro)
Légende Fonte: Pedro, 2011
Fichier image/png, 501k
Titre Figure 4 – Example of traditional houses in the region of Tete
Légende Fonte: Pedro, 2011
Fichier image/png, 545k
Titre Figure 5 – Example of the houses built in the new settlements
Légende Fonte: Pedro, 2011
Fichier image/png, 481k
Titre Figure 6 – Examples of closed kitchens.
Fichier image/png, 371k


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