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Communities’ Ability in Consultations and Land Transactions: Improving the “Empowering Effect” of Tenure Security Initiatives in Rural Mozambique

By: Giorgia Mei, Mariagrazia Alabrese

The 1997 Land Law in Mozambique recognizes the “Right to Use and Benefit from Land” (DUAT) in the following situations: collective or individual “customary occupation”; individual “good faith occupation”; temporary (renewable) authorization for commercial exploitation of the land to national and foreign individuals or corporate entities. Mozambique’s Land Law establishes also that in cases of competing claims over a piece of land between the investor and the community, a process of consultation and a benefit-sharing agreement have to be undertaken. However, the weak knowledge of legal provisions and, in particular, of the consultation process by the majority of rural communities, does impair the capacity of local users to claim their rights effectively and to make investors accountable to the terms of “unwritten” contracts which follow from the “transfer” of community land.

The four cases of community-investor “land deal” described in this paper clearly confirm this evidence and corroborate the idea that, in order to make possible the legal empowerment of rural communities, there is an urgent need to reconsider the nature and relation of different tenure security initiatives in support of rural groups’ rights. Beyond the application of legal tools (such as the realization of delimitation), paralegal initiatives need to be augmented (awareness-raising, paralegal trainings, support for the transfer of land, etc.) and the outcomes of the consultation process better implemented and monitored.