Mozambique has become a hot spot in the global rush for land in the last decade. Growing investments in sectors such as mining, hydrocarbons, forest plantations and industrial agriculture most often target rural land held by local communities under customary law, and conflicts between communities and investors often arise. Existing laws regulating land are poorly implemented and enforced, which is due to the power imbalances existing between the government, companies and local communities. Rural citizens’ illiteracy — especially legal illiteracy — and lack of capacity to use the law and judicial mechanisms to protect their rights, put them in a weak position, including during community consultations for land attributions conducted by the government and companies.
In the District of Palma, Cabo Delgado Province, where a natural gas project is increasing pressures on community lands, Centro Terra Viva (CTV) and community paralegals are providing legal assistance to rural communities. This paper discusses the lessons learned from the use of paralegals as a tool for communitybased advocacy, the challenges encountered as well as the constraints and opportunities for scalability and sustainability. The paper finds that, while there is room for improvement, the strategy of linking urban-based and qualified lawyers with informed and active citizens at the community level can make a difference in the way decisions to allocate rural lands for investors are taken and reduce injustices in land governance.
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