There is today a growing awareness of the importance of providing rural populations with more secure tenure to land and other natural resources, not least in Africa where approximately 90 percent of all land is still unregistered. At the same time there has been a rethinking of approaches for securing local tenure rights in practice. Experience has shown that the conventional approach, i.e., individual freehold titling, has often not worked well in areas where communal forms of customary tenure predominate, which is still the case in most parts of rural sub-Saharan Africa. This insight, in turn, has led to an interest in what could be referred to as the “community-based” approach to tenure formalization, i.e., where rights to own or manage land and other natural resources are formalized at the level of the community as a collective landholding unit.
Mozambique is one of the countries which has adopted this approach in its land policy and legislation. This working paper analyses the outcome in practice, based on field research in the Niassa province in Northern Mozambique. Findings include a number of positive effects related to community members perception of improved tenure security and knowledge of their land rights in general. At the same time as some problematic issues and challenges are identified. The latter referring specifically to questions related to the constitution of the community as a collective landholding unit; representation and governance of land within these units; a possible differentiation in membership status between men and women as well as between “first-comers” and “immigrants”; and, finally, insufficient impact on local economic development.
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