Mozambique - Context and Land Governance | Land Portal
F Mira Ilha de Mozambique CC BY-SA 2.0

By Rick de Satgé, peer reviewed by Alda Salomão, environmental lawyer, land specialist and social activist, and former director of NGO Centro Terra Viva

Mozambique is situated on the east coast of southern Africa with 2470 km of Indian Ocean coastline [1]. It is almost 800,000 km² in extent, of which 13,000 km² are water, including the Cahora Bassa dam reservoir and Lake Niassa. Some 36 million ha are classified as arable land – 46% of the total land area - of which 10% is under production. The country shares borders with Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi and is administratively divided into 10 provinces, 154 districts and 53 municipalities. In 2018 64% of the population lived in rural areas while the remaining 36% have urbanised. In 2018 forests and miombo woodlands were estimated to cover 43% of the country, although an estimated 8 million ha of forest had been cleared since the 1970’s [2].

Historical backdrop

Mozambique has a complex and contested history stretching back to the migration of Bantu speaking people from west central Africa in the third century BCE. Between the 13th- 15TH centuries parts of the coastal and the inland areas were incorporated into the sophisticated Great Zimbabwe civilisation and linked up with trade routes and coastal enclaves established by Arab African Swahili traders. The Portuguese made their first appearance in 1498 having navigated the Cape Horn, before establishing garrisons and trading posts at Sena and Tete in 1530. 

The Portuguese footprint in Mozambique slowly started to expand: firstly through the Prazos system of granting concessions to trading companies[3] and secondly by being one the earliest European powers to profit from the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slavers trafficked people captured and sold in the northern reaches of the territory. This involved transactions between Prazo and Yao slavers focused on the area around the tip of Lake Niassa. Extensive slave routes developed which shipped enslaved people to different countries including Brazil, Mauritius and Madagascar. In the first half of the 19th century numerous agreements were signed to end slavery. However, these were ineffective and “clandestine trade continued for decades”. [4]

Portugal was one of the last European nations to formally agree to end the slave trade. Having leased out large estates as concessions to trading companies in the period 1890-1930, Portugal sought to ensure continuity in the supply of labour. In 1899 the Portuguese introduced the system of legislated compulsory labour known as shibalo. This required that where Mozambican men were unable to find wage labour, they had to provide extensive periods of free forced labour under the control of the local administration. This forced labour code remained legally in force until 1928.

The discovery of diamonds and then of gold in South Africa irrevocably changed the face of the sub-continent. The rapidly expanding goldfields on the Witwatersrand were the catalyst for the development of Johannesburg and extended the reach of the migrant labour system throughout Southern Africa.

Mining Wikipedia

Mozambican miners were central to the development of gold mining in South Africa. Photo by Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

It has been said that “without the gold mines there would have been no South Africa; without Mozambique labour there would have been no gold mines”. [5] The compulsory labour code in Mozambique had the effect of leaving Mozambican workers with little choice but to seek work on the South African mines. 

“It was not so much the pull of a free and fair labour market characterised by declining real wages that attracted African migrants to the rand mines, but rather the appalling alternative of having to undertake shibalo – forced labour for even lower wages, or none at all”.[6] By the 1930’s 300,000 workers were employed in the South African mines of whom the majority came from Mozambique.

In 1926 a right-wing military coup overthrew the democratically elected government in Portugal which impacted on Mozambique. The adoption of the Estado Novo or New State policy saw Portugal play a more direct role in governing Mozambique which it regarded as an ‘overseas province’. By 1950 Portugal itself remained poor and underdeveloped with 40% illiteracy rates.  Portugal encouraged the rapid growth of settler populations in its colonies which had major impacts on Mozambican society. The Portuguese actively encouraged the formation of new elites – assimilados – who adopted Catholicism and spoke Portuguese. The combination of forced labour and massive land alienation further accelerated the social, economic and political marginalisation of Mozambican people. These policies prompted widespread resistance in all the countries under Portuguese colonial rule. In Mozambique a bitter armed struggle was led by FRELIMO. However, the social and economic costs of maintaining occupying armies in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau bankrupted the Portuguese and the ruling junta was overthrown by the Armed Forces Movement (AFM) in Portugal in 1974. The leadership of the AFM advocated rapid decolonisation with the result that Mozambique obtained its independence shortly thereafter in 1975.  

The Portuguese had not invested in education or skills development in Mozambique. At independence Mozambique had an illiteracy rate of 90% and had a skills base of less than a 1000 high school graduates. Fears of retribution following years of war prompted a mass exodus of approximately 250 000 Portuguese settlers, who on leaving destroyed much equipment and infrastructure left behind. This, coupled with a bankrupt state undermined the possibilities of a successful transition. In a global context characterised by the politics of the cold war, FRELIMO formally adopted Marxism-Leninism and Mozambique took a Soviet socialist turn, nationalising abandoned properties and land and imposing limitations on property ownership.  The country embarked on what has been described as “a rapid authoritarian modernisation”.[7]

FRELIMO allocated 97% of its rural development budget in a bid to introduce a system of ‘modern’ command agriculture through the promotion of agricultural collectives and large estates. In pursuit of these objectives the government completely neglected to support small family farming. In consequence agricultural policies failed, negatively impacting on food security.

In the rural areas FRELIMO also abolished the role of ‘regulos’ – customary leaders who played an important role in local land governance. FRELIMO regarded the regulos as having collaborated with Portuguese colonisers and replaced them with FRELIMO sanctioned secretários de bairro. [8]

FRELIMO also pushed to establish communal villages which met with popular resistance. It abolished customary payments of lobola and equated customary practices with backwardness and superstition. This combination of issues served to create a fertile base for the growth of opposition. 

FRELIMO also provided active support to guerrilla armies fighting for an end to colonial rule in Zimbabwe and apartheid in South Africa. This made Mozambique a target for political destabilisation and military intervention by the Rhodesian and South African governments which nurtured armed opposition formations such as RENAMO, seeking to capitalise on mounting social grievances. The combination of unpopular policies and external intervention led to a disastrous civil war which would last 16 years.  In areas of the country controlled by RENAMO, the regulos were recognised once again, as RENAMO claimed it was defending tradition against its erasure by FRELIMO’s policies promoting scientific socialism.

By the late 1980’s FRELIMO had lost control over large parts of the country and almost one-third of the country’s population had fled the rural conflict zones to occupy informal settlements in the major cities and refugee facilities in neighbouring countries. Out of a population of 17 million people, some four - five million people had been displaced since 1975, and a million people had died as a consequence of the civil war. Rural infrastructure and services had largely been destroyed. In 1987 bankrupted by conflict, Mozambique had no option but to turn to the IMF and to accede to its economic policy prescriptions for private sector driven market economy.[9]

Following the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989, FRELIMO renounced Marxism Leninism. A peace agreement ended the civil war in 1992 and a new multiparty constitution was passed, paving the way for the winner to take all elections. Large areas of the post-civil war countryside remained ‘sterilised’ by nearly a million landmines which had to be cleared.

Following the 1992 Peace Accord Mozambique was encouraged to implement a process of democratic decentralisation. This included passing the Municipal Law of 1997 to enable the election of local government in 33 urban municipalities. In the rural areas Decree 15/2000 gave legal recognition to 4,000 community authorities which “dramatically revoked more than 20 years of exclusion of ‘traditional authorities’ from public life”. [10]

While economic gains were made in the post-civil war period, these were not equitably distributed. Economic growth recorded between 2004 and 2014 was principally derived from ‘megaproject’ investment in the mining and energy sectors.[11] Following contested elections in 2014, armed conflict renewed in parts of the country between RENAMO and FRELIMO. This was only resolved in 2017 just as new conflicts emerged in Cabo Delgado in the north of the country, which has seen the emergence of new conflict actor Al Shabaab. 

FRELIMO has remained in power since independence and there are increasing concerns that an elite based system has been entrenched which is not delivering benefits to the majority of Mozambicans who remain in poverty. [12]Countrywide mounting disparities in wealth and power are drivers of conflict over land, minerals and natural resources. 

Land legislation and regulations

State land ownership remains the norm in Mozambique. This has been maintained through Constitutional revisions in 1990, 2004, and 2007. An FAO supported land policy process culminated in the adoption of a National Land Policy in 1995. This sought to promote social and economic justice in the countryside by recognising ‘the customary rights of access and management of the lands of rural resident populations’ and by imposing that investors consult with local communities to get their prior consent when intending to occupy rural lands under the traditional jurisdiction of such communities. [13]A national conference was convened to draft a National Land Law in 1996 which was subsequently adopted in 1997. 

The 1997 Land Law recognises all customary land as indigenous property. Photo by CIF Action CC-BY-NC-ND

The 1997 Land Law recognises all customary land as indigenous property. Photo by CIF Action CC-BY-NC-ND

The law entrenched community land rights and importantly, “the law does not divide the country into ‘community’ and non-community or ‘commercial’ areas”. [14]The law recognises all customary land as indigenous property. The law also enables flexibility in how communities are defined, specifying “groupings of families and individuals living within a circumscribed territory at the locality level, or lower with common interests, in safeguarding areas for housing, agriculture, whether in production or fallow, forests and places of cultural importance, pastures, water sources, hunting areas and allowing for areas for expansion”.[15]

The Land Law elaborates the workings of the DUAT-Direito de Uso e Aproveitamento da Terra. It provides a framework to protect rights to access and use communal land. A DUAT, or officially recognised land right can be acquired in three ways:

through longstanding historical occupation by individuals or local communities consistent with customary norms and practices;

occupation in ‘good faith’ – where an individual or household has enjoyed beneficial occupation of land which has gone unchallenged for a period of ten years; 

a formal application to the State for a new DUAT.[16]

The Act also provides for the participation of local communities in land administration and management decision-making including:

  • the management of natural resources;
  • the resolution of land related conflicts; 
  • the process of approving the issue of new DUATs; 
  • the identification and definition of the limits of the land which they occupy’.[17]

The Act provides the option to delimit the spatial extent of the land rights of a local community and register these boundaries in the cadastre. This is supposed to involve a highly participatory community land ‘delimitation’ process. While ‘community consultation’ is an integral part of the Land Law and associated regulations, the requirements of the actual process are reported to be “short on detail” with the result that “many consultations are in fact poorly carried out”.[18]

Where outside investors apply to access rural land, their DUAT applications must be accompanied by a statement by the District Administration confirming that community consultations have been satisfactorily conducted. The outcome of these consultations should either establish that the land is ‘free from occupation’ – an unlikely scenario – or it should specify that having been properly consulted “the local community will cede its rights for an agreed package of benefits. Without this, the process cannot go ahead or the resulting DUAT is null”.[19]

The 1998 Land Law Regulation regulates the acquisition and transfer of use rights, while the 2000 Technical Annex to the Land Law specifies the process for recording land rights of communities and those who have been occupying land for more than ten years.

In practice, as will be examined below, the law has been implemented unevenly and local land rights have become increasingly vulnerable to capture by political elites.[20]

A range of other legislation with implications for land governance has been passed:

Decree No.15/2000 reinstated traditional authorities, whose role and existence had been banned for 25 years. Drafters of the decree argued that traditional authority “represented a genuine African form of democracy that deserved to be recognized by the state and that could contribute to post-war democratization and nation-building ‘from below’”.[21]

In 2007, the passing of the Territorial Planning Law aimed also to give communities a role in determining the priorities of District Land Use Plans or PDUTS.[22] However as the imperative to attract foreign investment grew, the state and donors sought to rethink the centrality of communities in decision making processes around land. 

In 2010 the Millenium Challenge Corporation and DFID initiated a Land Tenure Services Project which, among other objectives aimed the expansion of land titling mostly in peri urban areas, aiming also to support the review of land policy and legislation to “improve the business environment. This involved the creation of the Land Policy Consultative Forum (Forum de Consulta sobre a Terra), through a Decree approved by Government of Mozambique (GOM) in October 2010.[23] This forum proposed significant revisions to Article 27 of the Land Law which sought to shift final decision making over resource and land allocation. These revisions gave “what is effectively a decisive role in the community consultation process to the members of the Local Consultative Councils (LCC) created under the 2003 Local Government Bodies Law”. This diluted the powers of localised community decision-making, redirecting this power upwards to the Consultative Councils. It has been argued the LCC “do not include the real leaders of the land rights holders”[24] and are vulnerable to capture by powerful interests.

In their bid to attract investment and large-scale development projects “some people in the Government and administrative hierarchy advocate measures to fast-track investment and bypass the kind of inclusive, devolved model that is at the heart of the 1997 Land Law… to facilitate the new projects, even at the expense of local rights”.[25]

In 2014, revisions to the Mining Law strengthened the principle of ‘the national interest’ above local community land rights, giving right of way to mining operations.[26] This prompted a flurry of investment applications involving large areas of land and resulting in mounting conflict with community land rights holders.

“While in legal theory land rights are relatively secure for communities and smallholders, the reality is that rights remain vulnerable and are easily captured by powerful elites close to the governing core of the country. This has resulted in increasing instances of conflict between smallholders and government or private sector agriculture, logging, and mining enterprises.”[27]

In 2017 the Consultative Forum proposed revisions to the Land Law arguably to enable DUATs to be transferred between third parties. According to USAID “a key issue is to limit government discretionary powers when reviewing existing and new project proposals and when DUATs are transferred between third parties”.[28]

In 2018 the government launched a national land inspection campaign. This covered approximately 7.8 million hectares with the aim of reclaiming underutilised agricultural land by either revoking the land right, or reducing the land area where applications for land exceeded 1,000 hectares.[29]

Land tenure classifications

While the ownership of all land in Mozambique vests in the state there are four different territorial categories[30]:

  • Lands under the public domain of the State;

  • Lands under the public domain of municipalities;

  • Lands under the community public domain;

  • Lands under the private domain of citizens and national and foreign entities.

The 2004 Mozambican Constitution states that land cannot be sold, mortgaged, or otherwise encumbered or alienated (art. 109.1 and 109.2).[31]

The 1997 Land Law enables:

  • The registration of long-standing customary rights of communities following a boundary delimitation process

  • Leasing of land by individuals and companies for productive purposes[32]

Investors can apply for inexpensive 50-year DUATs which are renewable. Approval of these DUATs is subject to approved development plans and environmental compliance.

Prior to 2007, registration of rural land rights had been focused on large-scale delimitation of community land “at the level of whole chieftaincies or regulos, areas frequently over 100,000 ha, comprising multiple village groups and dispersed settlements”. [33]

However, in 2007 the Mozambican government put in place new preconditions which needed to be met before communities could delimit land, or investors could apply to register rights. These preconditions included the development of zoning and land use plans and more stringent approvals for land registration in excess of 1000 and 10,000 ha which required approval by the Minister of Agriculture and the Council of Ministers respectively.[34] These measures “effectively prevented the registration of community rights”[35] as they lacked the resources to prepare development plans required by the government. Only 2.7% of the total land area has been delimited as community land, while no reliable data on land titles for good faith occupants and land issued to investors has been identified.[36]

In 2008 a nationally representative survey estimated that only about one percent of land plots in rural areas had DUAT titles, with a high proportion (about 36%) of these being provisional DUAT titles. Post 2010, the focus shifted to village level delimitation, usually of land parcels less than 10,000 ha in extent.

Land investments and acquisitions

Mozambique has a long history of contested land investments. Land deals accelerated in Africa following the global financial crisis in 2008, with large food and agribusiness corporations seeking new markets and sources of supply.[37] Estimates vary concerning the amount of land leased to commercial investors.

“Between 2005 and 2014, 63 investors were allocated over two million hectares of land for exploitation. Investors are coming into conflict more frequently with local communities, as authorities are increasingly pressured to authorise new DUATs in populated areas without surveying the area beforehand”. [38]

A 2015 study listed more than 30 agricultural investment projects involving more than 500 000 ha of land, and investors from Australia China, Estonia, Holland, India, Italy, Libya, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Portugal, UK, US, South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland. [39]

This has had significant impacts on the livelihoods and land rights of small producers. The international non-profit GRAIN has argued that:

“For these companies to grow, peasant agriculture has to be replaced with large scale industrial plantations, and local food systems have to be replaced by transnational corporate food chains, from the seeds to the supermarket shelves”. [40]

Small family farmers risk being displaced by land investors Photo by ILRI CC-BY-NC-ND

Small family farmer risk being displaced by land investors Photo by ILRI CC-BY-NC-ND

In addition, mega schemes such as the ProSavana and Lurio River Development Project have been promoted as part of “a broader push, involving the World Bank and the G8's New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, to open Mozambique up to large scale agribusiness projects”. [41]Such projects involving large scale foreign investment were identified in the Strategic Plan for the Nacala Corridor to harmonise planned investments in agriculture, mining and transportation.

Large scale industrial agriculture projects have the potential to displace thousands of local producers. The ProSavana project – a Brazilian and Japanese partnership which sought to involve Brazilian agribusiness to develop 14 million ha of soya plantation[42]- became the focus of a civil society campaign led by the Mozambique National Peasants Union (UNAC) and involving local and international groupings.

In 2016 details leaked from the Panama Papers database revealed plans for the $4.2 billion Lurio River Valley Development Project (LRVDP) spanning three provinces – Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula, following the signing of an MOU for land and water use in 2012.[43] Figures provided by local Mozambican civil society organisations indicated that around 100,000 people would be displaced by the project. [44]“A company document from November 2015, indicates that… the project had applied for land use permits (DUATs) covering 347,528 ha in Nampula, 107,117 ha in Cabo Delgado and 152,591 ha in Niassa – rendering it the largest agricultural development project in Africa”. [45]

Concerns have also been raised that “most investment has the direct involvement of government people and important figures of the FRELIMO party. We have individuals that are simultaneously politicians, businessmen and government officials.” [46]

Overall reliable data is hard to obtain, as many land related investments lack transparency concerning the identity of investors and their local partners.

With respect to minerals there has been significant entrance of foreign capital, often in collaboration with powerful local actors to exploit the discovery of rubies, graphite and gas in Cabo Delgado. Researchers have analysed alliances between leading figures in FRELIMO and transnational companies, which highlights how official procedures have been distorted for elite profit. “In the case of the ruby mines, the exploitation licences were obtained without informing the population directly affected, and without following the legally required procedures properly”.[47]

A consortium of corporations has invested billions of dollars in the Rovuma gas fields near the border with Tanzania. These initiatives have contributed to Cabo Delgado gaining an international reputation as a new centre of conflict. Some analysts attribute the root causes of the insurgency in the northern border area to the internal displacement and resettlement of the local populations due to mining, along with loss of livelihoods from fishing and agriculture.[48] In the shadow of large-scale investment and elite capture of benefits a “large and dynamic illicit economy”[49] has developed. 

“Political figures, the ruling party and their elite criminal associates have openly benefited from both the licit and illicit extraction of natural resources, while the local community has often been punished for their involvement in informal illicit economies and denied the benefits of formal investment and economic growth. Into this crucible of resentment, extremists have stepped, offering opportunities for study and capital, and mobilizing their recruits to challenge violently the existing power relations”.[50]

These factors coupled with high youth unemployment has created a groundswell of discontent resulting in conditions favourable for violent conflict exploited locally by a group known as Al Shabaab.  

Land use trends

Mozambique is a country which is highly vulnerable to climate change. It is ranked as the 35th most vulnerable and the 24th least ready country to address climate change effects. High levels of poverty and periodic food insecurity exacerbate climate change vulnerability. [51] It has experienced major floods in 2013 and recently devastation resulted from Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which hit the central and northen parts of the country respectively.

Dennis Onyodi Climate Centre Cyclone Idai CC-BY-SA 2.0.jpg

Mozambique is highly vulnerable to climate change. Photo by Dennis Onyodi Climate Centre CC-BY-SA 2.0

Protected areas comprise 17% of land in Mozambique.[52] The Mozambican government has been encouraging private sector investment in the conservation sector. However, significant tensions remain between the livelihood needs of local communities and the conservation agenda. Real estate companies are investing in the acquisition of land for conservation and high-end tourism purposes, which has involved resettlement of communities living in areas designated for private conservation initiatives. 

In several cases where reserves have been established disputes have developed with local communities. The establishment of the Karingani reserve has seen a 20-year dispute over rights to the land, with local communities alleging they were misled into handing over part of their land to government officials who allocated the DUAT to a real estate company. Reportedly, promises of jobs have not been fulfilled.[53]

Mozambique has prioritised the expansion of irrigation. Currently irrigation occurs primarily in the area along the Zambezi River that is irrigated by the Cahora Bassa Dam and in the former settler areas in the south, particularly along the Limpopo River, where irrigation schemes were developed in the 1950s and ’60s.[54] Mozambique has significant potential for irrigation — some 3.1 million ha are irrigable—but less than 120,000 ha are currently irrigated. Salinisation of soils as a consequence of irrigation is reported to be a major problem. This high value land is frequently the focus of investment initiatives which may dispossess local land users who lack the resources to harness irrigation potential.

Mozambique is one of Africa’s most prominent exporters of timber. However, between 2007- 2013 an estimated USD 145 million worth of government tax revenue was lost due to illegal harvesting. [55]

Illegal logging robs Mozambique of tax revenue. Photo by Wikipedia CC-BY-SA 2.0

Illegal logging robs Mozambique of tax revenue. Photo by Wikipedia CC-BY-SA 2.0

Much of this timber was harvested from forests in the conflicted northern provinces, including Cabo Delgado.[56] A 2013 analysis examined timber exports to China, estimating that up to 48% of this timber had been illegally harvested exceeding licensed timber extraction by 154,030 cubic metres.[57]

The 1999 Forest and Wildlife law recognises three forest types:

conservation forests, which are within protection zones and subject to special management regimes; 

productive forests, located outside protection zones; and 

multiple-use forests with low forestry potential.

The Act provides for the issuing of two types of licences for legal timber production – licenses for forest concessions and simple licences. [58]The communities and rights referred to in the forestry context use the same delimitations as under the Land Law Regulations. However this two-tier system is reported to have loopholes. As a result, “most commercial operators work outside the formal law to avoid the concession requirements and establish relationships with poor rural residents to illegally extract unprocessed timber directly for export.”[59]

Women’s land rights

One of the founding principles of the 1995 Land Policy was to guarantee the right of women to access and use land. [60] The 2004 Family Law creates equal rights for men and women, allowing them to jointly make decisions relating to the devolution and inheritance of property. Likewise, the Land Law also recognises women’s individual rights in land and empowers them to participate in decision-making related to land administration. 

ILRI Milange CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Women's land rights are protected in law but remain vulnerable in practice. Photo by ILRI , CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

However, there remains significant gender inequality in the country, both in urban and rural areas with regard to access to land and natural resources. 

Access to land is also mediated through descent systems. Social groupings to the north of the Zambesi have adopted matrilineal descent systems while those to the south that order themselves along patrilineal lines. [61]“In matrilineal groups, authority rests in the senior male of the extended family traced through the female line, whereas in patrilineal groups the senior male is identified through the male line”. This means that in both matrilinear and patrilinear social systems, decision-making powers rest on men. Therefore, in cases where land rights are disputed, customary practices often continue to discriminate against women.[62]

Despite the persistence of inequality, and as a result of awareness raising work done mostly by CSOs, there are some indications that customary law and practice is adapting and increasingly enabling women to access land independently of men. In villages and towns where people have been resettled land is often allocated on the basis of need, irrespective of gender. 

Urban tenure issues

Mozambique has been rapidly urbanising. The majority of the urban population live in informal settlements in the urban centres. In 2004 a study identified different ways in which urban land could be accessed. This found that 6% of plots were allocated through direct occupation, 13% of plots were allocated by the state, 19% were allocated through customary systems while 62% were obtained through the market. [63]This distinguished two market types depending on whether the property acquired was subject to registration or not. The urban land market involves complex transactions which frequently blend informal and formal elements.  

“Although a DUAT cannot legally be sold, land users can sell improvements on the land as private property. This provides a loophole for a de facto land market through the sale of very basic improvements for large amounts of money”.[64]

Estimates vary widely concerning the extent to which DUATs have been issued, particularly in the informal urban periphery. There have been attempts to regularise urban land occupation including a massive regularization process of DUATs started in Maputo along with the development of urbanization plans in different peri-urban neighbourhoods. [65]

In 2012, under the Millennium Challenge Corporation Land Tenure Regularization Program some 200,000 parcels were registered and regularized, mostly in urban areas, and inserted into the LIMS land cadastre. These registrations cost around 20 USD/parcel.[66]

Community land rights

Community land rights can be at risk where there are valuable natural resources which are the focus of land-based investments. These investments range from agricultural land with irrigation potential which can become the focus of land deals; forest resources with timber export potential and mineral resources. Conservation land is also often the focus of competing interests. Artisanal miners currently lack state protection and frequently clash with state officials and mining companies which have been granted large scale prospecting and mining licenses. 

Overall shifts in law and regulation which have made formal spatial delimitation of land rights more expensive and onerous, disadvantages rural communities who often lack the means to follow the required procedures. This increases the vulnerability of community land rights where land is targeted by investors. There are often gaps between the protections provided by the law and daily practice as relevant procedures are often inadequately implemented which can undermine community land rights.[67]

Where to go next

There is a wealth of high-quality research on Mozambique. Joseph Hanlon and Christopher Tanner have been writing about Mozambique for many years. Simon Norfolk is a researcher and practitioner who has collaborated with other researchers with a focus on land, tenure and natural resource rights in Mozambique. The work of Helene Kyed provides valuable insights into the role of traditional authorities and customary law in Mozambique. Alda Salomão has written extensively on land based investments in Mozambique. GRAIN, a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements, has worked with Mozambican actors to analyse land grabbing.  The Environmental Investigative Agency has analysed illegal logging in Mozambique while the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime has analysed the factors driving the latest generation of resource related conflicts in Cabo Delgado. 

Centro Terra Viva (CTV) and Observatorio do Meio Rural (OMR), are both national non-governmental organizations that have been monitoring social and environmental large-scale land-based investments and rural economy dynamics, respectively. They have also published extensively on this and other related topics. Consult the reference list below and the Land Portal library which has numerous full text resources on Mozambique.

Mozambique timeline

3rd century BCE - Migration of Bantu speaking people from west central Africa

1530   - Portuguese take control of Sofala lease land to companies under the Prazos system

18 and 19th century - Slave trade

1899  -Forced labour system known as shibalo 

1932-Portuguese break up trading companies occupying land under concessions and assumes direct rule in Mozambique

1950 – 1960 - Large influx of Portuguese settlers to Mozambique

1964-FRELIMO takes up armed struggle to win independence

1975-Mozambique obtains independence, adopts Marxism Leninism and a programme of ‘authoritarian modernism’

1976-Start of civil war

1992-Civil war ends

1995-Adoption of land policy

1997-Passing of the Land Law which lays out the DUAT system and provides rules for the protection and utilisation of communal land

1999-Forest and Wildlife law

2007-Territorial Planning Act

2011-Discovery of natural gas in Cabo Delgado

2014-New mining law reinforces the overruling of local land rights in favour of a national interest approach

2014-Renewed low level conflict between RENAMO and FRELIMO forces

2015-Launching of Terra Segura programme to register land rights

2017-Peace deal between the Government (FRELIMO) and RENAMO – and starting of terrorism attacks in Cabo Delgado

2019 -Cyclone Idai in the centre and cyclone Kenneth in the northern parts of the country

*** References

[1] USAID (2018). Climate risk profile: Mozambique.

[2] World Bank. (2018). "Forests of Mozambique: A Snapshot."  Retrieved 22 October, 2021, from

[3] Penvenne, J. M. and K. E. Sheldon (2021). http://The Night Trains: Moving  Mozambican miners to and from South Africa circa 1902 – 1955Mozambique. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[4] BBC News. (2019). "Mozambique profile - Timeline." from

[5] Clarence-Smith, W. (1973). South Africa and Mozambique-1960-1970. Collected Seminar Papers. Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

[6] van Onselen, C. (2019). The Night Trains: Moving  Mozambican miners to and from South Africa circa 1902 – 1955. Cape Town, Jonathan Ball publishers.

[7] Cahen, M. (2011). The Enemy as Model. Patronage as a Crisis Factor in Constructing Opposition in Mozambique. OXPO Working Papers: 1-14.

[8] Kyed, H. M. and L. Buur (2006). "New sites of citizenship: recognition of traditional authority and group-based citizenship in Mozambique." Journal of Southern African Studies 32(3): 563-581. P.569

[9] Horton, B. (2010). Poverty Reduction Support Credits: Mozambique Country Study. Working paper. Washington DC, World Bank Open Knowledge Repository.

[10] Kyed, H. M. and L. Buur (2006). "New sites of citizenship: recognition of traditional authority and group-based citizenship in Mozambique." Journal of Southern African Studies 32(3): 563-581.

[11] Cabral, L. and S. Norfolk (2016). Inclusive land governance in Mozambique: Good law, bad politics? IDS Working Paper Institute for Development Studies. Volume 2016.

[12] Ibid.; Salomao, A.(2020). Land-based Investments in Mozambique: Challenges in Community rights Protection, Participation and Benefit Sharing. EBURON. The Netherlands

[13] Tanner, C. (2011). Mozambique. Decentralised Land Governance: Case Studies and Local Voices from Botswana, Madagascar and Mozambique. R. Pointer. Cape Town, Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Article 1, Law No. 19/97 1 October 1997 (Land Law)

[16] Tanner, C. (2011). Mozambique. Decentralised Land Governance: Case Studies and Local Voices from Botswana, Madagascar and Mozambique. R. Pointer. Cape Town, Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Salomao, A.(2020). Land-based Investments in Mozambique: Challenges in Community rights Protection, Participation and Benefit Sharing. EBURON. The Netherlands

[19] Tanner, C. (2011). Mozambique. Decentralised Land Governance: Case Studies and Local Voices from Botswana, Madagascar and Mozambique. R. Pointer. Cape Town, Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape.

[20] Ibid.; LandLinks. (2018). "Mozambique."   Retrieved 18 October, 2021, from

 [21] Kyed, H. M. (2007). "State recognition of traditional authority." Unpublished dissertation, Roskilde University.

[22] Tanner, C. (2011). Mozambique. Decentralised Land Governance: Case Studies and Local Voices from Botswana, Madagascar and Mozambique. R. Pointer. Cape Town, Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape.

[23]LandLinks. (2018). "Mozambique."   Retrieved 18 October, 2021, from

[24]Tanner, C. (2011). Mozambique. Decentralised Land Governance: Case Studies and Local Voices from Botswana, Madagascar and Mozambique. R. Pointer. Cape Town, Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape.

[25] Ibid.

[26] USAID (2018). Mozambique: USAID Country Profile Property Rights and Resource Governance, United States Agency for International Development.

[27] Salomao, A.(2020). Land-based Investments in Mozambique: Challenges in Community rights Protection, Participation and Benefit Sharing. EBURON. The Netherlands Ibid.

[28] Ibid.P.4

[29] Tunzine, A. M. S. (2021). "Land titling in Mozambique: Improved tenure security for communities?" ASC-TUFS Working Papers(1): 301-318.

[30] Salomao, A.(2020). Land-based Investments in Mozambique: Challenges in Community rights Protection, Participation and Benefit Sharing. EBURON. The Netherlands

[31] LANDAC. (2012). "Mozambique food security and land governance factsheet."   Retrieved 20 October, 2021, from

[32] Quan, J., J. Monteiro and P. Mole (2013). The experience of Mozambique's community land initiative (ITC) in securing land rights and improving community land use: Practice, policy and governance implications. Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty. Washington DC, World Bank.

[33] Ibid. P.5

[34] Ibid. P.6

[35] Ibid. P.6

[36] Cabral, L. and S. Norfolk (2016). Inclusive land governance in Mozambique: Good law, bad politics? IDS Working Paper Institute for Development Studies. Volume 2016.

[37] Hall, R. and G. Paradza (2015). Pressures on land in sub saharan Africa. European Report on Development Cape Town, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies.

[38] Holter, H. (2020). Wanza Farms Community Impact Paper, ThirdWay Africa Rural Development Corporation.

[39] Ibid.

[40] UNAC and GRAIN. (2015). "The land grabbers of the Nacala Corridor."   Retrieved 20 October, 2021, from

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Sharife, K. and L. Nhachote. (2016). "Elusive beneficiaries of Mozambique’s $4.2bn agricultural deal uncovered." #PanamaPapers: How The Elite Hide Their Wealth  Retrieved 22 October, 2021, from

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.; Salomao, A.(2020). Land-based Investments in Mozambique: Challenges in Community rights Protection, Participation and Benefit Sharing. EBURON. The Netherlands

[47] Alberdi, J. and M. Barroso (2020). "Broadening the Analysis of Peace in Mozambique: Exploring Emerging Violence in Times of Transnational Extractivism in Cabo Delgado." Global Society: 1-18.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Haysom, S. (2018). Where crime compounds conflict: Understanding northern Mozambique's vulnerabilities. Geneva Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime.

[50] Ibid.

[51] The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2018). Mozambique Climate change profile.

[52] WCS Mozambique. (2021). "In the news."   Retrieved 28 October, 2021, from

[53] Salomao, A.(2020). Land-based Investments in Mozambique: Challenges in Community Rights Protection, Participation and Benefit Sharing. EBURON. The Netherlands; Architect Africa. (2021). "Private investors look to high-end tourism to fund conservation in Mozambique." Retrieved 28 October, 2021, from

[54] Penvenne, J. M. and K. E. Sheldon (2021). Mozambique. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[55] FAO. (2021). "Promoting legality in the Mozambican forest sector: protection for natural resources and benefits for local communities."   Retrieved 23 October, 2021, from

[56] Wadekar, N. and E. Ram. (2021). "The Fight For Cabo Delgado: A Hidden War Over Mozambique’s Natural Resources."   Retrieved 25 October, 2021, from

[57] Environmental Investigation Agency (2013). First-class connections: log smuggling, illegal logging and corruption in Mozambique. London.

[58] Ibid.

[59] LandLinks. (2018). "Mozambique."   Retrieved 18 October, 2021, from

[60] Bicchieri, M. and A. Ayala (2017). Legal pluralism, women’s land rights and gender equality in Mozambique: Harmonising statutory and customary law. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organisation.

[61] Penvenne, J. M. and K. E. Sheldon (2021). Mozambique. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[62] Bicchieri, M. and A. Ayala (2017). Legal pluralism, women’s land rights and gender equality in Mozambique: Harmonising statutory and customary law. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organisation.

[63] Negrão, J. (2004). Urban Land Market in Mozambique. Mozambique, UN-Habitat, University Eduardo Mondlane - Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry Engineering, Ministry for Co-ordination of Environmental Affairs.

[64] USAID (2018). Mozambique: USAID Country Profile Property Rights and Resource Governance, United States Agency for International Development.P.8

[65] Cities Alliance (2017). Urbanization in Mozambique: Assessing Actors, Processes, and Impacts of Urban Growth Research monograph.

[66] Balas, M., J. Carrilho, J. Murta, M. R. Marques, S. P. Joaquim, C. Lemmen and L. Matlava (2017). Mozambique Participatory Fit For Purpose Massive Land Registration. Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty.

[67] Nhantumbo, I. and A. Salomão (2010). Biofuels, land access and rural livelihoods in Mozambique, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

[68] Bicchieri, M. and A. Ayala (2017). Legal pluralism, women’s land rights and gender equality in Mozambique: Harmonising statutory and customary law. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organisation.

[69] FAO. (n.d). "Governance of tenure: Chinese investments in agricultural land in Africa." Retrieved 28 October, 2021, from

Disclaimer: The data displayed on the Land Portal is provided by third parties indicated as the data source or as the data provider. The Land Portal team is constantly working to ensure the highest possible standard of data quality and accuracy, yet the data is by its nature approximate and will contain some inaccuracies. The data may contain errors introduced by the data provider(s) and/or by the Land Portal team. In addition, this page allows you to compare data from different sources, but not all indicators are necessarily statistically comparable. The Land Portal Foundation (A) expressly disclaims the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any data and (B) shall not be liable for any errors, omissions or other defects in, delays or interruptions in such data, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Neither the Land Portal Foundation nor any of its data providers will be liable for any damages relating to your use of the data provided herein.

Compartilhe esta página