In April 2006, six international donor agencies established a program to help Mozambique’s government register community land rights and improve tenure security for rural residents. Under Mozambique’s constitution, the state owned all land. A 1997 law, adopted after a 15-year civil war, sought to recognize rural communities’ customary tenure rights while encouraging commercial investment through the issuance of 50-year leaseholds. But many communities failed to register their holdings with the central government, leaving their rights vulnerable to powerful state and corporate interests. To address the problem, the donor group established the Community Land Initiative (iniciativa para Terras Comunitárias, or iTC), a program to register community parcels in the government cadastre and empower communities to negotiate with potential investors. The iTC coordinated with national and local governments as well as nongovernmental organizations to map the borders of community lands. The program informed community members about their land rights and how to use and protect them. It also established natural resource committees, which enabled communities to receive shares of the natural resource taxes paid by commercial investors working on communal lands. The iTC further created producer associations to support budding commercial farmers, resolved boundary disputes, and worked with provincial cadastral offices to issue certificates that specified property boundaries. By mid 2016, the program had registered 655 communities in the government cadastre—nearly four times the estimated 171 community registrations carried out before the iTC was established. The registrations covered 6.9 million hectares and 10% of the country’s rural population.
Leon Schreiber drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Maputo and Xai-Xai, Mozambique, in November 2016. The British Academy-Department for International Development Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) Program funded the development of this case study. Case published February 2017.