Lessons on Gender, Youth, and Social Inclusion in Zambézia Province, Mozambique


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Integrated Land and Resource Governance (ILRG) program is working to improve land tenure security for women and youth as part of broad-based economic empowerment. In early 2020, the ILRG team in Mozambique carried out an assessment of gender, youth, and social inclusion in Zambézia Province to better understand gender and youth relationships regarding land in a matrilineal context and how they influence decision-making related to land access and use within families and in community land associations. The lessons help clarify how activities to secure tenure in a matrilineal context interact with women’s and men’s land use and tenure and how land delimitation and titling have affected land rights in the area. The information will be used to guide ILRG’s activities and to support the development of communications and training materials. This learning note summarizes the key findings and recommendations from the assessment.

The assessment involved interviews combined with analysis of data from the two communities of Mucoe and Monegue in Ile District, Zambézia Province, Mozambique. These two communities were selected in order to offer insight into different contexts, challenges, and opportunities related to land issues and gender relationships. Both communities are directly affected by or adjacent to huge concessions granted to Portucel, an international company investing in the production of timber for paper pulp and energy. Mucoe is situated only 20 km from the district town of Errego and has a female community leader. Delimitation of Mucoe community and of family land within the community was supported by the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND) program in 2018 – 2019. Monegue is much farther from Errego and has only male community leaders. Land delimitation in Monegue was funded by USAID’s ILRG program3 in 2019. The community of Monegue is also interesting because residents agreed to participate in a project co-funded by Portucel and the World Bank to build a small-scale earthen dam and micro-irrigation scheme for use by smallholder farmers.

The assessment involved interviews with 71 women, men, and youth in the two communities, as well as eight interviews with the district government and other local stakeholders. The report compares information from the qualitative interviews with quantitative data from all 25 communities and 13,000 family land parcels that were involved in the LEGEND and ILRG projects.


Mozambique’s land policy context was established in the 1990 Constitution and built upon in the National Land Policy of 19954 and the Land Law of 1997.5 These note that land belongs to the state and cannot be sold, alienated, or mortgaged, but that Mozambican nationals can acquire land rights through inheritance, via peaceful occupation, and through application to the state. Foreign entities can acquire rights to implement land-based projects; the state is obliged to consult all interested parties, including local communities, in the process of land rights allocations. The law allows for the confirmation of rights acquired by local communities and individuals. The use rights, known by the Portuguese acronym DUAT (Direito de Uso e Aproveitamento da Terra), can be held individually or jointly.

In practice, the most important day-to-day land administration activities in rural areas are undertaken by communities and traditional leaders. Most rural residents acquire their land rights through occupation based on customary norms and practices (such as allocation of land by the local leaders) or by good faith occupation for at least 10 years. Traditional leaders are vital both to the initial allocation of land to families and in the resolution of conflicts or disputes over land. The traditional leaders are usually older men, with some few exceptions as in the case of Mucoe. These customary channels for acquiring DUAT rights are recognized and protected by the Land Law, regardless of whether they are registered with government. The law also states that rights based on occupation can be legally proven through oral evidence provided by community members.