Mozambique’s revised land law of 1997 has been lauded for its approach to recognizing customary and community land rights, while also aiming to facilitate growing private investment and development in the country. The law establishes “the right of land use and benefit”, commonly known as a DUAT right, which may be obtained through customary occupancy or certified through a DUAT title document. Although the state retains ownership of land throughout Mozambique, DUAT titles can be sold or transferred between individuals to allow for investment, clarification of tenure, and inheritance.
In practice, however, many rural smallholder farmers are unfamiliar with the land laws and regulations for securing their land tenure rights, and the majority of smallholders operate under undocumented customary arrangements. The institutional capacity of local authorities to address DUAT title applications and conduct the associated land survey is often limited, with varied understanding of how to interpret, enforce, and facilitate implementation of land regulations. This situation, along with institutional financial constraints, can also leave individuals in local communities, including women and other vulnerable populations, at particular risk for outright land expropriation and rent-seeking behavior by officials within the titling bureaucracy, or otherwise introduce barriers for community members to effectively assert their land claims and obtain a DUAT title. Despite the country’s laudable efforts to recognize customary land rights, government, foreign, and elite expropriation of land under customary use is a growing concern.