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Formalising land rights based on customary tenure: community delimitation and women's access to land in central Mozambique*

  • Randi Kaarhus (a1) and Stefaan Dondeyne (a2)


The Mozambican Land Law of 1997 intends to provide flexible rules of access to land, while securing local people's customary rights, as well as equal rights for women and men. Drawing on participant observation during a ‘land delimitation’ process in central Mozambique, this article analyses the complex negotiation ensuing from the implementation of the Land Law in a local community. It shows how the delimitation process provided spaces for asserting – male – roles of power and authority, while local women were increasingly marginalised in the process. By presenting oral testimonies from women in the community, the authors seek to balance the account, providing women's perspectives on the highly gendered character of interests in, access to, and exclusion from land. The analysis ends with the question: What would be required to provide a space for local women to articulate their interests in a secure access to land during the delimitation process itself?


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A research grant from the Research Council of Norway (NFR) through the programme ‘Poverty and Peace’ provided funding for part of the fieldwork carried out in Mozambique. The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier version of this article. Furthermore, we must express our gratitude to Milagre Nuvunga, James Bannerman, Sr Malunguisse, Sr Selcio, Sr Lidio and Sr Washington for their support and cooperation, and acknowledge the value of experiences shared by local staff at the ORAM, iTC, MICAIA, Pambere and Kwaedza Simukai offices in Manica province. In particular, Benilde Nhabomba, Tina Krüger and Zacarias Jemusa Gumbo are thanked for their assistance in interviewing 21 women in the community. Special thanks to James Bannerman for commenting on and revising the final text.



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