For the past decade, Mozambique has experienced wide-reaching legal reforms and unprecedented economic growth. Despite these gains, the country remains dependent on natural resource use and extraction, limiting its capacity to reduce poverty. Over half of the population is poor and more than 70 percent live in rural areas while relying on subsistence agriculture.
At the end of the civil war in 1992, the government of Mozambique created a legal framework to protect land rights and encourage rural investment. The resulting Land Law is considered one of the world’s most progressive. While the State owns all land, the law grants communities perpetual use rights to land. This right is known as a DUAT (based on its Portuguese acronym). The law also enables investors to acquire 50-year renewable rights. If the land they wish to invest in is held under a DUAT, the investors must first conduct community consultations, and receive government approval for land exploitation plans.
Investor-community negotiations can lead to mutually beneficial arrangements for land use and development, but implementation of the law has been uneven. Many rural residents are unaware of their rights, or lack financial and technical support to assert those rights. Local governments lack the capacity they need to implement the law. Both local officials and investors sometimes fail to recognize the extent of community claims.