JANUARY, 2011. Nearly a decade ago, the Canhane Community in Mozambique decided to“delimit” their land -- identify the boundaries of community land and record that information. The Mozambique government established the process of delimitation to help communities gain secure their land rights, and benefit economically from their resources.
During the process, the Canhane Community learned about the area’s tourism potential. They constructed a community-owned lodge, and later attracted investors to renovate the site and facilitate marketing. The community’s secure rights provided the foundation for these activities, which should bring them significant revenue.
Under Mozambican law, communities have perpetual land use and benefit rights (called DUATs, for the Portuguese acronym), based on customary land use systems. Communities do not have to delimit or record their land to assert their rights; however, doing so may improve their tenure security. This is because local officials, private investors, and even the community itself may not know the extent of the community’s land prior to delimitation.
An NGO with a trained technical team typically facilitates the delimitation process, which involves social investigation and rural appraisal to prove the existence of a DUAT and delimit its extent for a specific community. The ten-step participatory process includes community sensitization as to their land rights and the benefits of delimitation, election of a community land committee, assessment and mapping by the community and technical team, confirmation of borders with neighboring communities, and registration of the delimitation with the public land agency, which officially records the community’s borders.
Though delimitation can empower local people to use and benefit from land, significant challenges remain for implementation, including a lack of resources within the public land administration and the view of some officials that secure community land rights are a barrier to development. In 2007, the government passed an amendment that requires communities to submit land use and development plans as part of delimitation. Since then, delimitations have stalled nationwide. In the meantime, investor demand for land is rising, and those with land that has not been delimited are left vulnerable to losing their land.