As land tenure has been a continuous contested issue in Mozambique throughout history, protected land rights are now on top of today’s priorities in Mozambique’s concerns.
The General Peace Agreement in Mozambique, signed in October 1992 ended 17 years of civil war and 25 years of armed conflict in the country (Tanner, 2002; Van den Brink, 2008), but once again competition for land quickly became a major issue. Millions of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned back home after the agreement was signed. Investors were encouraged mainly by the State to bring abandoned land into production again. Nevertheless, returning refugees or IDPs were likewise claiming their rights to the land, reviving land conflict in the country.
This conflict only grew when colonial–era landowners returned to their abandoned farms and properties, as the country, once more, seemed appealing to them. Most of the colonial land owners had documentation supporting their claim, nonetheless they came back to find them occupied by all the IDPs. This situation paved the way for an amended Constitution and a new National Land Policy.
Under Article 109 of the Constitution (Government of Mozambique, 2007), ownership of all land in Mozambique is vested with the State, but use rights are granted to Mozambican citizens. The National Land Policy (Government of Mozambique, 1995) aims to protect Mozambican people’s land rights while promoting investment and ensuring sustainable and equitable use of natural resources for all.
One of the main aspects of this program is governing land laws and forest use that recognise customary rights held by communities and their members. This is not only important for the sake of the environment but for political stability and democracy which, since 1992, have been slowly deteriorating.
The importance of proper land management and protection in Mozambique is emphasised by the fact that agriculture accounts for around 25 percent of the country’s GDP (2016 estimate, USAID) and half of Mozambique’s land is forested.