Mozambique has a total land area of 786,380 square kilometers, comprising three geographic areas: a plateau and highland region running from the northern border to the Zambezi River (27% of total land); a middle plateau region that extends south of the Zambezi River to the Save River (29%); and a low-lying coastal belt running south from the Save River to the southern border (44%) [1].

Agricultural land makes up 63.5% of Mozambique’s total land area, and agriculture remains the main economic activity for most of the rural population. An estimated 90% of producers are smallholders cultivating rain-fed land while the remaining 10% of producers are commercial farmers producing crops for the national market and export [1].

Landholdings in Mozambique tend to be either smallholdings or very large concessions on the scale of hundreds or thousands of hectares [1]. Two are the prevalent categories of land in Mozambique: (i) public lands  and (ii) community lands [1].

Land degradation in Mozambique is an important issue for the country; in fact, an assessment by the European Space Agency (ESA) found that around 42% of the land in Mozambique are degraded and around 19% of the land is now experiencing active degradation (Paganini et al., 2009). A recent report on deforestation in Mozambique estimated that more than 250,000 ha of natural forest were disappearing every year due to human activities (GoM, 2018). This active land degradation can jeopardize the country’s agricultural productivity and economic development in the future, and call for actionable information and anticipation [2].


More than two thirds of the land productivity decrease is directly related to human activities such as deforestation, forest degradation, loss of productivity in grassland, etc. [1].

Climatic variability is a dominant factor of the decreases in the southern provinces (Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane) and deforestation is the dominant factor in the Zambézia province. Increases in land productivity are mainly localized in the north of the country (Niassa and Cabo delgado) and is observed in forest or grassland [3].


Key policies and governance approach

The 2004 Constitution of Mozambique (amended in 2007), in its article 109, provides that the ownership of all lands and natural resources vests in the state, and that all Mozambicans shall have the right to use and enjoy land as a means for the creation of wealth and social wellbeing [1].

Several other laws and policies have been developed in the country to try to legislate land issues.

Of major importance is the 1997 Land Law, drafted with the objective of supporting and protecting the land rights of communities, women and smallholder farmers while also encouraging investment. It also reasserts the state’s ownership of land and provides that individuals, communities and entities can obtain long-term or perpetual rights to land [1].

The Rural Land Law of 1998 also provides rules for the acquisition and transfer of use-rights and the 2006 Urban Land Regulations apply to existing areas of towns and villages and to areas subject to an urbanization plan, governing the preparation of land use plans, access to urban land, rights and obligations of owners of buildings and DUAT holders, and transfer and registration of rights (GOM Urban Land Regulations 2006) [1].

In 2003 the Decree No. 1/2003 also established new provisions for the National Land Registry and Real Estate Cadastre, and procedures for the registration of inherited land use rights and secure rights to customary rights-of-way (GOM Decree No.1/2003)[1].

The former National Directorate of Land and Forests of the Ministry of Agriculture was integrated into the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development (MITADER). Responsibilities for land management and administration within MITADER fall under the National Directorate for Land (DINAT) and the National Directorate for Territorial Planning and Resettlement (DINOTER) [1].


Successes and remaining challenges  

In general, Mozambique’s land administration bodies lack capacity to perform their statutory functions [1]. At all levels, the formal court system suffers from a lack of skilled administrative personnel, lack of qualified judges, and inadequate facilities and equipment. This is also exacerbated by the lack of necessary financial support to ensure staffing and skills[1].

Moreover, local participation is extremely difficult due to the lack of communities’ knowledge regarding their land rights and investors’ obligations, low participation in decision-making among community members, including women and marginalized groups, and lack of capacity among local government officials charged with managing the process[1].


Initiatives and Development Plans

Several large donor-backed projects have targeted the land-rights issue in Mozambique, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) Land Tenure Services Project and the DFID-led multi-donor Community Land Initiative.

The Land Tenure Services Project supported policy and legislative review through a new Land Policy Consultative Forum established by Government of Mozambique (GOM) decree in October 2010 [1] as well as  helped delivered nearly 10,000 rural land use certificates (DUATs), following the mapping of over 8 million rural hectares. The Government of Mozambique has also committed to formalize 5 million household DUAT rights with the World Bank funding 2 million DUATs starting in 2020. Moreover,  with the help of the project, nearly 150,000 urban DUATs were processed and distributed, including completion of a full cadaster in Monapo; and a national land information management system was established in four northern provinces and eight targeted municipalities which the Government, with support from the Netherlands, expanded to all provinces in Mozambique after the end of the compact [2].

Moreover, between May 2017 and December 2019, the World Bank worked on the Land Use Planning for Enhanced Resilience of Landscapes (LAUREL) program. It supported landscape management in Mozambique through improved spatial data on land degradation and through the development of a modeling platform that can analyze and quantify the economic and ecological implications of future land use [4].


Goals and Ambitions

According to its Five-Year Development Plan, Mozambique should [5]:

  • Develop the national land registry;
  • Regularize land occupation in good faith;
  • Delimit and certify community lands;
  • Reinforce land use management capacity, with priority given to the inspection and control of the Land Use and Benefit Right (DUAT);


  • increase the government’s implementation capacity and enable an integrated approach that develops and provides accessible services for communities and allows them to fully realize the potential of their land.