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FAO in Mozambique

Helping communities secure land tenure

(2015) The community of Mahatlane in the Southern Province of Gaza, Mozambique, is one of ten communities that have been demarcated within the project "Increasing resilience, food security and livelihoods in the Limpopo River Basin" from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in partnership with the Government of Mozambique. "Now that we know the territory of each community, we have trained several guards to supervise what is happening in the respective forests", Manuel Namburete, the local Director of the District Services of Economic Activities (SDAE), a partner of FAO in the project, says.

The project, which ended in late 2014, aimed to strengthen the resilience of the covered communities and their adaptation to climate change, as well as to enhance local capacity to manage natural resources. For this, the geographic coordinates of the communities have been collected, the certification and DUAT processes submitted and Natural Resources Management Committees created, legalized and trained, with gender equity being taken into account.

Dalila Lucas Chaúque is the Vice-president of the Management Committee of Chicualacuala B, a neighbouring community of Mahatlane. She has been elected by the community "either because they liked me or my thoughts", she says. And she takes this responsibility seriously. "Even when the authorities from Chicualacuala come by", the woman farmer speaks "on behalf of the community, advocating the common interest". Now, she continues, each one cares for what is theirs. "For us, who are here in the bush, it’s good. FAO has done good things for us."

Dalila is 36 and a mother of six, the youngest of her children now three months old. Since the birth of her last baby she has stayed at home, but normally she starts her day tending crops. The plot of land – where cowpeas, millet, sorghum, maize and peanuts are grown – is a long walk away. At a brisk pace, she gets there in just under one hour, usually leaving at 4am – before sunrise – so as to work before the day gets too hot.

She raises two pigs and four piglets, over twenty goats and ten chickens. Her plot is big, and is shared with her cousin and wife as well as her nephew and spouse. On the other side of a path her sister-in-law resides with her family. "Before [this project], we didn’t even know where our community starts and ends", she says. "Even for our children it is good to know what belongs to them." Like all her neighbours and the other inhabitants of Chicualacuala B, Mahatlane and the other villages now delimited, Dalila knows that "nobody can come and settle" in the land that is hers. Dickson Chaúque, a beekeeper from Mahatlane, echoes Dalila's sentiments. He believes that "having the certificates of the Management Committees and the maps of the communities, we will prevent many conflicts with the neighbouring communities".

Jacinto Mutambe, FAO’s project coordinator, adds: "the boundaries of the properties have been clearly identified with the approval of the communities". And once the boundaries of each one of them are set, "there won’t be any concessions of land without the consent of the respective Management Committee. The possession of land is guaranteed, clarified and listed in the national registry and this gives the communities a feeling of security".

The feeling of security Mutambe refers to brings two main benefits: individual investment in land and community investment. In this regard, the case of Dalila Chaúque is a good example.. Since getting married, she has always lived in a cottage made from sticks, 2m x 2m. Recently, she started building a much larger house with several rooms. "People do not invest if they know they will eventually have to leave the land." Concerning the community as a whole, Mutambe says, the demarcation of land is positive "even to look for funds to build a school or a waterhole".

However, it is not only the individual families and communities who benefit. To assure the conservation of both the environment and local culture, the project coordinator emphasises the "importance of knowing whether there is a collective use of resources, paths or natural ecosystems. It is important to know if there are areas used for subsistence activities like fruit picking or artisanal fishery or even if there are any health centres, schools or community centres and whether those areas are used for rituals, graveyards, churches or celebrations". The preservation and correct management of these assets, Jacinto Mutambe concludes, "contributes to local development and the well-being of future generations".