- Also in Mozambique, land policies are now put higher up on the agenda as provincial authorities in Maputo have started implementing national land tenure legislation. Maputo authorities have now followed up on a longstanding threat to cancel the land tenure rights of investors who fail to use the land allocated to them.
According to a report in the Maputo daily 'Noticias', inspectors from the Maputo Provincial Directorate of Agriculture have visited 287 land concessions in five districts and classified 95 of them as "abandoned".
The Mozambican Land Law states that investors applying for land must present a plan for what they intend to do with it. Mozambican investors have five years, and foreign investors two years, to put that plan into operation. During that period their land rights are only provisional, according to the state news agency 'AIM'.
If, after the end of this period, there is no sign that the land is being put to productive use, in line with the investor's original plan, then it should revert to the state, the Land Law foresees. The law allows investors to apply for an extension to their provisional land title, if unforeseen events have occurred, and they can make a plausible case as to why they were unable to implement their initial plans. This had not happened in Maputo.
These provisions of the Mozambican Land Law barely have been applied so far. The Maputo government during the last decade has been very eager to attract foreign investors and done its utmost to create investor confidence. Mozambique has even been an attractive resettlement place for several white farmers that lost their lands in Zimbabwe.
But since mid-2006, authorities in the capital area have started doubting whether this very liberal policy was indeed fruitful. Pressure on land resources is increasing in the Maputo area and late last year, provincial authorities suspended the issuing of land titles for six months, while setting about computerising the provincial land records.
According to 'AIM', the new, comprehensive database for the first time empowered inspectors to systematically investigate what investors had done with their land. "The picture was not encouraging. Some of the land concessions had been abandoned for seven or even ten years. The people with title to this land may have been holding onto it for purely speculative reasons," authorities found.
Based on that conclusion, authorities took action. Of the 95 areas regarded as abandoned, 70 have already been reverted to the state, with the agriculture directorate cancelling the land titles. The legal procedures for cancelling the titles are currently under way for the other 25 areas. In a further 71 concessions, the inspectors found that the title-holders were not making full use of the land, thus reducing their tenure area. In 121 cases, the title-holders have been given more time.
Maputo authorities had been under popular pressure to confiscate lands that were not used according to allocation agreements. The Maputo director of agriculture, Setina Titosse, emphasised on the need to put productive land into use. "Cyclical droughts affect Maputo province, which means that hunger is constantly present in some areas", she said. "But we have dormant potential, because many people hold land that can produce, but they are not exploiting it."
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