Statutory recognition of customary land rights in Africa: an investigation into best practices for lawmaking and implementation
Rachael S. Knight, FAO Legislative Study 105, 2010

Recognizing and protecting customary land rights is a critical component of protecting and defending the land rights of the rural poor. This study is founded upon the notion that protecting and enforcing the land claims of rural Africans may be best done by passing laws that elevate existing customary land claims up into nations’ formal legal frameworks and make customary land rights equal in weight and validity to documented land claims. Through a close examination of the text and implementation of the land laws of Botswana, Mozambique and Tanzania, the study investigates various overarching issues related to statutory recognition of customary land rights, notably: how best to integrate statutory and customary legal systems so as to most effectively strengthen tenure security, foster national community prosperity, and take steps to extend all of the protections, rights and responsibilities inherent in the national legal system to rural communities; how to balance what happens on the ground, organically, against what the state views as “useful” or “valuable” and wants to preserve, enforce or encourage from above; how to write a land law that merges the practices of the people with the objectives of the state and arrives at solutions that will simultaneously be used, adopted and successfully implemented on the ground, and advance state, community and individual interests; and the factors that impact a law’s long-term, effective and equitable implementation. Download the study [pdf] …