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Land Rights in Malawi
Major land governance problems facing Malawi
In Malawi, population growth is one of the main factors putting pressure on land and is a major cause of landlessness and disintegration of customary land. There is also a trend of land injustice, where most economically valuable lands rests in the hands of a small number of privilege actors. This type of system excludes the poorest people, including women. Insecurity of tenure is on the rise and more people are losing their land, either to foreign investors or to large-scale domestic land users.
The country is however making giant steps to catch up. For example, in the last decade, it promulgated 10 land and related laws to strengthen land governance. Additionally, it triggered a reform process, which ended in 2017, with a new land law. The new land legislation has set up protection mechanisms for land rights. For example, it guarantees equal access, control and ownership of land for both men and women and sets a local land management structures to resolve conflicts.
Despite being positive, the enactment of the new land laws does not solve all Malawi’s land problems. Surprisingly, it has been the object of controversies, especially with local traditional leaders who see the new legislation as a challenge to their position and authority as the sole custodians and administrators of customary land under customary law.
The strongest resistance is being experienced patriarchal societies who are having a hard time reconciling with the idea of women ownership and control of land as well as representation in land governance structures.