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Towards Tenure Security in Customary Land in Malawi: What do we know about Matrilineal Society?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Kambewa, Daimon
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18
Date: 2008
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/6004
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Region: Africa
Subject(s): access
power
security
land tenure and use
property rights
Abstract: "This paper challenges simplistic assumptions in the land policy in Malawi that land belongs to all members of the household. The study, carried out in two districts of Chiradzulu and Phalombe in the Southern Region of Malawi used qualitative methods to examine the local histories and practices to identify the social and power relations between male and female children in households and families, and the roles of chiefs, families and traditional practices in access to and control over customary land. The study reveals how the status quo in customary lands has been maintained whereby access and control is unequal among male and female members. Arguably, not all children in the household are children of the household; not all people in the family are people of the family. The pending land policy assumes that unequal access, control, and conflicts over customary land result from self interest, and population and economic pressures. The policy advocates simplistic solutions such as clarifying the processes of access and control, land redistribution and relocation. The policy does not recognize that patterns of access and control are historical in nature, and that the patterns are closely intertwined and embedded in social ties and power relations. Failure to understand the relations leads to a situation where inequalities are repeated and enhanced. It is argued in this paper that unless the inequalities are recognized and the perpetuators are transformed, some members will always have insecure tenure rights and that land tenure security debate will remain rhetoric."

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