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'They are Squeezing Us!' Gender, Matriliny, Power, and Agricultural Policies: Case Study in Issa Malanga, Niassa Province, Northern Mozambique

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Braga, Carla
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/910
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Social Organization
Region: Africa
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
land tenure and use
social networks
agricultural development
conflict resolution
Abstract: "This study will be conducted in Niassa, Mozambique's largest but least populated province (INE:1998), in an area mainly inhabited by the ayao people. Although in the XIX century the ayao played a major political, economic and cultural role in Northern Mozambique, ever since colonial times, the history of Niassa has been characterized by isolation, poor access to markets and lack of basic infrastructures. "In Mozambique, land access may be acquired either through statutory or customary law. The majority of the population access land through the latter and, therefore, do so in the context of the different systems of social organization existing throughout the country. Within the ayao, marriage is one of the possible ways to access land and the fact that the dominant kinship system is mainly matrilineal and uxorilocal has specific implications for women. For instance, contrary to what generally happens in the patrilineal and virilocal southern Mozambique, women still retain their plots of land in case of divorce or widowhood. However, another practice also takes place, known locally as cicigale in which when married, the new couple first establish themselves with the woman's uterine family for some years, and only after that the man may get permission to take his wife to live near his uterine family. "This paper aims to analyze gender relations among the ayao, concerning access to and control over land, and particularly the changes occurring within the context of the so-called cicigale practice. "The political and economic changes towards neo-liberalism taking place in Mozambique since the mid-1980s also implied the adoption of a new agricultural policy. In this context , an agricultural development programme envisaging the establishment of commercial farms (Mosagrius) is being implemented in Niassa. This paper also aims at analyzing the implications of that program at community level, and the challenges it poses to the existing pattern of gender relations through which land is generally allocated. "In keeping with current agricultural policy, a major legal reform around land is also taking place in the country. The new Land Law of 1997 establishes that local communities should be consulted in the process of issuing new concessions to land, and have right to participate in the management of natural resources and in conflict resolution. However, neither the law nor its regulations detail how the community is going to be represented. Putting aside idealistic visions of communities as homogeneous entities, and taking into consideration hierarchies and differences, a critical reflection on community representation is needed, which could eventually contribute to enable different interest groups within the community to make themselves heard. "For the purposes of this paper it is important to analyze women's and men's participation within decision- making institutions in the community. The paper will use the land demarcation, titling and conflict resolution processes which have been applied so far, in relation to Mosagrius, to analyze the roles played by the State and by the community, as well as to assess its gender implications."

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