Following the formulation of a land policy in 2004, the government launched a land redistribution project: Community Based Rural Land Development Project (CBRLDP).1 The project’s goal is to contribute towards poverty reduction by increasing the incomes of 15,000 poor rural families in four pilot districts of Mulanje, Thyolo, Mangochi, and Machinga. The project involves the moving of groups of landless poor people from the highly populated and severely land scarce districts of Mulanje and Thyolo districts to the less densely populated and under-utilized estate farms of Mangochi and Machinga.
The CBRLDP is a community-driven project being implemented through a decentralized framework. In this framework, communities are responsible for implementing CBRLDP development activities. Beneficiaries are self-selected, able to identify land to move to, and they prepare and implement their own farm plans. The two primary components of the project are land acquisition and farm development.
Although there are Project Steering Committees (PSC) and National Technical Advisory Committees (NTAC) at the national level, the local structures such as District Executive Committees, Area Development Committees (ADC), Village Development Committees (VDC), Community Oversight Committees (COC), and Project Management Committees (PMC), play leading roles in the identification of interested beneficiaries.
Interested beneficiaries are identified through sensitization meetings. Each household is allocated less than 2 hectares of land and Beneficiary Groups are designated as Trusts with their own constitutions to govern the Trust’s affairs. Each household receives a settlement grant of $1050 of which 30% is for land acquisition, 10% covers settlement costs, and 60% is for farm development. The ownership of the land rests with the Trust with an option of titling the land as long as the Trust can pay the cost. The beneficiaries have the right to decide the property regime in which they will hold the land, but for the first five years they are not allowed to dispose of or sub-divide the land.
The case studies in the report found that a lack of food security, low income and insecure access to land were factors that influenced women to participate in the CBRLDP. Women’s representation in all levels of the project was very low, which led to the design of selection criteria that promoted men’s access to and land ownership and excluded women from independent land ownership. Many women were not ready to give up their current land in exchange for being part of the program.
While group titling has the potential to create livelihoods among the beneficiaries, the study revealed that the livelihoods created by project are gendered because the majority of beneficiaries are men. Access to land within the CBRLDP was determined by powerful individuals such as chiefs, and members of the VDC and ADC who had the power to identify and endorse eligible beneficiaries.
Both unmarried and married women held weaker rights within the beneficiary household. Although it is claimed that women have rights to land within the group titling of the CBRLDP, such rights exist at the Trust level but at the household level such rights are non-existent. Women’s rights within the household are determined by primary decision makers within the households. Furthermore, women, particularly those who are unmarried and widows are excluded from access to resources within the CBRLDP, in particular by the leadership of traditional institutions. This is because beneficiaries of the state funded subsidy programs are identified based on household socioeconomic status. Many households are male headed; as a result the program is dominated by male beneficiaries.
While the project showed positive results at the household level, women within those households were not considered and thus lost rather than gained rights to land.
The information about this project all comes from: DB Saidi - 2015, Rural livelihoods and women's access to land: a case study of the Katuli area, Mangochi District, Malawi.