Zambézia Province, situated in the northern part of Mozambique has approximately 10.5 million hectares of land of which about 6 million hectares are arable. A total of 2,449 land concession applications have been made in the period since these were first permitted under the regulations of 1987, the vast majority of which were launched in the period before the application of the current revised regulations of 1998. These applications cover an area of over 3.65 million hectares in total, or approximately 30% of the provincial land area. They include applications for agricultural use, including extensive areas for livestock grazing, for residential, business and industrial purposes and for forestry activities. Those applications that are in possession of provisional approval total 1,141 and cover 570,000 hectares.
The scale of land concession applications has made the registration of community rights particularly challenging in Zambézia and has sometimes resulted in tensions between rural communities and prospective concessionaires. After the elections in 1994, most people displaced by the war were successfully relocated back to their land, largely through the efforts of traditional leaders (many of whom had previously been marginalized by or were opposed to FRELIMO). Many displaced people returned to land which was now under application for land concessions, further contributing to tensions between rural communities and between rural communities and prospective concessionaires.
Of the total number of land concession applications, over 1,200 of these (over 3,000,000 hectares) have now been cancelled by the provincial land services of the government through the application of the new land legislation and the failure of the applying entity to renew the application before the deadline established in the regulations (see above page 4 and below page 10). In addition, there have been 137 consultations with rural communities as part of the approval process for privately held land concessions and 32 communities have initiated a process of delimiting the areas over which they claim customary occupation rights. It is instructive to note that only in a tiny minority of the consultations have a community rejected an application by a third party for use rights to land in their area.