Why security of land tenure is crucial for the recovery of the disaster affected families.

Following the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai in March 2019, Habitat for Humanity Malawi (HFHM) with funding from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) pledged to support 20 disaster affected families in Chikwawa to ‘build back better’ –a vision designed to ensure that affected communities were stronger and more resilient in the face of future storms.

But unless the fundamental issue of security of land tenure is addressed, poor and vulnerable people, those most affected by the cyclone are at risk of being left out of any lasting recovery and rehabilitation in the aftermath of the heavy rains and strong winds, associated with the Tropical Cyclone Idai.

On 6th September 2019, HFHM facilitated the signing of “customary land consultation with chief form” for the 20 disaster affected families to be supported with housing units from the “Flood Recovery of Disaster-Affected Families in T/A Makhuwira, Chikwawa District” project funded by UNDP. These targeted families are among the 107 families that have been reallocated to Mphimbi area in Traditional Authority Makhuwira in Chikwawa district following the heavy rains and strong winds.

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The “Customary Land Consultation with Chief Form” is the land document that are used in the acquisition of the customary land as regulated in the Land Act. These land document confirms the ownership of the land and is approved by the Village Heads, Traditional Authorities and District Commissioners who all sign on it. These land documents provide both legal and social legitimacy of land rights.

Speaking during the handover ceremony of these land certificates to the 20 families, the Programme Manager for HFHM, Lucy Mwase affirmed the importance of the security of land tenure particularly to disaster affected families that have been reallocated to new areas. “Displaced persons who do not have a rightful claim to land they have reallocated to are more likely to fall into evictions or face the threat of evictions as time goes by’’, she argued. She further stated, it is for this reason that HFHM is committed ensuring that no family moves back from sites of displacement or relocation to unsafe land.

The function was presided over by the District Commissioner, Chairperson of the District Council, Traditional Authority Makhuwira, chiefs and community members.