A new Land Act introduced in Angola in 2004 demonstrates a genuine interest in the protection of the customary land rights of rural communities and underlines rural communities’ rights to their land. However, the documentation of customary rights in Angolan agriculture is limited. This report describes and analyses customary land rights in two villages in Huambo province, both situated some 60 to 90 km from the provincial capital. The report demonstrates that despite of many similarities there exist huge differences in agricultural practices and in how customary land rights are conceived. In Cambembua land utilization is more intensive and production mainly aims the urban markets, while agriculture in Mombolo is more extensive and subsistence oriented. In Cambembua most of the land is acquired through special forms of sales while bilateral inheritance remains the common practice in Mombolo.
The analysis focuses variations in historical legacy, local relations of power and economic opportunities and shows that no simple variable can explain the observed differences. Rather, causes must be sought in a complex patchwork of historical coincidences, power relations and religious influences. The analysis further demonstrates that poverty dynamics remain fairly similar in the two villages. Of utmost importance is that the noticeable increase in land sales has not led to emergence of landless farmers. Mechanisms exist which secure marginalised groups such as widows or internally displaced people a minimum of access to land.