This study examines factors that determine land ownership security among households in the rural areas (customary tenure sector) in Malawi. A framework for understanding land ownership security in the customary sector is proposed and using empirical data from different parts of Malawi, logistic regression analysis shows that the developed framework helps to explain land ownership security in practice. Though land ownership insecurity is almost negligible in the studied areas, this study has found that households that are categorized by the framework as non-indigenous (the weakest category of the four) are associated with a higher likelihood of feeling land tenure insecurity than the other categories (indigenous, weakly indigenous, absolutely indigenous). The modes of land acquisition, years that one resides in a community and gender of the household head also do determine land tenure security and women are found to be relatively land tenure secure than men. This study argues that outcomes from studies seeking to examine the link between land tenure security and land use efficiency in Malawi may become clearer if the developed framework or its variants are used to model the influence of customary land access systems on land ownership security because titling/no titling dummy variables do not say much about land ownership security in areas where customary systems dominate. Since women have a higher probability of feeling land tenure secure in matrilineal systems, development projects should endeavour to empower them as well so that they may equally participate in household level decision making as this would help them effectively use their land even in cases where their husbands feel land tenure insecure and hence withdraw their expertise from production. Again, the traditional system of land transfer is found to be resilient and this leads to questions about whether land titling could be an urgent need for people in the studied areas.
Key words: Customary systems, Land tenure, matrilineal systems, Malawi, land ownership security
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