Customary land

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Customary land is land held under customary land tenure and the enjoyment of some use of land that arises through customary, unwritten practice rather than through written codified law.[1] It is the tenure usually associated with indigenous communities and administered in accordance with their customs, as opposed to statutory tenure usually introduced during the colonial period.[2][3]

Since the late 20th century, statutory recognition and protection of indigenous and community land rights continues to be a major challenge. The gap between formally recognized and customarily held and managed land is a significant source of underdevelopment, conflict, and environmental degradation.[4]

In many countries, most land is held under customary tenure, including 90% in Africa.[5]

In the Malawi Land Act of 1965, "Customary Land" is defined as "all land which is held, occupied or used under customary law, but does not include any public land".[6]

In most countries of the Pacific islands, customary land remains the dominant land tenure form. Distinct customary systems of tenure have evolved on different islands and areas within the Pacific region. In any country there may be many different types of customary tenure.[7] The amount of customary land ownership out of the total land area of Pacific island nations is the following: 97% in Papua New Guinea, 98% in Vanuatu, 88% in Fiji, 87% in the Solomon Islands, and 81% in Samoa.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Online. "customary land rights". Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  2. ^ "Customary and Community Tenure". LandLinks. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  3. ^ "The Future of Customary Tenure". LandLinks. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  4. ^ "Indigenous Community Land Rights" Archived 2020-06-26 at the Wayback Machine, Land Portal
  5. ^ Microsoft PowerPoint - Defining Customary Land Rights edited_huggins.ppt (
  6. ^ Malawi Land Act of 1965, ILO
  7. ^ a b AusAID: Making Land Work: Reconciling customary land and development in the Pacific, Canberra 2008 Archived 2009-09-14 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 2009-09-07