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land rights

Community Forests: An Undervalued Approach to Climate Change Mitigation

Governments around the world legally recognize at least 513 million hectares of community forests, land held collectively by either rural populations or Indigenous Peoples. This area stores about 37 billion tonnes of carbon—29 times the annual carbon footprint of all the passenger vehicles in the world.

Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change, a new report from WRI and the Rights and Resources Initiative, shows that by protecting and expanding the amount of officially recognized community forests, national governments can meet their climate goals while also improving citizens’ livelihoods.

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Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change

How Strengthening Community Forest Rights Mitigates Climate Change

Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change analyzes the growing body of evidence linking community forest rights with healthier forests and lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

This report makes a strong case for strengthening the rights...

Q&A: Why Are Community Forests So Important?

Governments, civil society, and donors are working to strengthen community forest rights in many countries.

A new report by WRI and the Rights and Resources Initiative, to be released on July 24th, shows governments can meet their climate change mitigation targets by protecting community forest rights.

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New Map Documents Natural Resource Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa

Many countries in Africa are rich with trees, wildlife, minerals, and other natural resources. But as new WRI research and an interactive map show, few national laws provide communities with strong, secure rights to the resources on their land.

WRI conducted a systematic review of the national framework laws for five natural resources—water, trees, wildlife, minerals, and petroleum—in 49 sub-Saharan African countries. The results are presented in our new Rights to Resources map.

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Overlapping Land and Natural Resource Rights Creates Conflict in Africa

In much of Africa, the bundle of land rights that most rural people legally hold is relatively small—usually limited to surface rights and certain rights to some natural resources on and below the surface, such as rights to water for domestic use. Many high-value natural resources—such as oil, natural gas, minerals, and wildlife—are governed by separate legal regimes and administered by different public institutions. Africa’s governments often allocate these rights to outside, commonly foreign companies for large-scale operations. In other words, while many communities hold rights to the land, foreign companies hold the rights to the natural resources on or under the same plot. These overlapping rights oftentimes lead to conflict, unsustainable use of resources, and injustices.

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Shedding Light on Land Tenure in Africa

Land and natural resources lie at the heart of social, political, and economic life in much of rural Africa. They represent fundamental assets—primary sources of livelihood, nutrition, income, wealth, and employment for African communities—and are a basis for security, status, social identity, and political relations.

Given the importance of land and natural resources to local livelihoods and well-being, rural people and communities need strong, secure rights over their property. Property rights issues, however, can be complex. They’re often misunderstood, even by many policymakers and development practitioners.

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WRI’s Land and Resource Rights project aims to ensure that rural people and the urban poor have secure rights over their land and natural resources.

Emerging REDD+ Programs Need Additional Emphasis on Land Tenure

Since 2009, more than 30 countries have submitted proposals for REDD+ readiness grants to start addressing the social, economic, and institutional factors that contribute to forest loss. Many countries have made encouraging strides in defining their plans to become “ready” for REDD+.

Yet, in a new WRI analysis of 32 country proposals, we identify the need for stronger commitments and strategies to address land and forest tenure challenges. While most countries identify secure land tenure as critical to successful REDD+ programs, relatively few outline specific objectives or next steps to address weaknesses in land laws or their implementation. Lack of clear strategies to address land tenure challenges could significantly hinder efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

The new working paper from WRI’s Governance of Forests Initiative reviews 32 readiness proposals submitted to two grant programs supporting REDD+ readiness: the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UN-REDD Programme. We reviewed these documents to assess how REDD+ countries plan to address eight core issues (see Box 1 below). The analysis sheds light on how REDD+ issues are understood and prioritized, as well as where more technical and financial support is needed.

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