A new community forest bill that aims to give Thai villagers more say in managing natural resources is too limited in its scope and risks further marginalising those living outside areas covered by the act, land campaigners said on Thursday.
Recognition of the role local and indigenous communities have in stewarding forests continued to grow in 2018. More reports and studies argued that securing indigenous peoples’ land rights is one of the most cost-effective mechanisms for protecting forests and mitigating climate change. Accordingly, philanthropic attention and dollars shifted toward such efforts, including a pledge by group of 17 philanthropic foundations at the Global Climate Action Summit to support recognition of indigenous peoples’ and traditional communities’ collective land rights and resource management as part of their land-based climate change mitigation programs. A study co-authored by UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) even put a dollar figure on the labor and cash indigenous peoples invest in forest conservation efforts, estimating the annual contributions of such “Forest Guardians” at $1.7 billion.
Overall, these approaches, which are framed as human rights issues alongside environmental issues, have a drastic impact on the globe’s future. In September, The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) published a study that found that “legally recognized indigenous and community forests tend to store more carbon and experience lower rates of deforestation than other forests.” RRI’s findings reinforce the view that locally managed forests, whether it is indigenous lands or communal lands, help connect the health of nature with the health of people and ultimately the health of our collective future.
Indigenous people in Ecuador say their territorial rights are being systematically violated, according to a top United Nations official. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is urging the Ecuadoran government to form a “truly plurinational and multicultural society” in accordance with its constitution and international law.
The Chao Lay, or people of the sea, have lived on the shores of Thailand and Myanmar for generations, fishing and foraging. But the community may be facing its greatest threat yet as marine conservation efforts limit their traditional fishing grounds, and a tourism boom pits them against developers keen on the patch of land that their boats, homes and shrines sit on.
A recent Rights and Resources report provides strong evidence on the importance of recognizing and protecting indigenous rights towards mitigating forest-based emissions and curbing global warming. As a Ph.D. student coordinating the third round of data collection of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+ in Ucayali, Peru, I was pleased to find an on the ground example of why this is important and how tenure security can help achieve the objective of REDD+.
Around 2011 or 2012, indigenous villagers outside Manu National Park, an internationally renowned biodiversity hotspot in southwestern Peru, noticed that bananas were mysteriously disappearing from the trees that ringed their huts. At the same time, they found that their huts were being ransacked while they were out. They only understood what was happening when they finally caught glimpses of their rarely seen neighbors, uncontacted Mashco Piro tribespeople who lived deep within the park.
Governments maintain control over more than two-thirds of global forest area, much of which is claimed by local communities, RRI said in a recent report. In Indonesia, indigenous people are estimated to have ownership rights over 40 million hectares of customary forest and other land.
Around 1 in 9 people in the world — 821 million — are undernourished. After a prolonged decline, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that world hunger is rising once again.
The world’s food systems need to be transformed to curb this trend. Legally recognized and protected land rights for indigenous peoples and local communities in the developing world are a key part of revitalizing the world’s food systems. In particular, the rights of rural and indigenous women to support diverse, local agricultural production require urgent attention.
A number of experts now believe that reclaiming land for indigenous people is the best way to protect the Earth’s forests. According to the Rights and Resources Initiative, an N.G.O. that advocates for native land rights, legally recognized indigenous forests “tend to store more carbon and experience lower rates of deforestation.” But in a recent report supported by data from the Woods Hole Research Center, the initiative found that while indigenous communities currently manage forests and soil containing nearly three hundred billion metric tons of carbon—thirty-three times more than global energy-related emissions in 2017—they lacked legal titles to the sites of at least a third of that carbon total.” This puts “them, their forests and the carbon they store at great risk,” Alain Frechette, one of the authors of the initiative’s report, said.
A web-based application that monitors the impact of successful forest-rights claims can help rural communities manage resources better and improve their livelihoods, according to analysts.
Indigenous peoples and local communities in 64 tropical and subtropical countries occupy land storing nearly 300 billion metric tons of carbon above- and below-ground. That’s equal to 33 years of pollution, given a 2017 baseline. Where indigenous peoples live, high-tech mapping indicates, deforestation rates are dramatically lower, especially in the relatively few places where they have land ownership rights.
“In Africa, indigenous peoples and local communities have customary rights to around 80 percent of the land, but they are only recognized for 16 percent of that territory,” explained Patrick Kipalu, Africa Program Coordinator at the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).
Governments maintain control over more than two-thirds of global forest area, much of which is claimed by local communities, RRI said in a report this month.
“If appropriately leveraged, natural climate solutions can contribute upwards of 37 percent of cost-effective CO2 mitigation by 2030 and evidence shows Indigenous Peoples and local communities are key to achieving such outcomes.” This is one of the key conclusions from the global baseline study described as “the most comprehensive assessment to date of carbon storage in documented community lands worldwide.”
A recent study released by Washington-based research coalition Rights and Resources Initiative showed that indigenous peoples and local communities across the globe owned at least 418 million hectares, 15.2 percent of the forestland in the regions.
Granting forest dwellers legal rights to their traditional lands helps fight deforestation and climate change, but the vast majority of the world’s forests remain under government control with limited access for communities, researchers said. Only about 14 percent of forests, or about 527 million hectares, were legally owned or designated for local communities in 58 countries surveyed by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group.
The NGO Rights and Resources International (RRI) estimates that indigenous peoples have legally recognized rights to just 10 percent of the world’s land, though they control as much as 65 percent through customary, community-based tenure systems. Anne-Sophie Gindroz, RRI’s facilitator for South East Asia, said that the law isn’t only failing indigenous communities when it comes to awarding them title to their traditional lands.
Land managed by indigenous people holds vastly more carbon than previously thought, according to a report that calls for an urgent strengthening of their land rights to avoid its release into the atmosphere. But while communities have succeeded in securing governmental recognition of their forest rights for 15 per cent of forests globally, the pace of recognition since 2008 has decreased, according to the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the organisation behind a second report.
The study, led by Rights and Resources International (RRI), found that indigenous peoples are far better stewards of the land than their countries’ governments.
While communities have succeeded in securing governmental recognition of their forest rights for 15 per cent of forests globally, the pace of recognition since 2008 has decreased, according to the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the organisation behind a second report.
Thai campaigners have criticized a pilot program that allows villagers to live in the forest as long as they care for the environment, arguing that it does not give land tenure security.
A new United Nations report warns that “in a wide variety of countries,” both physical violence and legal prosecution are used against Indigenous Peoples defending their rights and lands. They are “criminalized”.
In support of the Special Rapporteur’s report, a new website brings together audio and written testimony provided by indigenous leaders on this pervasive problem worldwide. The report and supplementary materials describe a systematic attack on indigenous land and human rights defenders around the world, an effort to silence those who oppose development projects on their lands.