In order to measure the global progress on its two targets, RRI tracks the ownership of the world’s forests from both a quantitative and a qualitative perspective.

Who owns the world’s forests? And how has forest ownership changed over time? Drawing from years of research, RRI’s Tenure Data Tool lets you compare changes in statutory forest tenure from 2002 to 2013 in 52 of the world’s most highly-forested countries. Access the interactive database below.

Learn more about RRI’s methodology.

RRI Tenure Tracking Analyses

  • Power and Potential

    A new analysis from RRI provides an unprecedented assessment of legal frameworks regarding indigenous and rural women’s community forest rights in 30 developing countries comprising 78 percent of the developing world’s forests.

  • Who Owns the World’s Land?

    The first analysis to quantify the amount of land formally recognized by national governments as owned or controlled by Indigenous Peoples and local communities around the world.

  • What Future for Reform?

    While governments are increasingly recognizing local ownership and control of forests, forest tenure arrangements remain in dispute or unclear in many places, including low, middle, and high income countries.

  • What Rights?

    A legal analysis of the national legislation assessing whether these legal systems recognize the community rights to access, withdraw, manage, exclude and alienate to forest resources and land.

  • From Exclusion to Ownership?

    This report measures whether governments have continued to reduce their legal ownership and control of the world’s forests from 2002 – 2008, and assesses the implications of forest tenure change for forest peoples, governments, and the global community.

  • Who Owns the World’s Forests?

    The questions of who owns the forests, who claims them, who has access to them and further, who should own them, are hotly contested in many forest regions of the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the “bundle of rights”?
  • What do the four categories of tenure rights mean?
  • What does “tenure regimes” mean?
  • What can I compare?
  • Who is this tool for?
  • In what countries has RRI analyzed the “bundle of rights”?
  • Why have you chosen these countries?
  • Where does this data come from?
  • Where can I go to learn more about RRI’s tenure data?

Laws governing Indigenous Peoples’ and local community forest rights vary from context to context, and from country to country. Some communities are legally permitted to use forest resources like fuelwood and fruit for commercial purposes, while others are allowed only to use these resources for basic survival needs. Some communities have the legal right to decide whether outsiders can enter their land and extract resources like lumber, minerals, or oil, while other communities cannot.

The land rights that national-level tenure regimes recognize can be unpacked into the seven types, below. By looking at national laws and regulations, it is possible to have a more exact idea of the range of the legally recognized rights—and what that means in practice—for the Indigenous Peoples and local communities living in these forests.

  • Access: Access rights allow a community and its members to enter a forest area.
  • Duration: Duration measures the permanence of allocated rights.
  • Exclusion: Exclusion is the ability to refuse another individual, group, or entity access to and use of a particular resource.
  • Management: Management can be defined by the legal limits of other rights, and it can also be used to empower a community to articulate its rights to alienation or the exclusion of particular resources.
  • Alienation: The right to alienate one’s property is the right to transfer one’s rights to another entity.
  • Withdrawal: Withdrawal rights are the right to benefit from forest products, for subsistence or commercial purposes.
  • Due Process & Compensation: Due Process and Compensation is the right to due process and compensation in cases of eminent domain.

Different laws “bundle”combinations of these rights into separate regimes that represent the collective rights for areas or forest communities. For a detailed definition of the “bundle of rights,”please refer to Section 2 in the report What Rights?

Government administered:
This category includes all forest land that is legally claimed as belonging to the state.

Designated for Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and local communities:
In this category, governments still claim ownership of forest land, but recognize certain rights on a limited basis for Indigenous Peoples and local communities. In this case, forest communities have some ability to control how their forests are managed, and who is allowed to enter the forest and use its resources, but they still lack full legal title to their land.

Owned by Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and local communities:
Forests are “owned” where communities have full legal rights to their forest land. Ownership gives communities the legal right to exclude outsiders, the right to due process and compensation if the government takes away some or all of their land rights, and the right to own their land for an unlimited time.

Owned by individuals and firms:
In these areas, individuals and firms have full legal rights of ownership to forest land.

For detailed definitions of these categories, please refer to What Future for Reform? Progress and Slowdown in Forest Tenure Reform Since 2002.

“Tenure regimes” are the set of national laws and legally-binding regulations for community forest tenure in a subset of the 52 countries analyzed. Tenure regimes for 27 lower and middle income countries (LMICs) were analyzed in What Future for Reform? Progress and Slowdown in Forest Tenure Reform Since 2002, and are included in this tool.

You can compare country data, regional data, global data, and data relating to lower and middle-income countries (LMICs) for four categories of tenure rights. These four categories are:

  • Government-administered
  • Designated for Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and local communities
  • Owned by Indigenous Peoples and local communities
  • Owned by individuals and firms

All queries automatically compare data from 2002 and 2013.

The LMICs list consists of these countries:

Angola, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guyana, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lao PDR, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Vietnam, and Zambia.

The Tenure Data Tool is a resource for researchers, activists, NGOs, civil society organizations, government officials, citizens, and private sector actors and investors interested in comparing forest tenure data from one country to another, or interested in learning about forest tenure rights around the world.

RRI has complete data unpacking the bundle in 27 countries, covering approximately 75 percent of the world’s tropical forests. By region, these 27 countries are:

  • Latin America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Guyana, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela
  • Asia: Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Vietnam
  • Africa: Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia

The data used in RRI’s research is based on national legislation only and does not cover the wider set of legal instruments that provide or recognize the rights of forest communities and individuals. This research does not examine whether these laws and regulations are implemented, or whether governments respect and enable the enforcement of these rights.

In reviewing national laws RRI does not endorse the argument that all rights emanate from the state. Rights are fundamental to the dignity of the individual and the survival of peoples and communities.

We invite readers to send feedback on the accuracy, relevance, and comprehensiveness of the data presented in RRI’s reports and website by contacting

The 52 countries in this tool are the most highly-forested countries in the world, representing nearly 90 percent of all forests globally.

The data from this tool was drawn from the 2014 report What Future for Reform? Progress and Slowdown in Forest Tenure Reform Since 2002.

What Future for Reform builds on information gathered for the 2012 report What Rights: A Comparative Analysis of Developing Countries’ National Legislation on Community and Indigenous Peoples’ Forest Tenure Rights.

Learn more about the methodology. Learn more about the history of the data.

All numbers are rounded to the nearest hundredth of a Mha. This rounding may result in minor discrepancies from other RRI publications.

For questions about the data in this tool, please contact Chloe Ginsburg. For questions related to the use of this tool, please contact Jenna DiPaolo.

To learn more about the evolution of RRI’s Tenure Data, please click here. For specific questions, please contact Chloe Ginsburg.

All numbers are rounded to the nearest hundredth of a Mha. This rounding may result in minor discrepancies from other RRI publications.

For questions about the data in this tool, please contact Chloe Ginsburg. For questions related to the use of this tool, please contact Jenna DiPaolo.