In order to measure progress on forest land rights and tenure globally, RRI tracks the ownership of the world’s forests from both a quantitative and a qualitative perspective. Explore the Tenure Data Tool.

The quantitative approach monitors spatial forest tenure data—that is, who owns how many hectares of a given forest. RRI recognizes four categories of land ownership: owned by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, designated for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, administered by governments, and owned by individuals and private firms. Learn more about these categories below. Our statutory forest dataset currently covers 52 countries containing nearly 90 percent of the world’s forests.

The Four Categories of Tenure Rights

  • Government administered
  • Designated for Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and local communities
  • Owned by Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and local communities
  • Owned by individuals and firms
This category includes all forest land that is legally claimed as belonging to the state.
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.
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.
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.

As a complement to the spatial data, the qualitative approach—also known as the “bundle of rights”—analyzes the national laws that govern community forest rights. This “bundle” includes rights such as: the right to use or sell forest resources like timber and fruit, the right to exclude outsiders, and the right to own land indefinitely. This qualitative dataset currently covers 27 countries, containing approximately 75 percent of the world’s tropical forests.

The Bundle of Rights

Government administered

Communities may hold:

Access rights allow a community and its members to enter a forest area.
Withdrawal rights are the right to benefit from forest products, for subsistence or commercial purposes.

Designated for Indigenous Peoples & local communities

Communities hold:

Access rights allow a community and its members to enter a forest area.
Withdrawal rights are the right to benefit from forest products, for subsistence or commercial purposes.

Plus at least 1 of the following:

Management rights

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.

Exclusion rights

Exclusion is the ability to refuse another individual, group, or entity access to and use of a particular resource.

Owned by Indigenous Peoples & local communities

Communities hold all of the following:

Access rights allow a community and its members to enter a forest area.
Withdrawal rights are the right to benefit from forest products, for subsistence or commercial purposes.

 

Management rights

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.

Exclusion rights

Exclusion is the ability to refuse another individual, group, or entity access to and use of a particular resource.

 

Unlimited duration of rights

Duration measures the permanence of allocated rights.

Right to due process and 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?

RRI continuously updates and expands the data from both methodologies. Learn more about the evolution of RRI’s tenure data and how it is used.

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