Community-led Economies and Livelihoods

Private sector and development community struggles to deliver on commitments to respect land rights and reduce deforestation are revealing how the paradigms of land governance, production, and ownership in the developing world are inhibiting inclusive growth and climate change mitigation. Yet developing country governments and donors continue to prioritize top-down approaches to economic growth and climate change mitigation despite increasing evidence that current models are not adequate to deliver the sustainability agenda.

In contrast to these top-down efforts, major land tenure reforms driven by well-organized movements of Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendants, and local communities are empowering rights-holders in developing countries around the world to exercise more control over rural lands and forests. Indigenous Peoples’, Afro-descendants’, and local community groups are turning their attention from tenure reforms towards capitalizing on new rights in economic and livelihoods terms. Community-led economic and livelihood approaches are emerging as a “pathway to scale” to quickly respond to urgent climate, human rights, growth, and environmental challenges, driven by the aspirations of local peoples for prosperity and shared growth. Yet, as a sector, community-led approaches have languished despite substantial potential to contribute to sustainability and development goals, and a wealth of experience. Challenges are substantial and diverse, ranging from restrictive legislative and policy frameworks, lack of appropriate financial mechanisms, tenuous market connections, and local capacity constraints.

RRI is working with a broad array of stakeholders to develop a shared agenda for advancing community-led economic and livelihood approaches, as well as operational and policy guidance to scale up government action and investor support for such initiatives. These efforts have included: workshops to develop a global narrative on the potential of locally-defined economic and livelihood models, and facilitation of the sharing of learning between communities; ongoing research to assess the economic, environmental, and development contributions of Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and community governance of rural lands and forests; and country-level convenings of representatives from the private sector, governments, civil society, and communities to explore and pilot models of inclusive development to integrate community production of commodities into local, regional, and international supply chains.

Key Analyses

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