The majority of Sub-Saharan Africa is customarily owned by Indigenous and local communities. Yet recognition of their rights lags behind Asia and Latin America, and recognition of the rights of women within these communities lags further still. This lack of secure land rights for Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and the women within them impedes the continent’s development, foments conflict, and undermines efforts to fight climate change.

However, recent political gains across the continent present significant opportunities for change. The DRC’s recognition of Indigenous Pygmy Peoples in 2022, Kenya’s 2016 adoption of the Community Land Act, and Liberia’s passage of the Land Rights Bill in 2018 provide legal frameworks to secure community land rights in these countries and ensure successful implementation by governments and the private sector. These gains also provide important lessons for reforms in other countries in the region.

RRI focuses its efforts in countries where Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ organizations are on the cusp of potentially significant change. Read more about our efforts in Liberia, Kenya, and DRC below.


Inequality in land ownership and insecure community land rights underpinned the conflicts that drove Liberia’s two devastating civil wars. While ensuring communities’ rights is critical to the governments’ aims to consolidate peace and conserve its precious forests and ecosystems, the government has continued to welcome large-scale land acquisitions by timber and palm oil companies that often displace communities from their lands and devastate the environment.

But RRI’s Collaborators are laying the groundwork for a more sustainable and equitable path for Liberia’s development. RRI has supported the work of the Civil Society Organization Working Group (CSOWG) on Land for over a decade, culminating in the passage of Liberia’s historic Land Rights Bill in 2018. The bill establishes a legal framework for securing community land rights in the country. RRI is now supporting its Liberia partners and collaborators in efforts to implement this bill, as well as convening spaces for dialogue between key private sector stakeholders and leaders from government and civil society to explore alternatives to large-scale land acquisitions based on community-led economic models.


Kenya’s 2010 constitution launched a major reform of the country’s land and forest sectors, recognizing the collective nature of land ownership as well as community rights to customary and ancestral lands. The government of Kenya further defined the legal framework for the recognition of communities’ land rights by passing the Community Land Act (CLA) and the Forest Conservation and Management Act in 2016 and regulations to the CLA in 2018. While implementation proves challenging, Indigenous and community networks are mobilizing to assert their rights.

Led by Kenya’s Indigenous and community organizations, our coalition is focused on ensuring implementation of the new laws and addressing the impact of private investment on communities. Priority engagements include working with Indigenous and community platforms to start the process of registering communities’ lands under the CLA, providing opportunities for other actors to scale up the registration process going forward. RRI is also engaging the private sector in Kenya through the Interlaken Group, convening fora where representatives from the private sector, government, civil society, and communities can collaborate in an atmosphere of mutual trust and collaboration.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

DRC is home to the majority of the Congo Basin rainforest, the second largest tropical forest in the world and a critical site in the battle against climate change. As a result, the country has attracted substantial investment from conservation and climate initiatives. However, many of these initiatives fail to take into account the rights of the communities who have lived on and protected these lands for generations, and as a result they often create conflict and even displace communities from their lands. Private acquisition of lands for mining and agriculture have further exacerbated the issue.

To address the pressures on communities and their lands, the Government of DRC is undertaking unprecedented reforms in the land and forest sectors. The RRI Coalition in DRC is advocating for an inclusive land reform process and seeks to support the creation of a land policy and land law recognizing the rights of local communities, Indigenous Peoples, and the women within these groups; and to ensure that international initiatives safeguard free, prior, and informed consent and participatory mapping. Learn about our coalition’s successes in the DRC.


Regionally, RRI supports efforts to share learning and build political will across the continent. While many governments now recognize the benefits of securing Indigenous and community land rights, their action has been constrained by insufficient financial capacity and political will, as well as a lack of opportunities for peer exchange between the government institutions overseeing land policy. As a result, even where there are progressive laws recognizing Indigenous and community land rights, implementation has lagged.

Inspired by the efforts of Indigenous and community organizations throughout the region, RRI has used its convening power to encourage representatives from land institutions across the region to share learning and foster dialogue. A regional workshop in Madagascar in 2019 brought together representative from 14 governments across Africa to learn from one another, bolstering their land reform processes and renewing their commitment to recognize the land rights of local communities, women, and Indigenous Peoples. The workshop leveraged the recent political gains across the continent in the land sector, showcased implementation options, and built on governments’ commitments. These meetings led the governments involved to create the African Land Institutions Network for Community Rights, a platform for leaders from these institutions to continue sharing learning, while also acting as a mechanism for measuring progress in implementing Indigenous and community land rights.

RRI’s Collaborators from Africa have implemented a wide range of projects with the central goal of securing Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ tenure as a baseline for other pro-community engagements. RRI recently highlighted some of the best practices from these projects to strengthen our coalition members’ advocacy and other work, now and in the future. Check out these best practices.