The Right to Life, Liberty, and Land

Erin Myers Madeira who leads the Nature Conservancy’s Global
Programme on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities says that
communities outperform the government and other stakeholders in
stopping deforestation and degradation. The Akaratshie community
from the Garu and Tempane districts have been able to restore
degraded land. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Sustainable land management is becoming more important than ever
as rates of emissions, deforestation, and water scarcity continue
to increase. But what if you don’t have rights to the land?
While the impact of agriculture on land is well known, the
relationship between land degradation and land tenure seems to be
less understood.

In fact, research has shown that insecure land tenure is linked
to poor land use as communities have fewer incentives to invest in
long-term protective measures, thus contributing to environmental

“Establishing secure tenure and secure rights to territory and
resources for indigenous people and local communities is one of the
most important things we can do around achieving positive outcomes
for conservation,” said Erin Myers Madeira who leads the Nature Conservancy’s Global
Programme on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

“Communities outperform the government, other stakeholders in
stopping deforestation and degradation,” she added to IPS.

Despite holding customary rights to more than half of the
earth’s lands, indigenous people and local communities legally
own only a 10 percent slice.

Resources and
also found the legal recognition of community forest
tenure rights also still remains adequate, amounting to just over
14 percent of forest area as of 2017.

While this is partially a result of a lack of government
policies, land grabs by companies which fail to acknowledge
communities’ ancestral lands are increasingly common around the

In 2006, 200 families lost access to their land in Cambodia’s
Sre Ambel district to make way for a sugar plantation.

In Liberia, Liberian farmers were evicted after the government
allocated 350,000 hectares to Malaysian multinational corporation
Sime Darby, causing widespread resentment and conflict in the

According to the United Nations
Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
, 35 percent of the
remaining available cropland across Africa has been acquired by
large entities, with over 70 million hectares allotted for

Many have put up a fight against the expanse but it came with a
deadly cost.

According to Global
, a record 201 environmental defenders were killed in
2017 trying to protect their land from mining, agribusiness, and
other industries.

Drone visual of the area in Upper East Region, Ghana prior to
restoration taken in 2015. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah /IPS

People-Led, Better-Led

Karina Kloos Yeatman, the Women’s Land Rights Campaign
Director at Landesa,
highlighted the importance of people-led conservation and
sustainable land management but the first step is land rights.

“If we aren’t looking forward and thinking about land use
and land tenure security and finding more solutions to help people
make long term investments to sustainably use their land, we are
going to continue to see an even larger influx of climate migrants
and people being displaced,” she told IPS.

Yeatman particularly pointed to successes of how secure lands
rights have led to increase long-term investments in sustainable
soil and forestry management.

For instance, smallholder farmers with secure rights in Ethiopia
were 60 percent more likely to invest in soil erosion

In forests where indigenous land rights have been recognised,
deforestation rates have dramatically declined.
In Bolivia, deforestation is 2.8 times lower within tenure-secure
indigenous lands.

This has not only helped halt land degradation, but such
measures have also mitigated forest-based emissions and curbed
global warming.

Both Yeatman and Madeira noted that land rights alone is not
enough to promote sustainable land management, but rather four
pillars. These are securing the rights to territories and
resources; support strong community leadership and local
governance; promoting multi stakeholder collaborations, allowing
local communities to engage in high levels of decision-making and;
identifying environmentally sustainable economic development
opportunities in line with communities’ cultural values and
sustainable management.

“It’s when you have the four of those ingredients that is
when you end up with enduring conservation, communities who have
the power to protect those peoples and who can also benefit
economically from their stewardship of those places,” Madeira

In an effort to curb logging and deforestation, Peru’s
Shipibo-Conibo indigenous communities residing in the Amazon
enlisted over 6,000 hectares—80 percent of their territory—into
the country’s conservation programme and helps manage the land in
a way that provides sustainable sources of income.

As part of the National Programme for Forest Conservation,
communities receive 3 dollar per year for every hectare they assign
to conservation which amounts to potential earnings of at least
18,000 dollar. In order to receive the payment, they must commit to
protecting the forest.

A significant proportion of the money received is thus invested
back into the forest and its communities who engage in activities
such as ecotourism and the sustainable extraction of forest

Farmers undertaking periodic pruning at vegetation Susudi, in
the Upper East Region of Ghana. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

One Step Forward, Many More To Go

While tenure can look different in various contexts, Madeira
highlighted the importance of governments and companies respecting
land rights as well as the inclusion of indigenous people and local
communities to shape sustainable land management planning.

“A lot of the development decisions are made far away from the
ground in board rooms. The extent to which indigenous people and
local communities are excluded from those decisions, you’re going
to get these poor outcomes,” she told IPS.

Yeatman urged corporations to be aware of the complexities
surrounding land tenure and support local communities to ensure a
sustainable future.

“[Companies] often have 50-100 year leases and if they want
the land to be sustainable, they need to help those farmers secure
their land rights and help have access to information and inputs to
diversify so that they are not degrading their lands,” she

Consumers also have a role to play, Yeatman noted, as they delve
into the stories behind the products and companies they buy

Oxfam’s campaign Behind
the Brands provides a scorecard, assessing how the world’s 10
largest food and beverage companies are measuring up against a
number of indicators including support for women farm workers,
reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and respecting rights to and
sustainably using land.

For instance, French multinational company Danone and American
manufacturer General Mills are ranked among the lowest on the land
indicator as it has not committed to zero tolerance for land grabs
and does not require its suppliers to consider how such
acquisitions affect livelihoods.

While it is easier said than done, there have already been
positive developments across the world.

Most recently, the Malaysian government file a lawsuit against
local government of Kelantan state for failing to uphold the land
rights of its indigenous people Orang Asli, many of whom lack
formal titles, as it continues to grant licenses to logging
companies and agricultural plantations.

“Rapid deforestation and commercial development have resulted
in widespread encroachment into the native territories of the Orang
Asli,” Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said in a statement.

“Commercial development and the pursuit of profit must not
come at the expense of the Temiar Orang Asli and their inherent
right, as citizens of this country, to the land and resources which
they have traditionally owned and used,” he added.

Similarly, Myanmar, which has among the highest rates of
deforestation in Asia, plans to transfer over 918,000 hectares of
forest land to community management by 2030 in order to help
prevent illegal logging and allow traditional residents to practice
sustainable forestry.

There is still a long way to go but action is necessary to
prevent the dwindling of land and natural resources essential for
everyone’s survival.

The post The Right
to Life, Liberty, and Land
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
The Right to Life, Liberty, and Land