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  • Study reveals government views on collective titling in Peru

Study reveals government views on collective titling in Peru

A CIFOR consultant discusses community frontiers in Campemento Neshuya, Ucayali River, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR
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To legally obtain title to their community lands, indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon must navigate a maze of legal paperwork and technical steps that can take as long as a decade to complete.

Research by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found that the process is challenging not only for villagers, but also for government officials.

Lack of coordination among the many government agencies involved, conflicts over rights and boundaries, and the high cost of conducting technical studies, such as mapping community boundaries, were among the difficulties reported.

Underlying those obstacles are differences in the way indigenous people and government agencies understand territorial rights, said Iliana Monterroso, a CIFOR scientist, who led the research.

“Differing expectations, tight budgets and difficulties in coordination among government agencies are the main obstacles mentioned by those interviewed,” she said of the study, which surveyed 32 national and regional government officials.

The researchers examined two ongoing tenure reform processes in Peru targeting native communities. One involves changes in laws that recognize land rights, while the other involves rights to forests, including promoting access to forest resources and support for forest management.

“While the government perceived them as two different sets of regulations, with different institutions responsible for implementation, indigenous communities saw them as a group of measures that should ensure protection of their territorial rights,” said Monterroso.

The study also underscored differences between the way national and sub-national government officials view tenure reform. While those working for the national government see reforms as a way to formalize land rights, regional officers see them as a way to increase access and use of resources to support livelihoods for native communities.

“Besides incongruences in how regulations are perceived, these results also point to a need for greater coordination and communication between the different levels of government,” Monterroso said.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

Community members stand in front of a river in Cashiboya, Loreto Province, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

Shared responsibility, different expectations

Granting legal land titles was initially implemented by Peru’s central government. With the dawn of decentralization in the early 2000s, Lima handed regional governments responsibility – under national guidelines and  provision – for boundary demarcation, titling communal lands, and the granting of usufruct rights to forests.

Peruvian law considers all forest lands as public; indigenous communities bid therefore for titles on communal lands classed as agriculture and usufruct contracts for those as forests.

The process involves more than 20 steps and at least a dozen government agencies, both national and regional.

Overall, 60 percent of the government officials involved in implementing tenure reform, including recognition of rights to both land and forests, work at the sub-national level, Monterroso said.

Those officials generally have a significant level of education and experience. 90 percent of those surveyed had a university education, as well as averaging 10 years of work experience.

But working with indigenous communities poses particular challenges for government officials – nearly two-thirds mentioned indigenous communities or cultural norms as a stumbling block when implementing tenure reforms.

“They have the skills necessary for the administrative work, but can lack the cultural understanding needed when titling native communities,” Monterroso said. “Working in an intercultural environment requires the ability to recognize the needs of indigenous communities and how best to go about helping to resolve conflicts.”

Conflicts are not uncommon. When officials were asked about the main obstacles they encountered in the titling process, boundary disputes were mentioned most often, followed by illegal logging, overlapping permits for use of resources, and inefficient management of finances.

Around 40 percent then went on to say that their work involved educating communities about their rights, and the channels available to them to file complaints, but only six percent said they are directly involved in helping to resolve conflicts.

Previous research has shown that while Peru has a high level of conflict over land rights, a relatively small percentage of government officials report that is part of their responsibilities; this is a clear weakness in Peru’s legal system for titling.

Read also: Gender and formalization of native communities in the Peruvian Amazon

A dirt road leads to a community in Tingo de Ponasa, San Martin, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

Budgets and coordination are key

More than one-third of the government officials surveyed mentioned inadequate budgets as a significant obstacle to implementation of tenure reform.

Although titling is free for communities, the process is expensive for subnational governments because of the cost of transporting teams to remote areas. As a matter devolved, they therefore have to allocate from their budget assigned from the national Ministry of Economy and Finance, or use contributions from international cooperation agencies.

Costs could range as high as USD 10,000 or more for a single title, depending on the location, the amount of work required, and how long the process takes. Titling takes an average of eight years, although some communities have been waiting for their title for several decades.

“Limitations affecting implementation are mainly associated with inadequate budgets, inefficient communication among the various government agencies involved, and cumbersome procedures,” said Monterroso. “Despite this, overall the respondents had a positive view of how well tenure reform was being implemented.”

The study points to several ways in which the process could be made more effective, she said.

Officials responsible for implementing tenure reform should be prepared to work with indigenous communities and be sensitive to the views of women and young people.

Indigenous communities and government officials often have different understandings of land tenure, so they also must address diverse and sometimes contradictory views about forest and land management and conservation, said Monterroso.

Because the process involves allocating budgets and responsibilities among a minimum of 12 government agencies, it is not surprising officials were in agreement that inter-agency collaboration and coordination are key to making reforms successful.

That’s why Monterroso is calling for additional measures to facilitate better access and exchange of information to not only increase coordination among national and regional government agencies, but to “have a cost-effective way to advance tenure reform implementation.”

She added, “most importantly everyone involved must keep in mind that the role of the state is not simply to grant the community a land title, but to ensure that the resources in the territory can provide the inhabitants with a sustainable livelihood.

“Titling is just the first step.”

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This study is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), and is supported by the European Commission, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the Global Environment Facility, and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets.

FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • What roles do sub-national governments play in Nationally Determined Contributions? Between rhetoric and practice in REDD+ countries

What roles do sub-national governments play in Nationally Determined Contributions? Between rhetoric and practice in REDD+ countries

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  • Research and practice place much emphasis on the transformative role that sub-national governments (SNGs) may play in climate change action.
  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are not blueprints for implementation, but they offer some insight into potential priorities. Currently, the role of SNGs in most is limited: of 60 “REDD+ countries”, only 14 explicitly mention a role for SNGs in mitigation, and only 4 of these give SNGs a decision-making role.
  • This failure to assign more precise roles to SNGs may prove to be short-sighted as climate change is a global problem, but solutions such as REDD+ need to be implemented locally and jurisdictionally, and thus require local input.
  • The factors that will affect the realization of the roles assigned to SNGs in NDCs include: political will toward decentralization; the funds required by Parties to achieve their targets; the capacities of SNGs; and the need to align sub-national with national development priorities.
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  • Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

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A man walks in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Global climate negotiations take place on the international stage, bolstered by countries’ national policies. But preventing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes requires work at the local level.

For those efforts to be effective, it is important to understand who is involved at each level and in every sector, and how they interact, say scientists from CIFOR, who have conducted research about such multi-level governance.

“Land use and land-use change happen in a geographic space that is affected by multiple levels of decision making,” says senior scientist Anne Larson, who heads CIFOR’s Equal Opportunities, Gender, Justice and Tenure Team. “You can’t talk about land-use change or climate change adaptation and mitigation if you don’t take into account all levels, from the global to the ground”.

That means that local and regional governments, as well as local communities, have an important role to play in REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) initiatives – or other, similar efforts, Larson says. “There’s a lot of talk at climate negotiations about bottom-up planning, and that must be done below the national level” she adds, “We can’t expect global decisions to have an impact if we don’t have sub-national governments that can implement and manage plans in local jurisdictions”.

That assumes coordination among various groups with different interests. Depending on the place, they may include government agencies (with different sectoral priorities), private companies, local communities and non-governmental organizations. But sub-national coordination is easier to discuss than to implement, according to researchers who are conducting a global comparative study on REDD+.

Risks and opportunities

One obstacle arises when governments are only partly decentralized. This invariably leads to subnational governments who have “authority” but without resources to carry out their mandate. In some cases, national governments are reluctant to give up control to local or regional governments, even when power-sharing is established by law. In Mexico, the federal government maintains a great deal of decision-making power over forests — something that must be considered when implementing programs at a local level.

Another risk is that local or regional governments could favor the interests of economically powerful private companies over those of local communities that depend on forests for their livelihoods. But in the same instance, local governments may be more willing to protect their interests as they are often more responsive to their citizens.

When there are tensions among stakeholders, it can be tempting to do top-down planning that focuses on technical solutions and faster results. But when that was done in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s REDD+ pilot province, local people felt that they were “guinea pigs” in an experiment instead of active participants, studies found.

Processes that ensure the involvement of local people, instead of seeing them as “beneficiaries,” and that protect the rights of forest-dwelling communities may take longer and be more complex, but the outcomes are often more equitable, according to research conducted in Vietnam. In many places, local communities — especially women, young people and indigenous people — have been marginalized from decisions. Giving them a central place in decision making builds their negotiating skills and can create new local venues for discussing local issues, the researchers say. “When decision-making is done at a sub-national level, transparency and accountability are key”, Larson says. “That requires monitoring, but the kind of monitoring depends on your goals”.

Read more: Does the monitoring of local governance improve transparency? Lessons from three approaches in subnational jurisdictions

Different tools for different needs

The Marechal Rondon Highway runs 1550 km from Porto Velho to Cuiabá in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR

When local stakeholders from different sectors are involved in developing monitoring processes, local priotities are discussed- says Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti, a postdoctoral fellow at CIFOR working on the global comparative study of REDD+. He and other researchers examining sub-national landscape governance implemented three different types of monitoring tools in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua.

The Sustainable Landscape Rating Tool (SLRT) uses evidence-based evaluation of conditions as indiactors, to determine sustainability in land-use planning and management, land and resource tenure, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, stakeholder coordination and participation, and community production systems.

The SLRT was developed by the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance and is being used by jurisdictions belonging to the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. Aimed at fostering governance policies for sustainability, the tool is mainly designed to assess the enabling conditions required. Its success depends on the availability of the information required by each indicator, which can be an obstacle in jurisdictions where data are lacking.

The Multilevel Governance Monitoring Process (MLGMP) grew out of scenario-building processes that assessed carbon emissions in eight landscapes in four countries. The prototype was designed in Peru’s Amazonian Madre de Dios region, where land-use planning and governance is complicated by social conflicts related to overlapping land claims by loggers, miners, farmers, tourism operators and others.

The process brought people together to develop a shared vision for the future and set goals for working toward it. In Madre de Dios, representatives of seven government agencies participated in workshops to identify potential indicators and strategies for monitoring, but the process was hampered by lack of commitment by key regional government officials.

A similar process in Mexico involved national and sub-national government agencies, as well as civil society groups, donors, community representatives and researchers. At workshops in the Yucatán and Chiapas, participants identified and prioritized challenges to good governance, set goals and agreed on indicators for measuring progress.

The tool can be adapted to local needs and priorities, but participants said the one-day workshops were not sufficient to work out details, including how the monitoring would be implemented and by whom. The workshops also revealed differences in levels of participation by women, which should be addressed in monitoring, the researchers said.

A third tool, the Participatory Governance Monitoring Process (PGMP), was designed to better involve local people in forest governance and strengthen women’s participation in decision making in their communities. It was developed as part of a research project in indigenous communities and territories in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region.

Participants gathered together to decide what ‘good governance’ was. Characteristics such as a strong community, good leaders, more participation by women and good forest management were agreed, before a series of ‘yes-or-no’ questions determined whether the requirements were being met.

Using the questions as indicators, the results informed a tool that builds local community participation into both planning and monitoring, says Sarmiento. “This can be used to determine the degree of local participation, especially by women”.

The three tools have different purposes, and the best to use in a particular case depends on the local situation and specific monitoring goals, Larson adds.

Global commitments require local implementation

At the Paris climate summit in 2015, countries made commitments to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Those commitments, known as Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs), will be used to measure their progress toward their targets.

In countries whose NDCs include reducing emissions by controlling deforestation and forest degradation, sub-national governments must play a key role, Sarmiento says.Nevertheless, countries with REDD+ commitments do not always highlight the importance of sub-national governance in their NDCs. Of the 60 countries that have REDD+ programs or strategies, only 39 mention sub-national governments. Of those, 21 define a specific role for them, but in only seven NDCs is that a decision-making role, according to a CIFOR study.

“This could be a missed opportunity,” Larson says.  “Climate negotiators hail the Paris agreement as a ‘bottom-up’ accord, but what they consider to be the bottom is usually the national level,” Sarmiento says. “Implementation won’t work without attention to sub-national governance.”

Research like the CIFOR studies reveals both the difficulty of bringing stakeholders from different sectors and levels of government together. They also unearth the opportunities offered by participatory approaches that enable local communities to make decisions together with sub-national governments, with the goal of ensuring equitable solutions for forest dwellers.

“Governance always has a local flavor to it,” Sarmiento says. “That is why its monitoring needs to be informed by local people’s practices and their perceptions of what it means to govern well.”

Read more: Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Anne Larson at [email protected] or Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

This research was supported by NORAD and BMUB/IKI.

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  • Smart Tree-Invest spurs local administration to begin farmers’ learning groups

Smart Tree-Invest spurs local administration to begin farmers’ learning groups

Farmers and agricultural extension officers build a tree nursery shade house together. Photo by Firman/ICRAF
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Farmers and agricultural extension officers build a tree nursery shade house together. Photo by Firman/ICRAF

The success of the Smart Tree-Invest project’s farmers’ learning groups has caught the eye of Indonesia’s Buol District Agricultural Office. It has now begun to fund and replicate the approach itself.

In early March 2017, the Buol district administration in Central Sulawesi province, Indonesia, began to replicate a farmers’ learning group approach in Bukal subdistrict, with funding from the district’s own development budget. Bukal is located next to the important and degraded Lantika Digo-Mulat watershed.

A survey conducted in February 2017 determined which villages in Bukal had the best potential for agroforestry development, a proven approach for improving farmers’ incomes and farm productivity while also protecting the environment.

The survey team, consisting of representatives of Buol District Agricultural Office and the Climate-smart, Tree-based, Co-investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia (Smart Tree-Invest) project (supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development), decided the criteria for potential villages. These included that local farmers were interested in agroforestry; there were suitable locations for planting trees; water was available for tree nurseries; and there was a low risk of flooding.

Watch: An introduction to the Smart Tree-Invest project

Three villages — Rante Marannu, Bukal and Potangoan — were chosen because they met all the criteria. Moreover, the three villages’ agricultural extension officers were thrilled at the prospect of taking part in the program, which runs from March to December 2017 under the Extension Unit of the Agricultural Office led by Nurhayati Mentemas.

Yunartisari from the Buol Agricultural Office leads a focus group. Photo by Dienda CP Hendrawan/ICRAF

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), which led the Smart Tree-Invest project that forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), had earlier committed to help the government in technical preparation and staff support until the end of the project in April 2017. This included training trainers of agricultural extension staff, budgeting for activities, and sharing information about sources of seeds and other supplies.

The farmers’ learning group approach involved holding focus groups in each of the three villages, which led to the establishment of new groups that aimed to share knowledge of best-practice agroforestry farming techniques. The groups in the three villages selected the commodities they wanted to cultivate through playing ‘button games’ facilitated by the extension officers.

Cocoa, durian, clove, nutmeg and pepper were the commodities chosen, which correlated with those earlier identified in the project’s original learning groups in Tiloan and Gadung subdistricts in Buol. The new learning groups’ members from the three villages were eager to participate and welcomed the program.

“It is a new kind of approach,” said Nursal, one of the farmers. “We’re very excited to learn new things and be in contact with the government.”

Read also: Indonesian district government funds replication of ICRAF approaches 

By the second week of April, three nurseries associated with the learning groups had been established. Cocoa and pepper had also been planted and the next step was to cultivate durian, clove and nutmeg seedlings.

Mansur, a government agricultural extension officer, said the program was new and exciting, mainly because of its participatory approach. “For the past few years, maize has been the main commodity that has had government support which was always decided through the policies of the district government,” he said.

“However, lately many farmers have been thinking that other commodities, such as pepper, might also have potential. So it is very exciting to cultivate pepper together with the farmers. It turned out that most of them were interested all along but weren’t sure where to start.”

The Buol administration’s aim is to ensure that the activities started under the Smart Tree-Invest project will be sustainable despite ICRAF’s departure from the site.

“We’re very happy that the learning group members are excited about the program,” added Mentemas of the Extension Unit. “We’ll do our best to support them.”

By Rob Finlayson and Dienda CP Hendrawan, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


This work was supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund


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